Sometimes in life, we are dealt a blow. Through an unfortunate turn of events we find ourselves faced with something that seems to be insurmountable, that leave us feeling powerless. Yet, buried within the seeming problem lies a gift of a possible new path, a whole new direction, if we so choose.
A few years ago I met someone that I thought was the man of my dreams - a person who shared my love and passion for the bush, for wildlife, for travel and exploration. We turned our passion towards purchasing a 4x4 vehicle together - and we had some truly amazing experiences! My latest artwork series "Kalahari Dreams" was our first (and only!) trip we managed to do before realising that all was not as it seemed and we parted company. However he left me with the vehicle which I could not afford to keep myself.
I tried unsuccessfully to sell it for almost a year. It seemed that no matter how hard I tried, this car was going nowhere. I could not afford the repayments on the vehicle (as it was essentially my ex's car, however he by now was long gone and not interested in assisting in any way, I had made the error of allowing the car to be placed in my name).
The situation became dire - I couldn't understand why this car was not selling. I was just looking to sell at the settlement value which was R195 000 and have the car off my hands. Then, a friend came up with an idea - to create a project she called "The Power of 1950", and to get 1950 people to each out in R100 and each person can have a share of the car. Of course, this would be impossible - logistics alone prohibit such a venture! Yet I didn't dismiss it - I felt deeply that there was something there - I just needed time to figure it out.
Suddenly, it hit me - create a project called "The Power of 2000" - fit a set of new tyres, get 2000 people to each contribute R100, settle the finance and DONATE the vehicle to a worthy anti poaching organisation that can use it to its full potential, doing important work saving the rhino. And that is how the project came into being.
Exactly a year later, I drove the pajero up to Balule close to Hoedspruit, part of the Greater Kruger National Park, and gifted it to The Black Mambas, a group of african women who are the caretakers of the rhino and other vulnerable animals. These women work daily patrolling fences, checking for breaches and also for snares which are laid to catch animals both for poaching and for bushmeat. Thanks to them, incidences of poaching have reduced significantly in this area. Further, they have educational outreach programs to teach the local children about the importance of conservation, loving animals, and caring for wildlife. They have become role models in their communities and inspire other young girls to follow in their footsteps.
On our journey we were invited to visit The Rhino Orphanage, started by Arrie Deventer eight years ago where rescued baby rhino who have lost their mothers to poaching are cared for, rehabilitated, and where possible re-introduced to the wild. We also visited HERD - Hoedspruit Elephant Rehabilitation Development based at Kapama Reserve a new orphanage run by Adine Rhoode, and lastly we visited the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre who also have rescued rhino and other endangered animals such as cheetah, sable antelope and vultures which has been run for many years by the Rhoode family. These experiences were incredible - meeting the passionate individuals who have made it their life's work to protect and care for injured and orphaned wild animals, as well as meeting the animals themselves.
Our wildlife in South Africa faces serious challenges - they are under attack from foreign markets and local threats. We are dealing with deeply complex socio-economic challenges which further exacerbate the issues, making on-the-ground anti poaching efforts all the more important, coupled with community upliftment and education. Rhino poaching numbers have been fearfully high, with up to 3 rhino being poached per day - and this number doesn't consider the secondary deaths - pregnant females, females with baby rhino at foot who aren't found and rescued, rhino who survive poaching and die of infection at a later date. The number could be double. Conservation organisations receive very little funding from within South Africa, having to rely on international donors. I believe this can change - I believe it is vital that it changes - this is our country, and these are our animals. Through my newly formed Non Profit Company The Power of 2000, I plan to change this and create a powerful South African based fund raising program, leveraging schools and art to bring hope to our animals that need it so desperately.
I would like to thank all those who supported my project, The Power of 2000, especially Bergvliet High School who invited me to address the school and share my story and my dream, and who raised R30 000 towards our target. This made me realise how important it is to have schools involved in fund raising for conservation projects, as the animals belong to all of us, and it is our responsibility to ensure they are cared for and that they are around for future generations. Very special thanks to Gabriella Rivera and the Rivera Family Trust for donating a lump sum that enabled the speedy completion of the project, and for coming with me on the trip and making it as memorable as it was!
Further thanks go to:
Arrie Deventer, Yolandi and the team at The Rhino Orphanage for allowing us to visit and sharing their work with us
Mike & Marjorie at Mhara Game Lodge for sponsoring a night's accommodation at their beautiful lodge (the midnight swim under the stars was a highlight!)
John Cooper at HESC for sponsoring a night's accommodation and for hosting us so generously, for the tour around the center, as well as for our chauffeur game drive to HERD with the wonderful Kyle
Hoedspruit Elephant Rehabilitation and Development for inviting us to your wonderful facility, for all the work you do with orphaned elephants, and specially for the incredible elephant interaction we got to experience.
The Power of 2000 is a registered Non Profit Company, and it is our aim to raise R200 000 every month through school fundraisers, personal and corporate contributions, which is donated to worthy charitable organisations in nature conservation. If you would like to find out more, please email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.