Life-Changing Adventures in the US


Gilbert Sabinga, with compilations from Nancy Odweyo, National Intern

Date Published

Before this year, I had never stepped out of East Africa. Being so used to the landscape, the people, our ways, nothing could have prepared me for the adventure that has become 2014. Last year I applied for the International Visitor Leadership Program, a program that cultivates emerging foreign leaders in a variety of fields and gets them to experience the US first-hand and cultivate lasting relationships with their American counterparts. And I got in! So this May, there I was, Gilbert Sabinga, among so many of the world’s professionals.

We visited several states: Washington DC – the capital of the United States, Virginia, Florida, Montana and Hawaii. In the offices, we met, talked to and learned from experts from US Fish and WildlifeUSAIDNational Park System (NPS), Division of Management Authority (DMA) and others who told us about their work in ensuring the protection of many species.

In the field, we did interesting and fulfilling things like in Pensacola, Florida where we met up with local volunteers at the historic Fort Pickens for a clean-up exercise along the shore. I took the opportunity to see things I’ve never imagined in my life, like viewing molten lava flows less than 100m from my terrified feet, and walking in lava caves. I even got honorary citizenship to Pensacola! I have to admit, I learnt more and saw more in those few weeks than I could ever have imagined, and it will colour my work and how I run the Save the Elephants Camp.

But, this may have to wait…

I am now about to embark on the rollercoaster ride of a lifetime – now that I’ve understood the term! Through a lot of hard work and help and support from Save the Elephants, I have been accepted to the Community College Initiative to undertake a 9-month course in Information Technology. Having had a taste of what the US has to offer, I can’t help but be excited about what I will learn, all the skills I would like to gain, and of course the thrill of the new experience in learning what I love: computers. I follow elephants every day, and getting qualified to help them more in their time of crisis is all I could hope for.

On the other side, I have to shed a tear for all I leave behind: my family, my team mates at work, and this wild landscape I know so well. But I know I will come back bigger and better. And for this reason, I can’t wait to start!