In many ways, I wish I could rewind the clock to relive the incredible moments we shared this year with so many of our committed conservation partners, who are true embodiments of our ROAR AFRICA credo, “If African women rise, wildlife will thrive.” Behind our every move is an urgency to protect the wildlife and wild spaces we have left, ensuring our guests' investment in African travel has an immediate effect.
December is a month of gratitude, reflection and consideration; a time to bond with loved ones, care for others and celebrate the abundance in our lives. Every year during this time, I’m reminded that how we live and the quality of the presence we bring to this sacred earth is our signature in the end.
In that spirit, sharing our insider relationships with cultural and conservation changemakers is one of the most joyful privileges of our work. May we never forget that the greatest gifts are not the physical ones we hold in our hands but the intangible gestures of support that will continue to create a positive ripple effect long after we're gone.
We’re thrilled to spotlight the brave women and men whose signatures are of a life well lived, in service of our shared planet. We’re forever grateful for your support and your signature.
President, CEO and chief scientific officer of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, Dr. Tara Stoinski's work with gorillas spans two decades. Now, in her leadership role, this passionate primatologist leads scientific studies critical to preserving the species you find in one place in the world – the chain of Virunga Massif volcanoes that intersect across Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC. When visiting Dian Fossey’s famed Karisoke Research Center, particularly if you venture behind the scenes into the laboratories where critical scientific studies are being carried out, you feel the enormity of protecting this critically endangered species, which shares 98% of our DNA. After learning more about the intense conservation required to save this species at the center (funding for 50% of their protection costs is the responsibility of the Fossey Fund) to trek and witness a habituated gorilla family in Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park is an experience that takes up permanent residence in your soul. We encourage all of our guests and team to spend as much time at this transformative center as possible; a true lifeline to our closest primate cousins that we as humans feel such a profound kinship with. To support the essential work of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, click here.
Mona Muravu's Girl Child Empowerment Trust functions as a summer camp for a group of 32 girls aged between 10 and 16 from seven schools, in partnership with The Malilangwe Trust. While enrolled at these summer camps, young women learn essential life skills and receive sexual health education in a safe space, which they, in turn, teach their classmates back at school. They also have the opportunity to attend a series of talks and workshops by guest speakers, and have access to career guidance, which has the power to change the trajectory of these girls' lives. Last April, guests at our Women ‘s Empowerment Retreat spent an afternoon sharing tea, biscuits and dreams for the future with the young women on Mona’s program. These moments of cross-cultural connection and mentorship are so important to both our guests and the bright young leaders of the future we feel so privileged to help support. To learn more or to offer support to Girl Child Empowerment Trust, click here.
Given the huge strain Africa’s rhinos are under due to relentless poaching, to see these gentle, solitary creatures thriving in their natural environment in my home country of Zimbabwe is an emotional and rare experience. Much of this conservation success story is down to ecologist Sarah Clegg and an expert team of anti-poachers (some of them former poachers themselves) at The Malilangwe Trust. It felt like a full-circle moment to have Sarah speak at our Women’s Empowerment Retreat last April, as it took place in the heart of the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve that she so tirelessly protects. As a gesture of our support, ROAR AFRICA contributed to the funding of a new data-tracking system for the protection of the reserve’s precious rhinos. To support Sarah Clegg and the conservation work of The Malilangwe Trust, click here.
Founded by Jessica Danforth in Nanyuki in 2019 in honor of Caitlin O'Hara (a dear friend who sadly passed away), The Leo Project focuses on upward community development and positive social change across the arts, female empowerment and education at their dedicated center. Among several other initiatives, the project creates leadership opportunities and teaches classes for girls in nine primary and secondary schools. Since 2021, the project has reached nearly 13,000 community members. We were thrilled that a ROAR AFRICA introduction seeded a recent collaboration with our long-term partners at the Zeitz Foundation and Segera, to bring female health resources to young students in the area. Jessica and the team hope to expand The Leo Project across Kenya in the coming years. To support the work of The Leo Project, click here.
