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msafi ri HABARIINSPIRATION 30 msafi ri speaks to Alice Owen, a regional representative for the Born Free Foundation, to fi nd out about the work of this NGO A LIFE IN... MY DIARY SUN Even though it's Sunday today, I am leaving the family at home in Nairobi and heading to Maungu, 400km away, ready for work there tomorrow. Maungu is next to Tsavo East National Park and is a major hotspot for poaching for illegal bush meat. I'll be meeting two communities that Born Free Foundation plans to work with under the Global Friends programme – going beyond direct wildlife conservation to support communities that live in and around important wildlife areas. 7.30 I try to check my emails using my mobile phone and laptop, but the signal is not good from here. I've moved away from the house, down the road where I have line of sight with the mast and still can't get a good connection. There must be something wrong with the network today. Frustrated, I now need to get to my fi rst meeting. 10.00 I arrive at the school which we'll be helping to extend and upgrade. I'm going to meet the Board of Governors. The Marungu Secondary School is still very new. There are only 77 students, but it's the only school within a 40km radius. Born Free wants to see how we can support the community with infrastructure. It's our way of helping marginalised communities get an education, with the hope that the next CHRIS LOWTHIAN FURTHER INFORMATION ? Born Free Foundation, P. O. Box 1519- 00502, Karen, Nairobi ? Tel: + 254 20 883974, 884972, 884973, 3000754 ? www. bornfree. org. uk LOWTHIANCHRIS AFRICA generation will be better informed about the environment and wildlife conservation issues, and in a better position to escape the vicious cycle of poverty which can lead them to make damaging environmental choices, such as charcoal burning and poaching. 10.30 The meeting starts. We chose this village because it's so close to Tsavo East National Park, and because we have found many snares here. Several poachers have been arrested from this community in the last few weeks. This is a point of discussion at the meeting. We will expect this community, and especially its leaders who are running the school, to play their part, set an example and raise awareness about the importance of wildlife and the damage done by poaching. 11.00 I offer them our terms: 1 An agreement to partner with Born Free in cost- sharing on all the development work. 2 A commitment not to carry out illegal wildlife activities such as poaching and charcoal burning, and to support Born Free in addressing these activities in the area. I know this area well and I fi nd the Board refreshingly genuine in their pledge of collaboration. Of course this isn't going to happen overnight, but it's the beginning of a relationship with a new Global Friends community who have the potential to support our cause. In return, we will support not just new classrooms and desks, but also empower them to make choices that will ultimately improve the lives of people living in this very poor community. 13.00 I arrive at my next meeting at the Marungu Primary School. It's going to be a repeat of the last meeting, with a different group of people. 15.00 This meeting took a lot longer. The leaders had more questions and also plenty of ideas on preventing poachers thriving in their village. The chairman of the Board is a lady called Colleta Muinde and she's very enthusiastic about partnering with Born Free and being given the chance to take part in wildlife conservation. 17.00 I take a drive to the Rukinga Wildlife Sanctuary which is a vital dispersal and migration corridor for thousands of elephants moving from Tsavo East and West. I sit watching a large family of elephants cross the road in front of the car; an occasional pair of dik dik jump away from the road as I approach. These are a vulnerable species easily targeted by poachers. We've collected hundreds of snares this year and I hope that one day, communities like the ones in Maungu and Marungu will stop killing these animals before it is too late.