Why do we do it?

We are all in the move. Some move with a pretty clear understanding of where they are going, in which case people would call ambitious, focused, role models, you name it. The other group is the nonchalant, easy-going, live-in -the moment type who toss care to the wind. We all have these types of people in our inner circle. Each personality brings the best or the worst in us, but one thing remains for sure, they all form part of this closely-knit fabric without which we fall apart.

Then there’s the loners, the sojourners or backpackers. These don’t subscribe to the famous maxim “For the strength of the wolf is the pack, and the strength of the  park is the wolf.” They are very loyal to solitude and go about everyday life in a manner only particular to them.

With all this evolution and growth in the human mindset. One thing has stood the test of time. The desire to know. To find meaning and understanding. To explore. This would explain why ancient explorers would leave the comfort of the familiar to seek something far much more significant- a knowledge of what’s out there. I imagine this is how most of these conversations went.

“ For heaven, sakes Vasco, get a grip of yourself! Who says there’s something far much better beyond our shores? Why go sailing unchartered waters?”

“But mother, how will I know if I don’t take the risk? There has to be something beyond that horizon. There has to.”

“We better get you a wife. Maybe that would give you a reason to stay,”   

“Don’t sweat it mother, I’ll marry my kind.” Says Vasco as he storms out of their cottage.

Just like that Vasco da Gama sets off to a journey of the unknown. He finds himself in the tropical weathers. Back home was freezing, but here. This place is different. I will try not to indulge in the stereotypical writing of Africa’s sunsets, neither will I talk of its savannah and the Maasai because there’s much more to the continent itself than starving bushmen.

I will, however, talk about Africa’s beauty in a different light-the People. They say people make culture and that the opposite is false.  I agree. Africa is vibrant because of its people. This continent became a transition point for many races after the Pangea broke. And for centuries we still find our way back. We come back to what our hearts know or longs.

Giraffe  Center is one such confluence. One tributary comes carrying friends from Athens, another brings the explorers from Korea. One loner backpacking across North America may save enough just enough to come to Kenya or a curious individual watching Ellen DeGeneres’ experience at giraffe centre may decide to pack up and come have a feel of the same.

These rivers all meet up here. That is what makes Giraffe Center special. The joy shared by those having their first giraffe kisses or lack thereof due to fear draws them to a common understanding. We pride ourselves in being matchmakers. Giving people a taste of both worlds. Some of the friendships formed here last a lifetime, so do the connections. This is why we do what we do. Bring people closer and promote universal coexistence.

 

A day in the life of our Intern

A typical day for me as an educator at giraffe centre starts with a strong cup of coffee. It should be strong enough to get me up and about.  Days can be long and hectic during these peak seasons, but one rule goes unspoken for an intern:  always be on top your of your game. Today is a Wednesday, and  Wednesdays are good days because we have chicken for lunch and who doesn’t like chicken?

My first task for the day is the packaging of pellets. Not my ideal way of starting the day but Ed, the giraffe, is present today and that most certainly is a sign of good luck. Ed was a case of love at first sight. I don’t like cheesy statements, but for Ed, I will make an exception. You see, if Ed were a man, then he would be the modern-day Idris Elba or  Aqua man if you are into fiction. He is quite the gentleman with tender and amazing kisses.

From packaging pellets, I lead visiting students, if any, into a lecture hall. There I will give a full-on presentation on Sustainable Environmental Conservation and all there is to know about giraffes, why? Because I am an educator – quite a fancy name, in my opinion. The talks happen for the better part of my morning. I might change shifts with the intern at customer care and take over the issuing of pellets to our customers. It is interesting how a communication barrier is never a problem when it comes to food. Most of the time, guests know what to do with the pellets.

Later on, I move to the platform to facilitate the interaction of the guests and the giraffes. Here you will find two groups of people; the First timers who can’t seem to believe that they are up close to a giraffe,(Their eyes are always dreamy like they might have accidentally walked into a magic shop), and then there are the Regulars. These have who mastered their way around the giraffes and even know from experience that giraffe head butts are real. Either way, the fascination in their eyes every single time is priceless.

Someone asked me the other day, “what memories of this place are sure to stick with you even long after your internship?” My answer was obvious – the people. Each day I get an opportunity to interact with different personalities. One may be on a journey of backpacking across Africa; the other could be a couple that decided to take a vacation to Africa right after retirement. They all have fascinating stories to tell. Stories of which I never get enough. Having the ability to interact with these people and listen to their views on various topics has made me more open-minded and liberal, a gift I wouldn’t trade for anything.

