Can you believe that it’s been on our roads for more than a year now? We thought we’d take a look at how Maun’s Tourist Funded Community Bus is benefiting our community.
“The Community Bus has been a ray of sunshine to our children brightening each day through its vibrant colours and comfort”. Taboka Rotsi.
Taboka is the Project Co-coordinator of Bana Ba Letsatsi (BBL) a care centre for orphaned and vulnerable children in Maun. BBL is one of the organisations benefitting from Maun’s unique Community Bus.
Last year – in celebration of Botswana’s 50th Anniversary – Safari Destinations and Travel for Impact (TFI) launched the Community Bus. For the past year it has been making a real difference in the lives of the less fortunate, whilst adding a splash of colour to Maun’s streets.
This unique collaboration between travellers to Botswana, private enterprise and charitable organisations is directly benefitting Maun’s disadvantaged communities.
So, what does the Community Bus do?
It’s a school bus, granny transporter, safety zone and life line that empowers our community all rolled into one. It solves the transportation challenges for not one but several charities by operating on a scheduled basis.
In the morning and afternoons, it does a round trip picking up and dropping off kids for Bana Ba Letsatsi. This coincides with the school run pick up and drop off for children staying at the Woman Against Rape (WAR) shelter for victims of gender based violence. Without the support of the bus most of these children simply wouldn’t attend school due to the distances involved, and those that did, would be late and tired from having to walk several kilometres.
After the morning school run, it’s time to collect and distribute daily food parcels for AGLOW to Maun’s impoverished elderly. Often our driver OB and AGLOW volunteer Lesang, are the only people some elderly see all day. So the bus becomes a lifeline, enabling AGLOW to daily monitor the elderly’s wellbeing, and equally importantly, it provides an opportunity for a chat and some friendship and companionship.
Between its scheduled duties, the bus is pressed into service to assist charitable organisations with ad-hoc requests. Perhaps it will be sent to the local butcher to collect a donation of meat for BBL. It may be dropping or collecting the elderly at the clinic. Transporting MAWS volunteers, collecting dog food donations, delivering donated clothes, collecting food parcels for flood relief…on and on the brightly coloured bus bustles about town!
The weekends are equally busy. It may be transporting the elderly to and from a lunch, transporting the hearing impaired on a photography course, taking children on a field trip or providing transport for a disability workshop.
With over 30,000km on the clock, the bus has delivered approximately 1305 meals, completed over 600 school runs and in the process, has indeed become a lifeline for the Community. These words, from one of the elderly that the bus visits, sums up the vision of the Community Bus. Softly spoken, and with a tremble in her voice, she whispers:
“Every day I am looking forward to seeing the bus coming. I like these people who don’t know me, but come and bring me food. I now sleep full every day.”
A video, The Years Pass By, highlights the work of the bus in the community.
The Community Bus was jointly sponsored by Safari Destinations, with the balance and ongoing expenses supported from The Safari Destinations / Travel for Impact 1US$ Bed Night Levy.
Safari Destinations is about family. It is the people that share our daily lives, and who we have grown to love and cherish. With our SD family, we create memories, share good times and help each other through the tough ones.
Some of those good times are celebrating the birth of the children to staff employed at Safari Destinations. At last count, it was 17 in total with another 2 on the way! Close to 50% of all our staff are parents. This is why lift clubs, meal arrangements, play-dates, “Hello Aunty Sarah” as well as kiddies’ laughter and tears are the order of our day.
We all know that total commitment describes our women here at SD. Many years ago when Lorraine and Andrea were still breastfeeding, critical Globetrack training had to take place. So, it all happened “behind the scenes” while the (male) trainer continued his training. He had strict instructions to “Don’t turnaround!”
While 80% of our staff are women, we believe that fathers are just as important as mothers. This is why our Dads get paternity leave with the birth of each child.
Our latest recruit is beautiful, little Paige, born to Senior Consultant, Mia Ives. Once Mia returns to work, as a first time mother, she will have the support and understanding of the Managing Directors, Carina and Lorraine as well as the many women here at SD who have walked the path of managing family and work.
