Sunday, February 6, 2011

Kruger Park Field Trip & KLM Half-Marathon

Have you ever experienced that moment where you fully and completely realize its all up to you, where the choices you make at that very moment will change the outcome for those around you? Take a second to recollect when you felt people were counting on you and only you. (I’ll wait…….)

Got it? Now, with that moment in mind, what was the result? Are you happy with the decision you made? Any regret? I’ve got a moment of my own to share with you. I hope you can take a few minutes to read this story.

Here’s what happened…

Events leading up to the moment: Our village’s secondary school has an environmental youth club that organized an educational trip to Kruger National Park this past December, some 600 miles on the other side of the country for 25 learners. At the eleventh hour, we were notified by participating organizations that our food and transportation commitments would not be fulfilled, due to forces beyond our control. This left us scrambling because the parents had already paid the deposit for the trip in full. Not to mention, these 25 children were eagerly looking forward to this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Now, two days before we were to leave, we had to put our heads together and come up with approximately $1000 to save the trip. (This would be the equivalent of about raising $2000 in America taking into account cost of living). We had exhausted all our funding sources; and since this was a weekend, any last-minute donations or loans seemed dismal. Raising this amount of money in two days seemed nearly impossible.

My heart was breaking. These kids had been looking forward to this trip for so long. These deposits were Christmas money saved by the families so their kids could go on this trip. As I saw parents reluctantly telling their kids we didn’t have enough money to go, I saw kids break down in tears. In this culture, children are taught to be strong and not show their sadness in hard times. But, behind the attempted emotionless faces, I saw the disappointment, no, complete disheartenment that these kids tried to keep inside.

The moment: with emotions running high and after a long internal debate with my conscience, I cleared my head and realized what I felt I had to do. I offered to fund the $1000 out of my savings. I just couldn’t, in good conscience, let this trip along with the hopes of all these kids fall apart knowing full well that I could have done something about it. Still, there was that nagging voice lingering in my head saying, Matson, that’s a lot of money…what if you never make it back? You’re not earning any money as a Volunteer, you know. But, I pushed those thoughts aside convincing myself that I’d try my hardest after all this is over to make it up. And, if not, well then so be it.

Was it the right decision? I won’t say this is a matter of right versus wrong, but if you ask me if I regret it, absolutely not. Granted, it’s still a huge dent in my tiny wallet, but that’s why I’m writing to you with this appeal.

For all those times I walk past someone on the street asking for money, justifying to myself that they probably would have used the money for drugs or alcohol, or those times that charities approach me asking me for funds and I respond politely, “I’m sorry, I’m sure you have a good cause, but I just don’t know where my money would actually be going or how it would be used,” well, now I can say with full confidence that I know exactly where that money went: I saw the smiles on the kids’ faces, I saw the things they experienced, and I know that they brought back memories of a lifetime to share with those that weren’t able to go.

So, as I leave you to look at the rest of this blog filled with photos of our incredible trip, please consider this plea for a reimbursement donation and realize that by donating, you will know that this educational trip and your funds were indeed put to great use!


Sidenote: KLM Half-Marathon!

I am also raising funds to run in the KLM Half-Marathon just like last year in this blog post. I raised $1,355 (top fundraiser last year) with your help and got a great time of two hours flat! This year, my focus is with the Kruger Trip. If you’d rather contribute to KLM specifically, you can follow the directions in this blog post. Either way, you make a difference!

Kruger National Park Field Trip

Environmental Youth Club, December 2010

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The 25 Environmental Youth Club learners ready and eager to start the journey!


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A short rest and a game of ultimate Frisbee at a gas station outside of Nelspruit, Mpumalanga


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After 14 hours of driving, we finally arrived!


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Our first class when arriving in Pretoriuskop Restcamp, Kruger Park


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Hilda, our wonderful SANPark guide


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Playing Predator & Prey—a great ice-breaker!


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Dozens of impala in our campsite…


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…and monkeys!

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More classes and activities with Hilda


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Juckey, the Club’s facilitator


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The learners had to present on the material they learned in class with Hilda


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We were lucky enough to see four of the Big 5 in the park (lion, elephant, rhino, and buffalo)


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While at Skukuza Restcamp, we were given a private lecture on erosion and poaching


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For some leisure-time, I taught the kids Bocci Ball, improvised, of course!


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The learners love playing ultimate Frisbee!

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Photo under the marula tree before we left the park


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Into the sun we rode home, taking back with us smiles, lasting friendships, and experiences we’ll never forget.

Please consider a donation. Thank you. ◊ Salang Sentle—Stay Well


  1. Quite the experince for all. I'm glad you were able to pull it off at the last minute, well worth the cost. Thanks for posting the photos, an eye opener for the learners!

  2. Hats off to this superb article. Your write-up and photos are truly inspiring. Thanks. Keep up the good blog.