- Founder & CEO
Founder & CEO
The African Bush Camps Foundation evolved from a partnership between Beks and Sophia Ndlovu.
Beks grew up in the rural village of Lupane, Zimbabwe, where issues of poverty, inaccessibility of education, and lack of reliable income are something he has seen his family and those around him deal with all his life. In his drive to build African Bush Camps, he became an expert at overcoming challenges – he established safari camps in very competitive environments during troubled economic times, and was able to forge new concessions in wildlife areas in Zimbabwe and Botswana where there had previously been no development. His success has instilled in him the drive to share his wealth of knowledge in business skills and his love of the environment and conservation with Lupane and other similar rural communities.
Although Sophia made a longer journey to Zimbabwe, being born in Germany and growing up far far away in Australia, Africa was in her heart from a very young age. As soon as she was able, she moved to Zimbabwe to interact with the rural communities that she had spent so much time thinking about and studying in her youth. Her key motivation was to find a way to work with people in partnerships, in a practical, hands-on way, creating relationships where both sides benefit and grow from their interactions.
When they met in 2000, Beks was well on his way to establishing his own independent safari company and together they explored new areas in which to open safari camps. In 2006 they opened their first camp, Somalisa Camp in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. For both Beks and Sophia, the connection between the land and its people, and how those people relate to their land, has always been very important. A key tenet of the African Bush Camps ethos is to share the benefits of tourism with the communities that make tourism possible by sharing their land with the amazing wildlife that brings people from all over the world to visit.
In order to provide this link between tourism and the rural communities living in these wildlife areas, Sophia started the African Bush Camps Foundation in 2006, achieving a lifelong dream of working side by side with rural communities. The Foundation aims to work in partnership with the members of these communities so that they can develop a sense of ownership and a vested interest in the success of their communal ventures as opposed to the unconditional “hand-out” mentality.
After performing needs assessments within the communities, the initial focus of the Foundation was to provide education. We believe strongly in the benefits of education – it opens up a world of opportunities and allows people to make informed choices that affect their well-being. Research has shown that the most effective aid focuses on people’s basic needs, such as healthcare and education, but is only effective when those receiving it are part of the planning process and are also held accountable for results. Access to our education programs is performance based and we work very hard to ensure that the teachers, students and parents alike buy into the importance of the communities’ children receiving a good education and value it.
Following the success of our education programs (the pass rate for one of our sponsored schools has risen from 0% to being in the top 4 schools in the region), our team members have become ‘honorary’ members of the communities, which allows them to continue building relationships with people on the ground. Once the community’s saw the positive results of our efforts at providing better education for their children, they started raising their own funds to bring additional teachers into their communities to further broaden the reach of education.
This was a natural lead-in to our income-generating programs, where we began working with the women in the communities to work with skills they already possessed and turn them into profitable businesses which in turn generates income to help them pay for education, nutrition, and healthcare.
Once we saw that the entire community was committed to ensuring education for their children, we began providing additional capital support for education by funding infrastructure improvements, such as adding new classrooms, repairing existing ones and furnishing the classrooms with furniture, providing environmentally friendly solar power for lights and power with which to pump borehole water. In areas with no access to schools, we are working with the communities to fund and build new schools.
Of course, we also wanted to make sure that we are benefiting the environment as well! We have been working with infrastructure improvements in the parks, such as adding solar powered water sources to provide additional drinking sources for the wildlife within Hwange National Park. We also hold events throughout the year to spread the work on conservation and treating the environment responsibly, realizing Sophia’s greatest goal of bringing together people from many different walks of life, joining hands to achieve a greater purpose.