Sometimes it blows my mind how simply yet profoundly God works in our lives. We spend so much time ourselves trying to plan, coordinate, and manifest our dreams based on our timelines and in the ways we think they should happen. All the while, God simply looks lovingly at us, shields us from what is not good, and perhaps chuckles to himself as he sees how it will all workout – despite our limited human understanding.
I say this because I recently was given some very exciting news that truly could only be possible through God’s work in my life and the love he has for me. Proverbs 25:25 says, “Like cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a distant land.”
It is no doubt that much of my wildlife conservation education, work, and dreams up until now have depended upon on how distant lands perceived and believed in my passion for conservation. For example, it was Scotland that accepted my application to attend graduate school at their Edinburgh Napier University. It was Tobago that welcomed me to its beautiful beaches to learn about coral ecosystems. It was South Africa that provided me with the opportunity to carry out my WSYC research and welcomed me to the Cheetah Outreach.
And now, I have yet further great news from an Australian wildlife warrior by the name of Damien Mander. Damien is the creator of the International Anti Poaching Foundation. He is a beautiful soul who is committed to doing his part to prevent the poaching of African wildlife – and so much more. But before I share with you the exciting news I have – please read a bit more about Damien and the amazing women of the IAPF.
Damien’s story – like so many of ours – is complex and filled with turns that brought him to new places, new intentions, and to the creation of one of the world’s leading anti poaching forces.
Prior to discovering his determination for wildlife conservation, Damien was an Australian Naval Clearance Diver, a Special Operations Sniper and an Iraq War veteran. He also managed the Iraq Special Police Training Academy in Northern Baghdad and equipped many of Iraq’s paramilitary forces for combat in the field. It wasn’t until he saw first-hand the cruel reality of poaching during a trip to Southern Africa that he made the life-changing decision to dedicate his time, finances, and vast military skills and knowledge to creating what is now the International Anti Poaching Foundation. You can learn more about Damien’s story and what lead him to create the IAPF by watching his Ted Talks on how he went from a sniper to a rhino conservationist, or a military leader to a wildlife warrior.
(I have watched both myself – and encourage you to do the same – whether or not you you are currently passionate about wildlife conservation. Damien is a great speaker and has a very interesting story!)
I have had the unexpected and amazing pleasure of getting to speak with Damien over the past few weeks regarding his upcoming trip to the US. If you would have told me two months ago that through a series of events I would actually be sending WhatsApp messages with Damien – I would have laughed (and probably jumped up and down). But God is good – and he has worked in his mysterious ways yet again… Proverbs 25:25.
Now back to the point… During Damien’s visit to the US, two of the women wildlife rangers of the IAPF have decided to join him. The three will be touring through different states while speaking at various wildlife conferences, animal right talks, and other fundraising events.
The wildlife women warriors joining Damien are Petronella and Nyaradzo. It is their first time to America – and they are the Akashinga; the Brave Ones.
Petronella and Nyaradzo’s story are quite similar to many womens’ in rural Africa. Both are divorced, are victims of domestic violence, have been abandoned by their husbands, and until now were unable to support their children.
Today, they are now rangers of the first women’s anti poaching unit carrying out groundbreaking conservation work in Zimbabwe. Not only are these women trained and armed in the skills of a wildlife ranger, but they are leaders in their local communities. Their children are now able to attend school and because of their leadership, there is a growing interest among local women to enroll in the work of the IAPF. As you can read, the women of the Akashinga are protecting wildlife, providing jobs, uplifting other women, and creating a sustainable future for the future of Africa and its wild species.
Petronella and Nyaradzo are actively showing locals that African wildlife are to be valued, protected, and loved. They are creating a new culture in Africa. One that changes the tides from poaching for money – to protecting for mutual benefit.
Just nine month after going operational on the front-lines of the poaching war in Zimbabwe, the Akashinga have made over 50 arrests, uncovered local ivory poachers, and opened up new doors of opportunity for their families. Lead by Damien, the Akashinga program employs 100% locally and invests 62% of all operating costs right back into the local community. This alone creates alternative forms of income to a community that once largely depended on funds generated by trophy hunting.
Putting it simply, these women are badass. They are making a name for themselves in a way that has never been done before. And as Damien explains, they are doing it better than many men before them ever have. Check out this short BBC documentary to see for yourself….
So… after speaking with Damien (over many different time zones) – it is with extreme gratefulness, excitement, and strength that am able to say Petronella and Nyaradzo of the Akashinga will be JOINING US at the next IAPF Sweat to Protect Fundraising Bootcamp.Upon receiving this news, it felt as if a bucket of cold refreshing water was dumped into my soul. For those of you that know me – you know of my desire to support anti poaching efforts and to one day experience what it is like to be on the frontline with the Akashinga. This news is quite possibly some of the most exciting I will have this year and I am so beyond grateful that Damien and the women are taking notice of our fundraising efforts.
If you would like to share this exciting news and invite a friend to the bootcamp – feel free to save and share this PDF: IAPF AKASHINGA BOOTCAMP
Here is an image of the PDF if you prefer to screen shot and share as well –
For those of you that have ever donated or attended a bootcamp – THANK YOU again. And I invite each of you once more on June 30th at 9:30am (at Axioms Fitness) to attend our next.
There will be a brief Q&A with Petronella and Nyaradzo that morning where you can meet, ask questions, and show these wildlife warriors some American love and support before getting your sweat on at the bootcamp. The women might even show us a thing or two of what their physical training in Africa looks like if we are lucky! I will also have more of the IAPF and WSYC bracelets for each participant. (And of course, there will probably be some more of my grandma’s famous cookies.)
If you can’t make it but would still like to donate, please visit my gofundme page by clicking here.
I cannot express enough how awesome of an opportunity this is and how thankful I am for the work and the examples that Damien, the Akashinga, and that all of you who attend/donate are setting.
You really are making a difference in the lives of both humans and animals. I am so excited to see each of you on June 30th – and to meet Petronella and Nyaradzo!! Lets Sweat to Protect together, show them our support from America, and keep putting conservation into action!