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The Ubuntu Effect: Inspiring Change Through Nature

Empowering communities and igniting passions, Koru Camp and the Timbavati Foundation inspire through nature and education.

Lying in bed in the darkness, still groggy from sleep, the sound slowly came into focus – like the static on a radio antenna searching for the right channel. Moments later, the fog cleared and I realised exactly what had woken me. The deep, guttural roar of a lion was piercing through the night loud enough to know it wasn’t far from camp. Now entirely concentrated on the sounds around me, I realised it wasn’t the only noise I could hear. The laughter-like snort of a hippo played in the background whilst a high-pitched whistling crescendo, unique to the Pearl-spotted owlet, chimed just metres from my bed. All three called at once like a wild opera of the night. It was magnificent!

Just a couple of hours later, the darkness finally gave way to morning and the Koru kitchen became a hive of activity. Ten teenage girls from the Ubuntu Girls’ Club, an initiative of local non-profit organisation Nourish, lined up for a hot drink. Joel ushered the group towards the game vehicle where they launched themselves with giddy excitement. His vast experience, and perhaps a touch of luck, were on our side as moments later a pride of ten lions – made up of lionesses and their cubs – suddenly came into view. Craning their necks to see, the girls looked on in wide-eyed astonishment. Their very first encounter with these iconic predators. What a fantastic way to start!

For three days, the girls were enthralled with each safari. From elephants drinking in the river and a shy kudu with her newborn calf to the best luck of all – a leopard cub waiting patiently for mum to return. In between drives, Joel and the team from The Timbavati Foundation delivered an inspirational education programme. Founded by its namesake nature reserve, the Timbavati Foundation has deep connections to Koru Camp – with both Joel and Dineo having developed their passion for conservation through its various programs. Driven by their pillars of environmental awareness, education and community upliftment, the Foundation generously sponsored this Ubuntu Girls camp.

Alongside environmental lessons in topics such as tree identification and their various uses, the girls were set various tasks aimed at empowering them as well as getting them to think creatively and to work together. One such task was to think of five problems they could see in their community. In groups, they then had to come up with a realistic solution they could enact to help, presenting their ideas to the others. From filling potholes with sand to encouraging their friends to stay in school and avoid the immense challenge of teenage pregnancy – it was thought-provoking for the girls to realise that, even as young teenagers, they can be a positive influence in their community.

As day turned back to night, the group settled around the campfire with Dineo and the other female staff. Under the veil of darkness, each girl’s confidence grew and an open discussion on women’s health ensued before sleep took over at last. The next morning, filled with gratitude and a new passion for nature, the mood was noticeably sombre when it was time to leave.

However, the memories and lessons learnt here will travel back home with the Ubuntu Girls. Perhaps some are already championing the ideas to bring about positive change in their communities. Maybe others have been ignited with a passion for conservation or nature that has inspired them to consider it as a career path. But, even if these impressionable teenagers, at the cusp of discovering who they want to be, simply take away a newfound appreciation for nature or the feeling that they, as young women, are truly valued and capable, it will be three days well spent here at Koru Camp.

We would like to extend a huge thank you to The Timbavati Foundation for their abundant support and collaboration with Koru Camp towards empowering our wildlife communities.

Words and Photos by Emily Whiting

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