The theme of this year’s International Youth Day is ‘Intergenerational Solidarity’, with a particular focus on ‘Creating a World for All Ages’. The United Nations recognise that generations need to work together to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and leave no one behind, so they’ve marked International Youth Day as a time to raise awareness of the specific barriers to tackling ageism, which impacts both young and old, while having detrimental effects on society as a whole.
Mike Kendrick is an education specialist turned non-profit director who works tirelessly to make Kruger National Park in northeast South Africa accessible to communities, especially those who live on the park’s borders. It is astonishing that whilst living their day to day lives in such close proximity to this extraordinary place, most of the locals never get to see it and through this there is a huge awareness and education gulf. Mike and his organisation, Wild Shots Outreach (WSO), uses photography to work with the local communities and their young people to break down myths and taboos linked to wildlife.
Creating images together is a starkly powerful means of illustrating the effects of poaching, climate change and other aggressors that threaten the planet. When advocates and educators use photography and videography in storytelling, there is no doubt that it touches hearts and minds, engages communities and connects with like-minded organisations to bring about change. Since 2015 Mike Kendrick and his team have been doing precisely this and now WSO are building connections with other game reserves across Africa, expanding their reach to create new editions of their programme with the goal of reaching even more young people. I caught up with Mike to gain a deeper understanding of his work, its outcomes and WSO’s plans for the future.
What made you start Wild Shots Outreach?
I’ve always been passionate about conservation and inspiring and connecting young people with nature. When I lived in the UK, I worked in government schools as an education specialist. I founded Wild Shots Outreach in 2015 after moving to Hoedspruit, on the borders of Kruger National Park in South Africa and learning that almost none of the local Black people had been to a national park. Finding this out was a shocking realisation and I felt I had to do something. National parks should rightfully belong to their surrounding nation. I realised I could combine my passion for photography and my expertise in education to connect these young people with their wildlife heritage. I just kept going and never looked back.