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People We Love In Africa

After a butt-numbing 36-hour travel day (which, technically makes it “days”) we are home from our African adventure. If you want to read about our romantic, intrepid, grabbing-life-by-the-cajones safari with lots of photos you can start HERE.

We certainly miss living among the beasts of the natural world, swimming in pools filled with river water, the fattening, extravagant buffets, the shops selling indigenous arts and crafts and dresses (I love dresses because they don’t have buttons). But I think what we miss most are the people we love in Africa.

In particular, these people:

Gorgeous shot kids at Henna

These are the children of Henna pre-school in the small village of Huntington right next to Lion Sands Private Game Reserve where we stayed on the final leg of our safari.

Clare meets kids 2

Clare fell in love with these little people. Don’t tell her I said this, but she’s a Child Whisperer. There’s going to be some big bucks in babysitting for this one.

Bridget shakes hands

Bridget shaking hands. She’s my baby. I couldn’t believe how big she was amongst these pre-schoolers.

Henna Ambassador

One of Henna’s ambassadors.

Kids say hello 1

I loved their faces. Curious, gleeful, proud.

The purpose of our visit to Henna Pre-School was to give back to the indigenous Lion Sands community who took such good care of us during our stay there.

And as a mom it was also an opportunity for me to show my daughters how other families and children live, so my kids can understand that not everyone has the same privileges they do (I will try not to pull that one out every time they beg for some new form of technology).

But I also wanted to show my kids that the world is a much bigger place than just their elementary school and circle of friends.  That they are citizens of that world who can contribute meaningfully simply by being kind and putting themselves in another person’s shoes or by volunteering or donating should they choose to do so.

Thembi, with fellow blogger Jamie Grumet, is one of those rare individuals who takes advantage of her success to bring it back to her community.

Thembi is one of those rare individuals who took advantage of her personal success and gave it back to her community.

A lovely, resourceful woman named Thembi Mdluli was our host at Henna. Thembi is the Community Development Manager at Lion Sands who was born and raised in Huntington.

She has almost single-handedly built this school by securing donations from companies like Nokia, Toyota Australia, Lion World and, believe it or not, The Bachelor during the Brad Womack season (the kids probably needed Narcissism inoculations after that).

In contrast to the local village the pre-school is very much of the Developed World. It is one of the only facilities in the community to have its own water source (a well that was dug and donated by Nokia). It offers two nutritious meals to the children a day. It has a state-of-the-art-shade structure and jungle gym. It has its own garden planted by the children and wonderful classrooms.

Bridget in Class room 3

Clare and Bridget in class 3

This may have reminded my girls that they had a lot of homework to do back at the lodge.

Clare in one of the classrooms

Based on the poverty we saw in the greater Huntington village we were blown away by how clean, organized and modern Henna pre-school was. My daughters thought it was better than their former pre-school back in L.A.

The only big difference I found between these children and my own were their names shown in the photo below. You will notice there is a Relate, a Unaty (Unity?) and an Urgent.  Other names we saw on the wall were Bliss, Polite and Avoid. I’m not sure how Avoid will allow his name to influence his life. Perhaps he will simply be avoiding lions and not his girlfriend who wants to get married.

Kids Names 3

I think one of the most difficult things about poverty is that most of us want to look away from it. I speak for myself when I say sometimes I feel like the problem is so big that I have no idea where to begin to help.

Visiting Henna showed me that the only place I can start is one child at a time. One community at a time. One charity at a time. Visiting Henna and shaking hands with each one of these fierce, proud, joyous individuals reminded me that these aren’t the faces of poverty. They are the faces of Urgent, Polite and Bliss. Each child will have experiences and live a life just like my children will. Just like I will.

So I’m starting with Henna pre-school today and if you are searching for a good place to start I hope you’ll consider doing the same.

Jamie at Henna

Jamie Grumet of I Am Not The Babysitter at Henna Pre-school, glamorous as always.

Saying goodbye.

Saying goodbye.


Legal Status

The Bhubezi Community Projects is a registered independent trust and is sanctioned by the South African Revenue Service as a Public Benefit Organization in terms of section 30 of the Income Tax Act, P.B.O. Ref. No. 18/11/13/765. The registration number is 2001/008367/08

The Trust continues to undertake and become involved in exciting projects focusing on education in a holistic sense; and working in conjunction with the community is both rewarding and worthwhile. We believe that the Bhubezi Trust, by working with the community and establishing relationships with government and donors, facilitates the community’s plans for a better future by helping to turn dreams into realities.

