Category : We Support

Rovos Rail’s Taunina Teddies

Rovos Rail Taunina Teddies

The tale of our Rovos Rail teddies began 19 years ago with our journey finding us in the capable and talented hands of Taunina.

On an early Dar es Salaam trip we had two delightful Australian ladies, Dawn and Annike, who travelled everywhere accompanied by teddies they collected the world over. At their suggestion, the Rovos collection of limited-edition teddies slowly evolved when, in 1998, Anthea met Bev Duncan who had a small barrow in the V&A Waterfront Shopping Centre full of her handmade teddies.

This chance encounter spanned a 17-year friendship with Bev painstakingly producing 20 collections (50 to a set) of customised, handmade Rovos teddies and 600 kiddies bears. Bev took great delight at the thought of her teddies living worldwide.

Very sadly, Bev developed a brain tumour in December 2013 and after a long, hard-fought battle we lost her in April 2015.

Anthea, deeply saddened by the loss of her friend, pressed pause on the creation and production of our teddies and it’s only recently that Taunina have taken up the helm.

The Taunina story is one of great courage and compassion for the commerce lies intertwined with community upliftment. The company focuses on improving lives of disadvantaged people who operate in communities where opportunities may be limited but where creativity and passion are abundant.

“We provide our artists with the support and market access they need to make a living by using skills many of them learned at an early age. And we actively involve them, sharing in the success of the business. Artists receive a steady income (vs. piece rate pay) in the form of wages that are significantly higher than market-related salaries. In addition, they will receive 30% of the before-tax profits of the company: 20% through the Bear Essentials Fund (which contributes towards the housing, healthcare and education of their families) and 10% in the form of productivity-related cash bonus payments.”

To date, Taunina have created 10 bespoke teddies for us each in the Rovos green, old gold and maroon in keeping with our corporate colours and each with a paw pad and ear in leopard print. The other paw pad carries with it a little Rovos Rail charm. Our first three bears went out on the Dar es Salaam train in August last year with Thebolo, Munaki and Nyenyedzi finding homes in Germany!

All the teddies carry the initials of the women who make them, symbolic of their sense of dignity and pride. Each bear travels in a handcrafted hatbox with his or her very own bespoke passport. A Taunina creation is a work of art, an heirloom to be passed from one generation to the next. It’s a gift that changes lives.

“The name Taunina is an anagram of the African word ‘TAU’, meaning ‘lion’, and ‘NINA’, an acronym for ‘No Income, No Assets’. Taunina gives women who were once without income and assets the power to become lions of their own destinies.”

We’re proud of our association with this fantastic company and are encouraged and inspired by their story. For many, living in South Africa simply means surviving so for women to stare such adversity in the face and create gorgeous teddies that live across the world is just remarkable.

Click here to watch the Taunina video.

Read More

Rhino Rescuers

By Brenda Vos

Our wildlife is under siege in Africa and has been for many years. Too many. One of the largest contributors to the massacre of rhinos it seems is a few powerful influencers in Asia who decided that rhino horn carries curative properties that can treat an array of illnesses, some of them being as minor as nosebleeds and fevers. Please, get a tissue or take an Asprin like the rest of us.

We are sure that there are claims that the keratin in the horns can cure cancer and other terminal illnesses but there is no medical proof whatsoever to support these theories. African, and in fact wildlife the world over, is being obliterated due to obscene medical propaganda, high-end fashion, political unrest and loss of habitat. It’s a story most of you will have heard and we hope some of you will join us in the fight.

Over our 27 years we have enjoyed a good relationship with &Beyond, a tour operator with a powerful and proactive approach to community outreach and wildlife conservation. In partnership with Great Plains Foundation, they formed Rhinos Without Borders, an initiative so bold and brave that it almost seems impossible. They have undertaken to relocate rhinos on a scale never done before – to move no less than 100 rhino from South Africa to safe havens in Botswana.

In mid-2015 a large team safely darted and transported these rhino, this being their first successful mission. The incredible footage captured by Dereck and Beverly Joubert can be viewed by clicking here. You really do want to watch this video as it highlights the enormity of this initiative.

Dereck Joubert is the Chairman of Great Plains Foundation and together with his wife, Beverly, has been on a mission for years to protect African wildlife. Their documentaries and beautiful imagery have been seen the world over and they recently appeared on the Ellen Degeneres show to talk about their latest film “Soul of an Elephant”, another animal close to their hearts.