Brrr!! Winter is upon us bringing harsh climatic conditions to less fortunate people who are not able to afford the basic necessities to keep warm. And so, it was once again time for Safari Destinations’ philanthropic community winter clothing drive. Utilising our strong community network we embarked on a project to gather as much clothing and blankets as possible within the Maun community. The staff of the company were then involved in distributing these items to organisations serving disadvantaged communities. Those communities identified as being in need (in coordination with Travel for Impact); were AGLOW, WAR, BBL, Basket of Love and Botsetse RDS. These organisations assist orphaned children, disadvantaged elders, disadvantaged teen mothers and their babies. The blankest and clothes were welcomed with open arms and lots of people will now be able to bear the cold a little better.
A big thank you to all those who played a part in the success of this mission; from all those businesses that had clothing boxes to collect the clothing, to those who donated clothing, to Safari Destinations who donated close to 50 blankets, to the company staff who gave their time in collecting, sorting, washing where necessary and then distributing the items. Besides staving off the winter chill, this little bit of kindness put a smile on the faces of many.
Back in June, we launched our 10FOR50 Campaign celebrating our 10th and Botswana’s 50th anniversaries. In celebration of this, one of our major goals was to donate a total of 500 Hours to Community Service.
When Lorraine initially announced this during a staff meeting there was a silent pause (cue cricket sounds…) as our staff body absorbed the enormity of the challenge. Now, anyone who has ever visited the SD offices knows that there is no such thing as silence here…
Fortunately, volunteering to assist the community is part of the culture at SD and the silence was actually attributable to a collective intake of breath before declaring Challenge Accepted – Game On!
The months have rolled by and looking back, we’re proud of what we’ve achieved: we’ve organised winter clothing drives, renovated the reception for a Woman’s Shelter, spent hours visiting and assisting the destitute elderly, helped out at charity events, hiked across the Makgadikgadi Pans for Charity and even participated in a Charity fashion Show. Phew!
And then came the final two big events of the year…
First up was organising a fun day at Bana Ba Letsatsi (BBL) – a day centre caring for orphaned and vulnerable kids. One thing you can say with certainly about SD staff is that we love kids. We love them more than delicious warm sticky magwinya’s (a savoury/sweet, deep fried donut-ish traditional food, which-we-know-we-shouldn’t-eat-but-Eish-they-are-delicious) we even love them more than we love planning that super awesome Delta Trip. We simply love kids.
It therefore goes without saying that a fun day for BBL would be well supported by our team.
Through the generosity of our agents, we support BBL under the TFI levy; we sponsor their full time Physco-Social Counsellor, contribute to food and running expenses and also provide free scheduled transport through the SD/TFI Community Bus. All of these are crucial support to BBL but they’re not “fun” for kids.
We decided on a Fun Day, purely because all kids need to have joy. They need to have a day where they can simply be kids and have fun!
We started off with face painting accompanied by a snack of magwinya’s (have we mentioned these before?) followed by a round of games and fun: egg and spoon races, sack races, cup cake decorating, jumping castle and the surprise all-time favourite – tug of war! The kids then attended a graduation ceremony while the SD “Safari Chefs” cracked on with a massive braai (barbeque). Everyone enjoyed a superb lunch and we ended the day by handing out party bags to all. What a super day
Something else you probably already know about SD is that we don’t do things in half measures. Yep, half measures are for sissies, we like to go all out! So as if planning and hosting a fun day for a 100 odd kids and guests was not enough, two weeks later we were back in action – this time assisting with an Annual Christmas Lunch for 400 Elderly members of our community.
AGLOW International Maun is another beneficiary from the TFI Bed Night Levy. They are an organisation committed to caring for the destitute elderly in Maun. We sponsor monthly food parcels as well as the volunteers who provide daily visits. Transport is also provided by the TFI/SD Community Bus.
We are long term sponsors of their Annual Christmas lunch for the elderly and this year a contingent of 10 SD volunteers descended into what can only be described as a food cooking marathon. Forget Masterchef, if you want to see a bunch of amateur chefs dropped in the deep end in a foreign kitchen then this is the event to watch! If chopping 2 sacks of cabbages for 4 hours sounds like fun, feel free to join us next year…
All jokes aside, Team SD did a super job, worked well together from prep to cooking and served a delicious feast to a very enthusiastic audience – not a scrap of food was left over.
And that’s how we achieved our community hours. Often chaotic, usually sweaty, sometimes smelling of cabbage but always with a sense of achievement and proud to be able to give back to our awesome community.