The SA College for Tourism (SACT) exists to train young women from underprivileged backgrounds in nature-based tourism. This highly practical education initiative is led with passion and aplomb by executive director Mariette Ferreira. The unique programs at SACT have changed the life trajectories of hundreds of students, with over 1,000 hospitality students graduating since its 2001 inception, and 74 graduating from the Tracking Academy founded in 2017. We at ROAR AFRICA are long-time supporters of both programs, with our own active scholarship program now in its fourth year. We were also thrilled that our very first Women’s Empowerment Retreat that took place in South Africa in 2019 generated a significant grant for the SA College for Tourism from the Helen Gurley Brown Foundation. Many of these young graduates go on to work at Africa's best lodges, gaining invaluable experience and, most importantly, empowerment to live out the credo “If African women rise, wildlife will thrive.” Existing students also have the opportunity to travel to the United States for an annual exchange program with the YMCA. To support the SA College for Tourism, click here.
According to Council of Contributors (CoC) founder Kennedy Zakeer, it's often a case of fuel for one helicopter ride or feed for one rhino that's needed – requests too minor and too timeous for a big NGO to handle. The Council of Contributors' founder has long run a nimble operation, offering much-needed support on the ground, including funding a Bat Hawk anti-poaching air control unit to private landowners who shoulder the burden of protecting 52% of South Africa's rhino population. However, the recent announcement of Kennedy's purchase of 1,540 acres in Limpopo Province, South Africa for a rhino sanctuary is an extraordinarily positive development. Kennedy plans to be fully operational in early 2024, ready to deliver care and refuge to South Africa's critically endangered rhinos, hoping to reintegrate them back into the wild if possible. To support Kennedy’s incredible work with the Council of Contributors, click here.
RESCUWS co-founder Shelley Warth spoke to the international brigade of female guests at our most recent Women’s Empowerment Retreat at Singita Pamushana Lodge in Zimbabwe. As a born-and-raised Zimbabwean, I'm highly cognisant of the sad dearth of female health and education services in my home country; even so, hearing that 72% of rural Zimbabwean girls have no access to menstrual products and that 62% regularly miss school as a result was shocking. The moment we learned that RESCUWS supplies these girls with packs of sustainable, washable pads that last up to five years, but that many of the children don't have underwear, we immediately donated 300 pairs of undergarments to lend a helping hand. To support RESCUWS, click here.
Founded by Lisa Hywood in 1994 in memory of her father, the Tikki Hywood Foundation protects the pangolin and other lesser-known endangered species with a no-nonsense approach to the illegal trafficking and poaching that decimates the fragile populations of these precious creatures. Why is there such a demand for them? Pangolin meat and scales are incorrectly believed to have medicinal benefits, which has resulted in live pangolins being the most trafficked animal on the planet. Lisa and her team collaborate with governments and national parks across Africa to rescue, rehabilitate and release pangolins and other illegally captured animals, all of whom are critical to maintaining the biodiversity of the wild. We were so fortunate to have Lisa Hywood join us on our last Women's Empowerment Retreat at Singita Pamushana Lodge in our shared homeland of Zimbabwe. To support the work of the Tikki Hywood Foundation, click here.
Reteti is a true pioneer in the grassroots, community-led conservation space. This groundbreaking sanctuary in northern Kenya is the first elephant sanctuary wholly owned and operated by local Samburu people, championing the rising belief that conservation needs to start from the ground up. All the staff are recruited from the local area, including several Samburu women who work as keepers and tend to the goats whose milk nourishes the orphaned baby elephants – a significant marker of progress within a deeply patriarchal community. Many of our guests who embark on safaris in northern Kenya choose to helicopter to nearby Reteti and witness up close the incredibly moving work of the local community, lending a hand to their efforts in protecting the area’s orphaned elephant population. To support Reteti's work or adopt an elephant, click here.
