Simon Mnisi our star intern

In 2010, the U.S. Friends of HESC approached Siboyane High School in Acornhoek in order to give one of their learners the opportunity of a life time. A student would be chosen to study conservation and partake in an internship at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre. Each student was allocated two weeks to spend time at the Centre and experience firsthand the dedication it takes to be able to make a difference.
The candidates were given two weeks to work at the animal section and to prove their dedication towards conservation. After they had all completed their 2 week trail period, the curators together with the HESC management sat down and discussed which student they thought was the most dedicated and stood out above the rest. The candidate that they were most impressed with, would then be chosen to continue with the internship.
Simon was very excited that he was able to partake in the internship as this to him was a dream come true. He knew that this was his chance to be able to make a difference, not only in his life but in conservation as well. He was a matric student at the time, who had grown up in Acornhoek Chabelagaza with his two brothers and one sister. Simon, who has always had a love for nature, had dreams of working as a conservationist and of teaching people about protecting our environment.
He was the one that surprised me the most – he was always on time and did all of his tasks perfectly, I never once had to check up on him.”
    Christo Schreiber (HESC Curator) on Simon
Despite having to walk from his home in Acornhoek to the nearest bus stop, Simon was always on time for work. In his two week trail period, Simon showed a keen interest in everything that went on at the Centre and always seemed eager to learn and experience new things. Even though he was quite shy, he was not afraid to use his initiative to get tasks done.  Simon was really dedicated and when finished with his own work, he would often go help Elias in the butchery with washing crates and sorting out meat.
Simon worked so hard and enjoyed his job so much that Christo would often have to remind him to take his lunch break; otherwise he would work straight through the day.
Due to this kind of work ethic, Simon was the intern that stood out above the rest. The HESC team decided that Simon was the obvious choice for the 2011 internship.
“I enjoy being a tour guide to the school children and I love walking in the bush. I appreciate spending time with Christo Schreiber, HESC curator, as I have learned so much from him. He always tries his best to teach me everything I need to know. I cherish my job, I learn something new every day, I am ready to make a difference in everything I do. Just like our vision says, ‘One person can make a difference’. I am ready to make a difference.”
Simon Mnisi. 2011
Simon quickly became a huge asset to the Centre, assisting the animal curators with their daily tasks as well as translating to school children on walking tours. Simon’s favourite part of working at the centre is getting to see animals every day and being able to take care of them.
In March 2013, Mr & Mrs Roberts from the U.S. Friends of H.E.S.C acknowledged Simon’s hard work by awarding him with a certificate for ‘Recognition of Outstanding Performance’.
Due to Simon’s hard work and dedication, the U.S. Friends of HESC decided to give Simon the opportunity to further his knowledge by being able to study for his Field Guide Level One qualification through FGASA.  Simon was really excited about this opportunity as it was one step closer to becoming the conservationist he had always dreamed of.
From the beginning, Simon showed a great amount of enthusiasm and commitment to his studies.
Simon worked really hard and was always willing to learn something new from the guides. It was amazing to see how much he loved the lectures and learning about the environment around him. Every week, Simon attended lectures in the Education Centre at HESC, as well as studied daily from home. When each module was completed, he would be required to write a test on the work that he had covered in order to monitor his progress.  This was a great way to be able to establish in what subjects Simon exceeds in and which ones he needed to pay more attention to.
With the help of Ilana Mahoney (Admin Manager at the Centre) and Karen Swiegers (HESC’s student co-ordinator), Simon studiously worked through his course, and dd very well in his test papers. Simon will be writing a test every Saturday on three modules of his choice, this will be a great way for him to do revision of his modules before is final test. Up until now, Simon has completed mostly all of his modules except for Conservation Management and Historical Human Inhabitation. He is a really intelligent young man and seems willing to go the extra mile to achieve his goals
To date, Simon’s test scores are as follows:
Astronomy – 75%
Animal behaviour – 75%
Ecology – 79%
Fish – 82%
Amphibians – 60%
Taxonomy – 90%
Reptiles – 59%
Arthropods – 71%
Geology – 48%
Biomes and Guiding – 68%
Weather and Climate – 80%
Birds – 64%
Mammals – 42%
Plants and Grasses – 84%
“Simon is doing really well and seems eager to learn. He understands that he needs to study hard to be able to achieve his goal “
Ilana Mahoney
In April, the Standards Director of FGASA, Brian Serrao, will be visiting the HESC to assess Simon on his exam readiness. The HESC team is very excited for Simon and knows that he has been working really hard at his studies. Simon has proven to be a reliable, hardworking and intelligent young man who will go far in conservation and in life.
“When I was young and still at school, I had dreams of working as a conservationist, teaching people how to protect our environment and save our animals. My dreams turned to ashes when I realised that my family could not afford to pay for me to study in the field of nature conservation at a tertiary institution. I then lost all hope.”
Simon Mnisi
Thanks to the U.S. Friends of HESC, Simon has a chance to achieve his dreams of becoming a conservationist.