With a rhino being killed every seven and a half hours, the heroic efforts of Rhinos Without Borders are essential to the survival of this endangered species.

Great Plains coined a new phrase, Conservation Tourism, as it is first and foremost a conservation organisation that uses eco-tourism as a tool to sustain conservation programmes. The relocation of the 100 rhino could not have happened without the support of the government of Botswana but also the local communities as they are an intrinsic part of this initiative. Without their involvement, the rhino would be as vulnerable in Botswana as they are in South Africa.

Growing up in this beautiful country some of us have been afforded the opportunity to go on safari and see wildlife up close. Elephants, rhinos, lions and the rest of the Big Five have given us heart-warming and special memories. Being able to witness the raw, brutal and beautiful lives of these animals is humbling and humility is a quality greatly lacking in the general human population. Spending time in the bush proves that there are forces much larger than us at work. It’s a spiritual experience and for many a religion.

Why should greed take this away from us?

Donations, publicity, raising awareness and big hearts are all welcomed by Rhinos Without Borders so please visit their website and spread the word. None of us should live in a world without wildlife.

Images above by Beverley Joubert and the Rhinos Without Borders team.

Rovos Rail Rhinos Without Borders

 

Read More
Good Work Foundation Rovos Rail

South Africa Needs Education

Written by Brenda Vos

The story of how I came to know the Good Work Foundation (GWF) all started with a book. Rovos Rail is nearly 27 years old and when my parents started this business there were others taking enormous risks too. Before her recent passing, I got to meet the grand doyenne, Liz McGrath, of The Collection by Liz McGrath, and she regaled stories of attending international trade shows with my parents, none of them having a clue what they were doing, and how she thought my Dad’s vision for Rovos Rail was inspiring but mad! Another couple who were starting out at the same time, and who might also have been considered crazy for their vision, was Dave and Shan Varty of Londolozi Game Reserve. And it was their son, Boyd, who wrote the book Cathedral of the Wild that introduced me to this wonderful foundation.

Through a series of events, Boyd was educated by a formidable woman, Kate Groch, and it is Kate who pioneered this organisation. As founder of the Good Work Foundation, Kate believes in the potential of all people. “It should never matter where you are born, you must have the opportunity to fulfil your potential and to add value to your own community.”

Like Kate, we at Rovos Rail believe that education is the key to empowering South Africa’s population and a vital element in reducing poverty, crime and violence. Empowering the less fortunate in South Africa, arming them with an education, is the biggest gift all of us will ever receive. And the beauty of GWF is that they are empowering their students with digital learning: “Our philosophy is simple: deliver English literacy support in conjunction with information-communication technology access and training. If rural people are literate in the digital lingua franca and they can ‘drive’ a computer, then they have the same access to information as everyone else in the world. And that opens up opportunities that never before existed.”

I couldn’t agree more. For years I, and Rovos Rail, have been donating books and stationery to schools and it never crossed my mind that digital learning is pivotal to the success of every job applicant, which amazes me because I use my laptop and phone for everything! All the research, work, reading and news-gathering I do happens on-line so it’s fairly obvious that contributing to GWF’s digital learning centres is what is going to assist in propelling rural South Africa forward.

We recently experienced something quite profound in the history of South Africa. The University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg announced a 10% fee increase in 2016 which prompted a group of students to form a protest movement which swept across the country in a wave of discontent in most major universities and culminated in the storming of parliament in Cape Town. This 10% increase must be seen in the context of an existing fee and bursary structure that is both inaccessible and unrealistic for many young South Africans.

GWF stood in support of the message of the movement and released an official press release with powerful statements, one of them being: “The only way that wealth can be shared; the only way that we can reduce a skills gap; the only way that we can address one of the world’s most apparent inequality challenges is through ACCESS TO EDUCATION”.

Kate and her team are passionately dedicated to their work. Kate is a woman that we should all aspire to be because she’s living her truth and just getting on with it. I haven’t met her yet but she seems to be a force of nature and I look forward to the day when I get to shake her hand. In 2013 she delivered a pretty motivating Ted Talk in Edinburgh.

Our relationship with them is young but my hope is that Rovos Rail can be a driving force behind the success of GWF. It’s foundations such as GWF that are absolutely essential to keeping our country healthy, strong and moving forward. They also have one of the best websites I have ever seen and I would highly recommend a visit! 