Get involved (any amount contributed to a specific need will help):


Sponsor a child for a year’s tuition.

US$ 175

Sponsor a teacher for further tuition

US$ 500

Monthly food aid


Lamination of Floor at New Beginnings day care, feeding chairs and cot beds


Outdoor toys


Jungle gyms

US$8 000

Building of toilets at New Beginnings


Landscaping and tree planting

US$10 000

Huntington Home Based Care vehicle

US$12 000

Building of a kitchen at New Beginnings

US$18 000

General donations

General donations include stationery, used or new clothes, cutlery or crockery, office stationery and equipments, used soccer kit including soccer balls, toys, e.t.c these are always welcome

For further information please contact:

Thembi Mdluli (Community Development Manager for both Lion Sands and Tinga)

Email: community@lionsands.com

Tel: +27 13 735 5000

Fax: +27 13 735 5330

Postal Address:  FEDEX Shipping address:

Bhubezi Community Projects   Bhubezi Community Projects

Thembi Mdluli Thembi Mdluli

PO BOX 8090 Nr. 15, 3rd Avenue

Whiteriver Parktown North, Johannesburg

1240 2193

The banking details are as follows:

Name of bank: First National Bank of South Africa

Branch: Whiteriver

Address: 37 Chief Mgiyeni Drive, Whiteriver, 1240

Type of account: Current account

Account number: 62049047956

Code: 270552



Our trip was organized through Destinations South Africa and all lodgings were through More Hotels.


Write a comment
  1. Pattie
    Pattie 4 March, 2013, 12:13

    wow!!! That sounds like a life-changing trip. I’m so glad you’re able to spread the word. Hope I can help too.

    Reply this comment
  2. Carpool Goddess
    Carpool Goddess 4 March, 2013, 12:24

    What an amazing experience you’ve given your kids and yourself. Going to Africa is definitely on my bucket list.

    Reply this comment
  3. Ellen Dolgen
    Ellen Dolgen 4 March, 2013, 13:12

    What a wonderful story. Thanks so much, Shannon! ANd thank you for sharing the wonderful photos. What a great idea and life lesson to instill in your children – that the world is a much bigger place than our small sphere of life wherever we live – and we have to help take care of that world. Thanks again!

    Reply this comment
  4. Jennifer Willey
    Jennifer Willey 4 March, 2013, 16:36

    Amazing trip Shannon! Such an amazing opportunity to share with your girls. A life changing trip for all of you filled with many lessons. Thank you so much for sharing!

    Reply this comment
  5. Vanessa
    Vanessa 4 March, 2013, 17:47

    what an amazing experience. Sounds like it was an amazing trip.

    Reply this comment
  6. Shelby Barone
    Shelby Barone 4 March, 2013, 20:16

    Wow! I was mesmerized by your photos.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 5 March, 2013, 10:07

      I’m kicking myself for not having a better camera. God and finances willing maybe I’ll get to go back again in a few years with a better camera.

      Reply this comment
  7. tania luviano
    tania luviano 4 March, 2013, 20:48

    What a great experience for your whole family, one they will cherish the rest of their lives, lovely post!

    Reply this comment
  8. Alma Bosek
    Alma Bosek 4 March, 2013, 20:53

    What an adventure. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply this comment
  9. Sisters From Another Mister
    Sisters From Another Mister 5 March, 2013, 05:54

    I grew up in South Africa and know White River well – we went on vacation there … I think I remember Sudwala Caves.
    Yes, one child at a time … it is what we should do.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 5 March, 2013, 10:08

      You are so fortunate to have been raised there. What an amazing place it is and everyone we met was so lovely.

      Reply this comment
  10. trina
    trina 5 March, 2013, 09:48

    Wow what a great experience this must have been for your family. And my bet is you have taught your kids lessons that will always stick with them. Love the pictures!

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 5 March, 2013, 10:08

      Trina — what was great about this trip was I didn’t really have to teach them anything. They just soaked in their environment. I soaked it in too. Somehow going to Africa is always a humbling experience for me.

      Reply this comment

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