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Highly Commended in the International Category of the 2015 BBC Wildlife Blogger Awards

Club NaturaNiños

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Club NaturaNinos, Cusco, Peru. Photo: Jessica Groenendijk

Setting up Club NaturaNiños, in January 2012, is probably the single most useful and rewarding thing I’ve done in my life so far.

Rewarding for myself and my husband, because we’ve come to depend on our weekly unstructured forays into the countryside of Cusco, Peru, for our own increased quality of life.

Rewarding for our two children, who have become leaders of the ‘pack’ – the first to get their feet wet and their hands grubby, the first to climb, or jump or experiment, the first to pick up or examine a small animal, whether a caterpillar or a lizard.

And rewarding for the Cusqueño and expat families (up to 50 people) who accompany us on our excursions and occasional camping trips.

Few sights give me more pleasure than seeing families shed their inhibitions and enjoy nature and the outdoors together. New members look at our kids and their friends and suddenly realise they can be equally unfettered.

I’ve seen children who walk as though they’re treading on eggshells, hesitant and seeking constant reassurance, gradually become as sure-footed as klipspringers.

I’ve seen the eyes of little ones shine with delight at the sensation of mud squelching between their toes and water swirling around their legs.

I’ve seen kids who recoil in fear from a frog (because they have been taught it is dirty, disgusting and/or dangerous), be gently persuaded to touch it and then end up cradling it in their own hands, thrilled.

And I’ve seen parents visibly relax in the company of others who trust their children and give them the freedom to explore with all their senses.

These are rewards we, as Club members, can all feel and see now. But I also firmly believe that nature will ultimately benefit from our outings. It is my hope that one day, a decade or two from now, the children of Club NaturaNiños will recall them with fond pleasure and will impart their learned love and respect for nature to their own families.

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