Good Work Foundation Rovos Rail  Kate-and-Linky

20141031-IMG_5923-3-227x246    DSC01712

Read More
david_sheldrick

Elephant Rescue in Kenya

The number of animals living on the land has fallen by 40% since 1970. From forest elephants in central Africa, where poaching rates now exceed birth rates, to the Hoolock gibbon in Bangladesh and European snakes like the meadow and asp vipers, destruction of habitat has seen populations tumble. But again intensive conservation effort can turn declines around. Enter The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Born from one family’s passion for Kenya and its wilderness, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is today the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world and one of the pioneering conservation organisations for wildlife and habitat protection in East Africa.

Most of us who work at Rovos Rail are passionate about animal care and rescue. Over the years we’ve rescued and rehabilitated donkeys, horses, ostriches, pigs, goats, and of course many dogs and cats. Knowing the plight of our wildlife and realising that all we can really do from our HQ in Pretoria is to advocate, raise funds and donate, we started fostering a baby elephant called Arruba who was reported alone and trapped in March last year. You can watch her capture and rescue by clicking here.

1948 saw the beginning of David Sheldrick’s renowned career within the Royal National Parks of Kenya, where he worked unwaveringly for over two decades transforming Tsavo’s Eastern Sector, a previously unchartered and inhospitable land, into Kenya’s largest and most famous National Park. David Sheldrick stands out, even today, as one of Africa’s most famous and proficient Pioneer National Park Wardens of all time. He held his post as Warden of Tsavo East until he was transferred to head the Planning Unit for all of Kenya’s Wildlife Areas based in Nairobi at the end of 1976. Sadly David died 6 months later, but the legacy he left in Tsavo endures. For over 25 years Kenya-born Daphne Sheldrick lived and worked alongside her husband, during which time they raised and successfully rehabilitated many wild species. Daphne Sheldrick’s involvement with wildlife has spanned a lifetime, and she is now a recognised international authority on the rearing of wild creatures and is the first person to have perfected the milk formula and necessary husbandry for infant milk-dependent elephants and rhinos. Since the death of her husband, Daphne and her family have lived and worked in the Nairobi National Park, where they have built the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and its pioneering Orphans Project, into the global force for wildlife conservation that is today.

Our luxury trains travel throughout Southern Africa and on our journeys guests see a true cross section of life in South Africa as well as some of our neighbouring countries. Poverty is rife and to combat this most companies dig deep to assist with food, clothing, the building of homes, fresh water and basic education. Preserving our wildlife has always been high on our priority list and in time we hope to be able to contribute more to The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust as they are on the forefront of elephant rescue and rehabilitation. There are so many ways to help too. One can donate via their website to help fund the orphan’s project, the de-snaring programme which involves eight teams, the aerial surveillance unit, the saving’s habitats project, the mobile veterinary unit and to their various community initiatives. To read further on other ways to assist click here.

Born To Be Wild   orphelinat-elephants

Read More
pink-drive-logo-2-truck_MBC_R-1024x256

The Cancer Warriors at Pink Drive

Being Breast Cancer Awareness Month we decided to write about something that means a great deal to us and we’re sure to many of you. Cancer, in all its forms, seems to be slithering into homes everywhere and is not a disease that happens to “other people”. Many of us here at Rovos Rail have been affected by cancer so our association with Pink Drive is meaningful to many of us.

Carole, from our sales team, has worked with Founder & Director of Pink Drive, Noelene Kotschan for many years and last year both Carole and Brenda attended the Pink Tie dinner where Rovos Rail donated a trip on the train to the auction. The event was a great success and never have we seen so many beautiful women in one place wearing so much pink!

The latest statistics issued by Pink Drive (September, 2014):

Rovos Rail supports Pink Drive

Now that’s impressive! How do they achieve the above? In amongst all their fundraising and awareness initiatives, they operate two “Pink” mobile breast check units as well as three educational cars and in March this year they launched South Africa´s first Mobile Women’s Health Unit in the form of a fourteen ton truck! Described as a Doctor’s Room on Wheels, the unit boasts a state-of-the-art gynaecology area for pap smears and examinations, a reception area for administration and a radiology area. This unit addresses cervical cancer as well as offering mammograms.

It’s hard to believe what Noelene and her team have achieved in just five years! A huge congrats to all of you – the work you is tireless and invaluable. You all save lives so in our books you are all superheroes!

Click here to find out how you might be able to support Pink Drive.

Read More