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Transforming lives through literacy and conservation: Tanja’s story

In an era dominated by selfies, influencers, and the latest TikTok trends, encountering someone like Tanja Goossens feels like a refreshing breeze through the savannah. Travelling all the way from the UK, where she works as a Literary Rights Agent at Curtis Brown, Tanja brings with her a lifelong love for books and a fervent passion for wildlife and conservation. This unique blend of interests led her to Koru Camp, where she embarked on a mission to create an on-site library filled with educational books and inspiring stories about nature.

Tanja’s motivation stems from her awareness of the alarming state of literacy among rural children in South Africa. A 2023 study revealed a shocking statistic: more than 4 in 5 ten-year-olds cannot read for meaning—a number that continues to rise. Coupled with the harsh reality of high child poverty rates and the fact that many of these children may never experience their country’s breathtaking wildlife and natural heritage, Tanja felt a profound call to action.

Her passion and determination caught the attention of the UTA Foundation, which, in partnership with her employers at The Curtis Brown Group, selected her proposal for a sponsored charitable sabbatical. Energized by this incredible opportunity, Tanja mobilized her network of publishers, authors, friends, and family, gathering an astounding 300 books and laying the foundation for our mini-library. 

When Tanja arrived at Koru Camp, she brought her vision to life with remarkable energy and enthusiasm. Over the course of a week, she meticulously unpacked and catalogued the numerous books, working closely with our team to ensure they were stored and utilized effectively. Two camps, each welcoming 20 eager learners, were invited to stay during this week, courtesy of Tanja’s sponsorship. In addition to our signature educational safaris and conservation lessons, the children enjoyed nightly storytime by the campfire and daytime group reading sessions, fostering a deep love for reading and nature.

As a poignant finale to their stay, each child was given the opportunity to select a book to take home—a precious gift in a country where two-thirds of households with children under ten do not own a single book. This small act of generosity carries immense significance, planting the seeds of knowledge and curiosity in young minds.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Tanja, The Curtis Brown Group, and the UTA Foundation for their unwavering generosity and support. The fantastic support from the UTA Foundation covered many of Tanja’s travel expenses as well as a direct cash donation to Koru Camp. Tanja herself tirelessly campaigned for further support, ultimately tripling the initial donation and raising a remarkable $5,868! These funds will enable Koru Camp to host at least 10 camps over the next year, providing transformative experiences for over 200 young learners and members of our rural, disadvantaged communities. 

This extraordinary impact is all thanks to the relentless effort and dedication of one inspiring individual. If you ever doubt the power of one person to make a difference, just ask the 200 children who will have a life-changing experience at Koru Camp this year. She has not only enriched our camp but also ignited a spark of hope and possibility in the hearts of many. 

By Emily Whiting

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