CEO Giving students seedlings

The other group of people that have made a significant impact in shaping me as a person is the staff at giraffe centre. You see, my view of workspaces was that of a mean boss who seems to have taken a vow to make your life a living hell. At Giraffe Center, the opposite is true. It felt too good to be true at the beginning. But as time went by I learnt that it was the work ethic and the culture of the staff that made this place feel like a home away from home. Their authenticity in helping the interns grow socially, emotionally and professionally is praiseworthy. I, for one, would not hesitate to recommend a friend to work at here. Giraffe Centre indeed  has the one in a million people, wonderful counsellors and genuine friends.

Giving Back

Say one day you are sitting at a café after a long day of work taking iced tea or whatever it is you fancy. Across the road from the restaurant is a curio shop which seems to be having a sale. You’ve never seen a curio shop do promotional sales before,  at least not one with mascots in giraffe and elephant costumes. How do they do it with all that heat – you wonder. Going back to your phone, you hear chatters and giggles. One laugh, in particular, attracts your attention. So you look up and see this group of school kids in hysterics. They look so fascinated by the mascots -I mean their eyes are even sparkling (am just assuming at this point cause how can you possibly see their eyes from across the road in a coffee shop).

They have been standing at the curio shop for almost an hour now. And as you leave to go home, you hear them talk of how they’d love to meet the real giraffes and elephants. The longing in their voices is so overwhelming. It takes you down memory lane. Childhood memories of going for school trips to national parks and how you could not sleep the night before any of these trips. You’d love to give them this experience because every child deserves to be happy.

At the Giraffe centre, we have enjoyed the privilege of bringing smiles to thousands of these children. The inspiration that brought to life our Ecological trips was not just born over a cup of tea but the desire to educate and pass on the knowledge of conservation. So for the last nineteen years, we have committed to taking school children, especially from rural or disadvantaged backgrounds to these day-long trip.

Each year, in partnership with Kerrigan Waves Trust, we take students from  Mukuru Kayaba Primary School to the Ecological trips. These trips’ aim is to learn while having fun as some would call it- edutainment.  It starts with a trip to our centre. Here the kids can feed the giraffes and if lucky kiss them too. The next stop takes us to Mamba Village, which is an Ostrich and Crocodile Farm. Did you know that crocodiles don’t have tongues? And that male Ostriches are called Roasters? Thought you should know, Cool stuff there!

From Mamba Village, the school proceeds to Nairobi Animal Orphanage. Here they see the Big Five animals and many other animals that have been orphaned or injured and are under rehabilitation. It is an amazing sight to come close to a roaring Lion or a panting buffalo. Their final stop is the David Sheldrick Animal Orphanage. Have you seen an elephant up close? They are magnificent creatures. Tender giants of sorts, and quite frankly my bias. The kids learn how emotional and demanding elephants can be, which explains why they are very social.

The day ends with a spectacular meal in which the educators and children interact and share exciting things they learnt from the trip. Eventually,  we take them back to school and wait to read their compositions on that experience. It is a fulfilling job to give back, a habit that should be inculcated in all of us.

How to Feed a Giraffe: A List of Recommendations

Feeding a giraffe can be a daunting thing… What do you do? What will the giraffe do? But, it is also an exciting experience! What a graceful and beautiful animal…and you have an opportunity to get up close and personal with it. For some, it gets pretty close, personal and intimate (#IKissedAGiraffe).

Whether you’d like to keep it purely professional or get cosy, here are some recommendations on how to feed the giraffe.

  1. Feed the giraffe one pellet at a time on its tongue, using your thumb and index finger to hold the pellet.
  2. Do not feed the giraffe with an open hand and do not stretch out your palm with pellets on it.
  3. Do not tease the giraffe, feed it when you have the pellets in your hands.
  4. Do not approach the giraffes without the pellets as they tend to headbutt.
  5. Do not feed the giraffe on any other thing other than the pellets or foliage provided by our Education Officers or Guides.
  6. Do not make any loud noises or sudden movements while feeding the giraffes. 
  7. Kindly note that the Giraffe Centre is a No Smoking Zone.
  8. Kindly allow our guides to assist you whenever in doubt.

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