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From Passion to Purpose: How Koru Guide Joel is Paying it Forward

Joel Sithole discovered his passion for nature at a young age during an ecocamp with Ngala Safari Lodge. Recognising his potential, he was chosen for various conservation programmes and his journey took him through several roles before joining Koru Camp. Motivated by gratitude and a desire to inspire the next generation, Joel aims to introduce children to the wildlife and this vision will come to life on 4 September, with support from Brew HQ and Koru Camp founder Peter Eastwood. His ultimate goal is to ingnite a love for nature in many more children, with the hope of finding “another Joel”.

He’s known to many as Koru Camp’s resident guide and environmental educator. However, there’s a lot more to Joel Sithole than meets than eye. Growing up in one of the numerous local communities surrounding the Kruger National Park, Joel’s life took a dramatic change of course when he was selected for a four-day eco-camp with Ngala Safari Lodge at just 12 years of age. This first introduction to nature and conservation sparked a passion that, decades later, burns just as bright as it did all those years ago.

With an obvious flair for this new interest, Joel’s potential didn’t go unnoticed and he was selected to join various conservation programmes headed by different non-profit organisations. From the Timbavati Bush School (now Timbavati Foundation) to the Kruger Junior Honorary Rangers, each opportunity opened new doors and nurtured his growing love for nature. 

Beginning with simple cleaning campaigns, Joel was eventually awarded a prestigious bursary by the Timbavati to study for his guiding qualifications. From here, he went on to an assortment of guiding opportunities before expanding into teaching environmental education and working for one of Koru Camp’s now-partner nonprofit organisations, Elephants Alive. Finally, as if fate itself had a hand in it, Joel’s path collided with Koru Camp.

At this point, many might exclaim “and the rest, as they say, is history”. But that just wouldn’t sit right with this extraordinary human being. Grateful for the opportunities he was afforded to be where he is today, and driven by a deep desire to give back, Joel set his sights on giving a child just like him that first push into the world of wildlife. His new goal is to “find another Joel”. Twenty-seven years after someone first saw his own potential, igniting a passion that would determine his entire future, it is time, he says, to pay it forward. 

After being invited back to his old primary school as a speaker for last year’s Heritage Day, he decided this would be the ideal spot for his new project – in the very same classrooms where it began. Connecting his past with his present, Joel hatched a plan to bring a group of these learners to Koru Camp for an entire week, giving him a chance to guide and mentor them in a place he loves. 

However, with no nonprofit organisations working in the area, he would have to look elsewhere to fund this dream. He turned to Koru Camp’s founder, Peter, for advice. With a determination that continually sets him apart from his peers, Joel finally succeeded in achieving the necessary funding from the incredible people at Brew HQ so ten young learners could attend Koru Camp. Plans set and sponsors in place, all of Joel’s incredible efforts will come to fruition on 4 September and he (not to mention all of us) couldn’t be more excited! 

“This is my chance to influence a change in young people and, I hope, to find another Joel. But I don’t want to stop there. If I can find the funding to repeat this programme every year, I know I can find even more Joels and spark that love for nature in many more children. This is my new goal!”

Knowing Joel, we have every faith that he’ll achieve it.

A huge thank you to everyone at Brew HQ for sponsoring Joel’s camp! 

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