VIU Tourism Grad Awarded One-Year Internship in Kenya

October 22, 2013 - 8:30am

Kenya’s Campi ya Kanzi has hosted celebrity guests like Naomi Watts and Edward Norton, who have travelled there on vacation to enjoy beautiful views of Mount Kilimanjaro and a luxury-filled safari experience across vast acres of East African wild land.

While the views and wildlife are equally exciting for VIU graduate Katie Schneider, her attraction to this luxury safari camp is more about the work it has been doing since 1996 to promote sustainable tourism and protect wildlife and habitat, while providing employment for the Maasai people in the area.

Schneider, who graduated this year from VIU’s Bachelor in Tourism Management program, left Oct. 8 for a one-year internship with Campi ya Kanzi and the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust.

She heard about the position from her former professor, Rob Ferguson, who sent the posting in an email to VIU tourism students and graduates. “It was a very small posting, just a few lines,” she says.

Those few lines led to a successful interview – winning the position over a Harvard graduate – and the promise of a full year working for the camp and Trust. It’s also Schneider’s opportunity to return to Africa for the third time in just two years.

Last April, Schneider accompanied VIU Recreation and Tourism Management professor, Dr. Aggie Weighill on a project in Ghana as her research assistant, and to act as team leader and mentor to four undergraduate students. A year earlier, she took her first journey to Ghana in VIU’s Study Abroad program as one of four undergrads accompanying Weighill to continue an ongoing study of tourism in the region.

Those first two experiences in Western Africa involved data collection at the Wechiau Hippo Sanctuary, which operates with a community conservation model similar to that followed by Kenya’s Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust. In both tourism locations, tourism revenue from guests, along with funds paid in a daily conservation fee, are used to benefit the people living within the community.

“I think in Kenya I will be walking into a very developed program, and I’ll be able to witness how it’s really working,” says Schneider. “It will be interesting for me to compare the two because it appears to be essentially the same tourism conservation model, just in a different context, using different sorts of programs.”

A major difference for Schneider will be the length of time she will have to spend working within the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust, and learning about a new region of Africa that she expects will be quite different than she encountered in Ghana.

The intern role will likely involve a variety of responsibilities, said Schneider, which will provide her the chance to witness the operation of a program that employs 90 per cent local people and a total of 200 people across the region.

Weighill said her most recent experience working with Schneider in Ghana provided lots of evidence that her former student is ready for a deeper experience in an international setting.

“One of the things students learn quickly when they get to Ghana, and which I am always trying to share, is that there is no such thing as this homogenous Africa that we always talk about,” Weighill says. “What we experience is definitely not what we see in a World Vision ad.”

“Katie really understands that. She really gets that she can do as much harm as good and that she’s not going there to save anyone or anything. She’s going there to help out with a project, but ultimately it’s in the hands of Kenyans, to be the answer that Kenya needs.”

Schneider, who hopes to continue her education in VIU’s Master of Arts in Sustainable Leisure Management program in a few years, says she hopes to learn as much as possible from building relationships and gaining new experience in her work with the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust and Campi ya Kanzi.

“I do love research and I love learning new things, so the relationship building piece is really important.”

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More information about the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust and Campi ya Kanzi: http://www.maasaiwilderness.org/

http://www.maasai.com/

MEDIA CONTACT:

Shari Bishop Bowes, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

P:250.740.6443 C: 250.618.1535 E: shari.bishopbowes@viu.ca T: @viunews


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