Kusasa Wild - Youth Initiative
Organized by: Michael & Cathy Sullivan
The Kusasa Wild - Youth Initiative is a non-profit started in 2014 by UW-Madison graduate Michael Sullivan to provide educational support in biology and conservation, as well as life mentorship to high school students from severely disadvantaged communities in South Africa. Kusasa Wild currently operates in the Nqutu municipality of the KwaZulu-Natal province, which was formed in part by the forced relocation of ethnic Zulus from regional urban centers in the late 1970’s. Since that time, AIDS, political corruption, and a lack of economic and educational opportunity have created an extremely challenging environment that is isolated from much of the progress taking place elsewhere in South Africa. Many students attending area schools come from households where either one or both parents are missing due to abandonment, violence, or disease. As a result, many young people never finish high school and are forced to subsist off meager government grants with some even resorting to begging, robbery, theft, prostitution, and wildlife poaching.
Amid this challenging environment however, many young people are eager to learn about and explore their world, and in the process, better themselves and their communities. Kusasa Wild has set up a series of activities that focus on supporting small groups of students. The current iteration of this initiative is the Mgidla High School Biology Club operating in the village of Umhluwane, outside of Nqutu. Here 10 students meet with Kusasa Wild volunteers once a week to obtain extracurricular exposure to topics as varied as ecology, evolution, conservation, safe sex, and setting goals for post-graduation. Plans are in place to bring in guest speakers, and take field trips to nearby game reserves and university campuses. The impact that Kusasa Wild activities have on young people are tremendous and have the potential to alter the course of student’s lives. At present, the personal savings of volunteers has funded all Kusasa Wild activities.
"Kusasa" means “tomorrow” in Zulu, and your support will help ensure that activities can continue into the future.
How Donations Are Used:
Transportation is one of the most important aspects underlying all of Kusasa Wild’s activities. It is also the most costly. The Nqutu area, where the initiative’s work is focused, is remote and requires volunteers to travel from regional urban centers such as Durban and Pietermaritzburg. This drive can take up to 5 hours each way and often demands that volunteers stay overnight to complete projects and activities. More importantly, Kusasa’s transportation budget includes the costs of mini-bus rental and fueling which volunteers and students will be completely dependent upon for transportation during field trips.
Funds raised by Kusasa will pay for the lodging fees at hostels and campgrounds where students and volunteers will stay during trips to game reserves, provincial parks, and university campuses (such as UKZN-Howard).
An important aspect of Kusasa Wild’s work is to provide students with positive, relatable role models who can excite, inspire, and expose them to career and lifestyle possibilities that exist beyond their isolated community. However, because of the Nqutu area’s extreme poverty and remote location, guest speakers volunteering their time need to be compensated for the cost of transportation, fuel, and lodging if they are to visit students, especially for multi-day activities.
Many of the students served by Kusasa Wild do not possess the most basic instruments of learning: pencils and paper. In addition, many, if not most, are never given the textbooks from which educators ask them to study to complete homework assignments and prepare for tests. With funds provided by generous donors, these basic elements of education can be provided to Kusasa students giving them a tremendous opportunity to improve their learning. Furthermore, donated funds will enable the Mgidla High School Biology Club to purchase equipment needed to conduct simple lab experiments as well as supplementary learning materials such as scientific documentaries on DVD.
Food insecurity is a rampant problem in the communities where Kusasa Wild’s students live. Many young people, including some members of the Mgidla Biology club, do not receive regular meals and depend solely on the food provided at lunchtime by the school. As a result, during the course of the school day some students frequently fall asleep and have difficulty focusing on their lessons. Kusasa believes that no child should lose out on learning opportunities due to malnourishment, and because of this, nutritious food and drinks are provided at every club meeting, and healthy, hearty meals will be provided three times a day during field trips.