Thanks to the incredible support and commitment of our staff in under 6 months we have not only achieved our goal of 500 community hours, but we have exceeded it to achieve 563 community hours!
What’s our target for next year? We’ll have to wait and see.
I’m sure we are planning on going large…
…Do I hear crickets?
Ina lebe seromo. This is a Setswana proverb that means: you are your name. Your name is your destiny, it is who you become, and it is you. Batswana just like most if not all Africans, understand that your name defines your fate, it shapes your life. Thus for most Africans, names bear deep meanings. Within SD itself, there are Batswana who have been endowed with special names and these names and their origins are more than meets the eye.
This is a Kalanga name, meaning “Him/Her” (Keene in Setswana). I am the first male child who is considered the overall caretaker and leader in my parents’ absence. I bear responsibility to ensure that the family is held together. I am “The One” in my family, with them I am the King.
This means that ‘We are fortunate’ or ‘We are blessed. This is a joyful name, a baby girl, a gift to the family. ‘Re’ in Setswana means us…so the first part of my name signifies unity. Now we know why I am a team player and a people’s person. J “Sego” in Setswana means good fortune or luck. It means I am a blessing in other people’s lives. To me, every time someone calls my name: “Resego”, it is a validation and a salutation that “WE ARE BLESSED”!
Kalanga names are beautiful and Chawada is another Kalanga name that has a spiritual connection. Directly translated, Chawada means “What you Desire”. My parents are believers and after a long wait, hoping to have a son, I, Chawada was born instead. Giving thanks and submitting to God’s will, my parents then named me Chawada. In other words, they were submitted to God’s plan for what he desired for them. Chawada Ndzimu too tji bokela – Whatever you like for us Lord, we are grateful!
Helmie is a Swedish name meaning “Will, desire”. It originates from helmet (protection). It is a rare name to find in Africa, let alone Botswana. I am named after Boineelo‘s (the writer of this article) elder sister. My aunt who gave me this rare and beautiful name was very close friends with Boineelo’s sister in high school. It goes to show that we never know the impact that we have in people’s lives and how deep meaningful connections can be. So make sure your life impacts those around you in a positive way and maybe just maybe your legacy might live on in a name, just like it did for me!
Lindiwe is a deeply spiritual name, one that signifies, comfort, love and protection. Being the spiritual person that I am, God has shown me comfort in times of need, protection in times of trial and love at all times. I am protected, it is my fate. I live in constant peace, knowing that what and who I am, is greater than the trials I may face. When at peace, all is well. I can live my life with a joyful peaceful heart.
Here at Safari Destination, the sheer number of women in the workplace means that women’s issues receive attention. Our two Managing Directors, Carina and Lorraine, are fantastic role models of what women working together can achieve. And they are both working mothers, having to cope with the reality of work-life balance. In response to this reality, the company provides a kiddies’ house on the company premises. Mums are responsible for hiring their own caregivers who then look after the children in a safe and secure environment. These caregivers are very special women. In the month of May, Safari Destinations celebrated the contribution of these ” women behind our women”. Each working mother shared a few words. These words were printed in our bi-monthly newsletter and each caregiver was also given a copy of the photos with the words below. It was a special moment.
Roxanne, Boineelo and Kyle: I am quite an over protective mom, so I truly appreciate that there is someone watching Kyle throughout the day. I know that Boi really cares about him and always takes good care of him. She can be both gentle and stern with Kyle. He has someone caring and gentle when he feels sad or scared. We make a good team as we raise Kyle together. I think of Boi as Kyle’s office mummy.
Karen, Komotso, Nikita and Courtney: I am so lucky that Komotso cares for my children and so I trust her with them. Komotso to me is a life saver. Without her, I would not be able to achieve what I do at work. I’m grateful that I am in a position to provide Komotso with a job, which helps her support her family. Having 6 children of her own, Komotso treats both Courtney and Kita as her own. She loves my little girls and looks after them well.
Kim, Lillian and Tate: I would not be able to cope without Lillian. Tate absolutely adores her and when we go on holiday, he misses her so much he sometimes cries for her!! Lillian has been with Tate since he was 2 weeks old. She is also teaching Tate to speak Setswana, as he is a Motswana.
