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!