Friday, January 7, 2011

A time to support these heroes and heroines

 I have reproduced this article published by Martin Lewis of Meetipie.  Big thanks to Martin for the support.

I write this blog from South Africa, a nation trying to play social and economic catch-up after decades of division and abuse of its people by Europeans.

Last week I visited Lions Sands Private Game Reserve ( as a guest of destination management company Green Route. This is a fabulous game lodge in The Kruger National Park which has been in the same family ownership since 1933. The More family take their responsibilities very seriously and focus on not one, but three 'bottom lines' - the other two being the ecology of the park and the communities in the area.

Lions Sands employs 85 per cent of its staff from the local community. Nearby Henna Pre-School used to look after 20 children in mud-walled buildings but since the turn of the century, with the involvement of Lion Sands, better facilities have been built and the number of children attending the school has risen to 250. Since then, Lion Sands’ involvement in Henna Pre-School has gown dramatically due to the need for basic education and healthy meals. Lion Sands co-ordinates projects for the basic upliftment of the school and its daily activities. As part of this they appointed Thembi Mdluli as facilitator to ensure funds are spent correctly. I visited Henna with Thembi and was astonished to see what she and Lions Sands have achieved.

This week I am lucky enough to be staying in more unadulterated luxury - a fabulous retreat called Bushman's Kloof in the Cedarberg Mountains of the Western Cape. All around us is an extraordinary sandstone moonscape with a river just a few yards from our room, its waters providing a babbling accompaniment to the wind in the trees. It is a heavenly place and Red Carnation Hotels - a family-owned group of top quality properties - has created something completely in harmony with its surroundings.

If you ever get the chance to come here, don't miss it. You can see the stunning setting at It is small, with just 17 rooms and suites, but it is big on conservation and cultural heritage. Like many such businesses in the region, corporate social responsibility is at the heart of the operation and the investment in CSR and conservation projects is significant.

Green Route again recommended this place to me. They, too, are actively involved in programmes that benefit the local community. One such is Gloria's Crèche, the informal name for Mazakheni Educare Centre, a tiny building in Cape Town's Khayelitsha township that provides love, protection, warmth, food and education for more than 100 young children up to the age of six.

I visited Gloria at the weekend because the registered charity which I chair - Meetings Industry Meeting Needs - has through Green Route funded the installation of a kitchen with equipment including a stove, to ensure the children could receive hot meals.

To say I was humbled by my visit is an understatement. Gloria is a hugely impressive lady who, together with seven helpers, provides a safe and secure environment for helpless youngsters. This provides the opportunity for both parents to work. Gloria charges the equivalent of £5 monthly per child and she provides three meals a day for these children. Do the sums - she has to pay her team out of this and they look after around 15 children each!

The stove we have provided has just four hot plates. Gloria and her team use these to provide food for more than 100 children three times a day! Gloria's Crèche has been such a success that she now has a waiting list of more than 60 children because her tiny building has run out of space.

Her next project is to provide a small outdoor play area with a climbing frame and swings so the kids can get some exercise. I will be asking my colleagues at Meetings Industry Meeting Needs to fund this, too.

Like many parts of Africa, the gap between rich and poor here is huge. People like Gloria and Thembi are trying to close that gap through wonderful projects such as this and they deserve our support. In a way, visiting alone makes a contribution because the arrival of conference and incentive tourists has a profound 'trickle-down' effect through the creation of employment. But if you can't visit and would like to make a difference, please go to to see how you can participate.

I make no apologies for this brazen appeal in the season of Goodwill. Our industry already does a lot to help those less fortunate than ourselves. But we can do more.

I hope you have a great holiday.


No comments:

Post a Comment