Lorraine, Bea, Megan and Taylor: Bea is an extension of my family and I could not manage without her support. I trust Bea with the lives of my children – her honesty, loyalty and patience is invaluable. I would not be where I am today without her support. I often envy the time that she spends with the kids but I am also grateful that they have a second mum in their life to look out for them and meet their needs.
Ramona, Otshephe and Isabella: I am really glad I found Otshephe. I can go to work and have little Bella close to me. It is a great relief to know that my daughter is in good hands while I am at the office. I am looking forward to a long working relationship.
Thelma and Thuto, and her twins, Kgotla and Kgosi: Thuto has become so close to my kids they ask for her when we are home. Kgotla goes to the loo and calls out “Mommy where is aunty? I have pooped.” J I am happy to have found her.
Verena, Evelyn and Leila: Evelyn has only been with us and looking after Leila for 4 months, but it’s amazing how quickly she has become pretty much a part of the family. She is so much more than Leila’s Nanny. She is just my life supporter in every way!! It is great to have her helping me!
Ashley, Helen and Bella: Helen is a great help so that now I can go to work and relax with peace of mind that she is taking good care of my daughter. Bella is always happy to see her and I know that she is in safe hands.
Our philosophy at Safari Destinations is that having fun at work is critical to our success.
Fun cannot be had without laughter and laughter is the stuff that binds us together. It is what the academics call “building social capital”. Simply put, having fun together creates shared memories, helps us get along better, thereby facilitating co-operation and co-ordination amongst staff. Engaging in fun activities can also lead to staff being more creative and productive. The researchers also say fun at work can result in lower absenteeism, less sick days and greater satisfaction. A recent survey amongst our staff about the happiest moments at work included staff relating their involvement in fun activities organized.
So what do we get up to? The latest fun activity was an Easter Egg Treasure Hunt, with clues leading to various locations until at last, the easter egg bounty was found.
Besides running staff only activities, the company’s social agenda includes plugging into what is happening within the community and sponsoring staff involvement in these activities. A fabulous win-win for the company and the community! The latest example, was staff participation in a Masked Ball run by a local school to raise funds. May the fun times continue!
We are sure that our readers are also interested in our in-house training and how we develop our staff:
While many companies claim that their staff are their best asset and that the development of talent is a key strategic priority, it is rare to find a company where this philosophy is lived out on a daily basis. All too often the development of staff is a task undertaken when “we have time”. In my experience, things are different at Safari Destinations (SD). Staff development at this small but dynamic company goes beyond being a necessity for survival in a developing country with a small population and limited skills.
It is a matter of success and a source of pride. As the new HR Manager at SD responsible for driving the staff development agenda, I have often heard the following from Lorraine Potter, one of the Managing Directors of SD: “This is a learning opportunity. This needs to be shared with staff. How can we do this?” I arrived to find weekly training sessions an ongoing practice. Talk of developing the product and destination knowledge amongst the reservation’s team is foremost in the minds of management as this is key to the company positioning itself as an expert on Botswana and the experiences available to travellers. Material resources had already developed to support the reservation’s staff in acquiring this knowledge and learning about the organisation’s processes.
One to one mentoring by a senior takes place with all new staff in this team and has been the practice since the early days of the company. Informal feedback on performance is inherent in these roles with more formal feedback taking place every 3 months in the first year and thereafter, every 6 months. A recent development is that staff themselves (and not only management) are responsible for the training of new staff. This is in keeping with the philosophy that we never stop learning and that while we teach, we learn. With the rapid expansion of the company and inevitable stretching of staff resources, the company restructured and appointed team leaders in the reservation’s team in late 2014. But the values and practices, on which the company was first built, have held strong and are fiercely protected by the two Managing Directors, Lorraine Potter and Carina Grüninger. One such value is the commitment “To constantly strive to learn more about our country, agents, suppliers, our jobs, ourselves and each other”. Transforming this commitment into action requires leaders who themselves actively demonstrate their own openness to learning, are excited to learn from others and make the time to learn as well as create the space and opportunity for others to develop and grow. This is what I have found working at SD. It is the foundation on which the company has grown and been successful and provides fertile ground for the future for as management guru, Peter Senge says: “The only sustainable competitive advantage is an organization’s ability to learn faster than the competition”.