Resson Kantai Duff started her conservation career at Save the Elephants before going on to become deputy director at Ewaso Lions, a community-based lion conservation initiative in Samburu, Kenya. After speaking at our second Women's Empowerment Retreat in Kenya, Resson was invited to give a powerful TED Talk, during which she shared the smart, collaborative initiatives she works on – including utilizing young warriors as trackers; teaching rural Samburu women how to drive to better reach and educate their communities; and introducing children, including those who work as livestock herders, to the wonders of Kenya's national parks. Ewaso Lions' efforts have tripled the local lion population and transformed patriarchal attitudes about the place of women in tribal society. To support Ewaso Lions, click here.
Africa's human population is set to have doubled by 2050 (compared to 1950), putting unimaginable stress on wild spaces and wildlife. We must act now. We've followed Dr. King's groundbreaking work, including her Elephants and Bees Project, since its infancy. In fact, Dr. King's speech at our first Women's Empowerment Retreat in South Africa in 2019 resulted in her receiving two “Magic Grants” from the Helen Gurley Brown Foundation. The project, which involves stringing beehive fences around agricultural areas to act as elephant deterrents, has reduced crop raiding by up to 80% in the Tsavo region. This clever and cost-effective solution (beehive fences cost roughly $150 per 100 yards) also enables locals to make money off the resulting honey, while mitigating human-wildlife conflict. Dr. King, a TED Talk speaker, released her first book, Using Honey Bees as a Natural Deterrent for Crop-Raiding Elephants, in 2012. To support this incredible project, click here.
Today a conservationist, zoologist and the founder and executive director of Wildlife Conservation Action, Dr. Moreangels Mbizah saw her first wild animal when she was 25 years old – despite growing up on the fringes of Zimbabwe's wilderness. This childhood disconnection from wildlife has informed the community-led conservation philosophy Dr. Mbizah abides by today, a mission furthered by the shooting of Cecil, a lion she had long studied, by a trophy hunter. Wildlife Conservation Action introduces children to animals in a safe and calm environment via Zimbabwe's national parks. It also finds innovative ways to reduce the human cost of cohabitating with wildlife, such as loss of livestock and crops, through mobile bomas and tourism profit-sharing. Dr. Mbizah was gracious enough to join us at our Women’s Empowerment Retreat last April in Zimbabwe, sharing her conservation philosophy and stories from the field with our rapt audience of guests. You can see Dr. Mbizah's work showcased in the 2018 National Geographic short film, One Woman's Remarkable Journey to Protect Lions and in her TED Talk, “How community-led conservation can save wildlife”. To support Wildlife Conservation Action, click here.
Founded by renowned conservationists Peter and Corie Knights, the Wild Africa Fund takes a multi-pronged approach to tackling complex conservation issues like poaching, wildlife trafficking, bushmeat consumption and human-wildlife conflict across the African continent. Utilizing mass communications spanning television, radio, “Poaching Steals From Us All” campaigns and live music concerts to promote the protection of Africa’s natural heritage, the Wild Africa Fund draws on Peter and Corie’s vast experience in protecting wild spaces and wildlife for generations to come. To support the work of the Wild Africa Fund, click here.
What began as a Zeitz Foundation project in 2019 to recruit female rangers from Segera's local communities has grown into a sustainable training model that will change the face of conservation. The inclusion of women in the male-dominated anti-poaching space has far-reaching benefits, inspiring and uplifting women in their home communities and promoting dialogue and conservation as a path to peace. Segera’s rewilded landscape is a place close to our hearts and the home of our annual retreats with poet David Whyte. Several of our guests have spent time with the female rangers and the incredible dogs they work with to protect that sacred wilderness in the foothills of Mount Kenya. To learn more or support the female rangers, click here.
With each passing year, the plight of the wild becomes more and more pronounced. For all of us who have had the extraordinary privilege and sheer joy of spending time in Africa's open plains, experiencing the rhythms of untamed nature up close, the critical work of our conservation partners strikes a special chord. Without the wildlife that has roamed free across our planet for millions of years, we will experience a profound loneliness of spirit.
We are forever grateful for the ongoing support of our global ROAR AFRICA family, who share our belief in thoughtful travel, real connection and meaningful action that changes lives. My fervent hope during this season is that we all root closer to the people, the places and the causes that matter to us most.