15 February 2013 by Julienne du Toit

Responsible tourism warms the heart

It has a prim-sounding name, but responsible tourism really does have a tendency to offer happily-ever-after stories that make you give a contented little sigh. Just in time for Responsible Tourism Week.

Joyce Mulaudzi of Leshiba Wilderness

Every now and then Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa publishes little ‘postcards’ of how responsible tourism results in heart-warming stories.

It recently posted a few more on its website. Joyce Mulaudzi’s story is especially poignant, because it involves the closing of a circle. Joyce was born in 1973, on a farm called Bangor, high up in the Soutpansberg mountain plateau. During apartheid, her family was forced to leave this farm. She later became a domestic worker and a shop assistant.

But her life changed in 2001 when the Rosmarin family, who had bought the farm as part of Leshiba Wilderness, hired her on a temporary basis to fill in while her sister was on maternity leave. Her good English, her work ethic and her 'shining personality' impressed them so much that she was kept on after three months and went on to become chef in the very Venda village where she born, and which had now become a lodge. She is now co-manager of the lodge.

Phumla Pakamile, on the other side of the country, near East London, struggled for the first few decades of her life. School was a 10km walk away and her home life was unhappy and unstable. She fell pregnant and was rejected by her family. Even so, she struggled on and managed to finish high school at age 19.

Moving back to her home town of Chintsa, just north of East London, Phumla managed to find a job there, teaching at the local primary school. Her gift with children and teaching was noticed by the Volunteer Africa 32° South. Through it, she now teaches adults computer literacy, and has been working to get her teaching diploma.

Phumla's love for youngsters has led to her opening her home to vulnerable children.

Jason Arends, a young man from Port Elizabeth, also had a difficult youth. He ran with a bad crowd and spent a short time in St Albans Prison.

That was his wake-up call. Jason decided to leave city life behind and headed for Tsitsikamma to live with his girlfriend’s family.

This is also where he fell in love again, this time with nature. He was surrounded by forests and it made a deep impression on him.

His mother-in-law to be organised him a summer job with Stormsriver Adventures and he immersed himself in becoming a qualified safety guide. This is also where he fell in love again, this time with nature. He was surrounded by forests and it made a deep impression on him. He did all he could to get a full-time job with Stormsriver Adventures, and eventually it recommended him as a trainee field guide with the Field Guides Association of South Africa.

Thanks to Stormsriver Adventures and a mentor who opened his eyes to how ecosystems work, Jason has become a guide in full-time employment.

'I was swimming in a deep ocean and the Stormsriver Adventures ship came past and took me on board and gave me the chance to become a better person.'

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