To support the Wilderness Foundation's mission to protect South Africa's threatened eco-system while conducting job training for the eco-tourism market. Vincent Mai's commitment will help establish the Umzi Wethu Training Academy for Displaced Youth in Port Elizabeth (PE), initiated by the Wilderness Foundation South Africa (WFSA). For its part, WFSA will provide the certified vocational training internships and mentoring to qualify AIDS orphans and vulnerable youth for these jobs, while meeting their basic needs, equipping them with life and leadership skills, and using nature as therapy. In partnership with Ubuntu Education Fund, WFSA will also provide care to the PE families of these youth during the program.
Historically, the Eastern Cape region has suffered from severe poverty and unemployment, yet its high biodiversity and wildlife carrying capacity have helped ecotourism grow at a rate of 10 percent per year. Eastern Cape's 29 parks and 20 private game reserves are generating jobs that on average pay twice minimum wage but demand skilled labor. WFSA's Umzi Wethu ('homestead') program, based in PE, provides a secure home base and wellness program for over 50 youth job trainees. The goal of Umzi Wethu is to use the therapeutic power of nature to fulfill the potential of youth displaced by HIV/AIDS and other factors-providing credible vocational training along with a supportive home environment, counseling and mentoring to foster wellness and employability. Through these services, youth become eligible for job placement in partnering game reserves and parks with complementary HIV/AIDS counseling, treatment access, and nutritional support to the families of the youth.