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Lindsay Hanekom – Meet our new Lead at Thornybush Community

17 Feb 2023 | By Author Thornybush | Community Projects

It’s a new year, and that brings a new beginning for Thornybush Community as we welcome Lindsay Hanekom as the new general manager. We are thrilled to appoint her role in taking on a very special part of the Thornybush brand, as her life thus far has definitely collided passion with purpose to be the perfect person to continue the amazing projects in our community. As there is no better person to share her journey than herself, we asked Linsday to introduce herself to you. So with that, we welcome Lindsay…

Where it all began, a journey to Social Development 

When I was 3 years old, I remember telling my granny that she would one day live in the penthouse of my hotel! It’s clear that my passion for the hospitality industry has been in my blood for my whole life! I however never did get to build that hotel or have access to my own penthouse in time for my Granny, as my journey took a very different pathway.

At 18, I left my home in Johannesburg to go Study International Hospitality Business in Switzerland at the world-renowned Swiss Hotel Management School – this very privileged opportunity set me on a pathway of pure passion for the travel and tourism industry.

I returned home 6 years later as an intrepid traveller and started my hospitality career as Assistant Lodge Manager at a property in the Kruger National Park and met my husband.  From there, we managed to travel and work across Southern Africa including the breath-taking and spectacular Caprivi strip and Okavango Delta for a number of years before settling back in the Sabi Sand reserve some 16 years ago, where the Social Development journey become deeply rooted in my being.

I am a mom to 4 wonderfully wild-grown children, who share my deep passion for care and have been blessed to live and grow in some of this world’s most biodiverse protected areas. Their dad, my husband and fellow travelling soul partner, tragically passed away, a few months before the world was thrown into the chaos of the pandemic and our world was rocked in so many ways. A new journey needed to transpire!

Reigniting my passion at Thornybush Community

When this opportunity with Thornybush Community presented itself, I just knew it was time to come home from being in the Western Cape Social and Environmental Development game for 7 years – the Lowveld has its own special magic that cannot be replicated anywhere – we are truly blessed to be here – amongst the giants – giant trees, giant mountains, giant animals, giant millipedes, the giant Skies but most importantly, giant people – people with so much heart, people with so much passion and I am enormously excited to be reigniting my social work in the Lowveld.

The only way we will survive as a human race will be to connect people with sustainability efforts, educating us why UBUNTU is so much more than just a cool cliche word about people – I am because we are – the ‘we’ is all living beings, from human babies to the little ant crossing your path and the grass blade they are carrying.

 In order for this pristine landscape and magic of the Lowveld bush to survive and continue to bring tourism, the major economic driver, we need to be making sure that all the habitants of this region are aware of their importance in the bigger holistic picture and support local business to do just that – be part of the holistic economic drive. When there is a disharmony of the opportunities in this diverse region, our role as Thornybush community is to be part of closing the gap. We can’t be doing this alone, so partnerships and agreements will be the norm – and this will be the biggest challenge.

Us humans can do better, it’s a non-negotiable.

 So many impactful opportunities are already in the mix throughout this Greater Kruger region, all working towards the same goal, so the key will be not to upset the motion of the train, but to jump aboard and be part of the acceleration! 

Social Development is about investing in people to reach their full potential. We can only reach that full potential if we understand that all is connected – Thornybush Community, Thornybush Collection and Thornybush Game Reserve is an extraordinary examples of this connectedness- together we can.

Current and impactful Thornybush Community Projects and partnerships 

Thousand Herbs and Vegetable Garden: The Thousand Herbs and Vegetable Garden has been operational since 2014 and operates on a portion of the land leased from the Manyangana High School in Uthla. It is a co-operative that currently supports 5 ladies and grows quality herbs, vegetables, and edible flowers which they sell to the surrounding game lodges and local retailers as well as members of their community. Another wonderful example of a partnership here is with the Sabi Sand Game Reserve which generously donates the gate fee for the delivery of this fresh organic produce to the lodges in the Sabi Sand annually.

In addition to the produce they sell, they also play a vital role in providing produce to a daily school feeding scheme and can some produce to take home for their own use.

The Hananani Primary School Garden: The Hananani Primary School Garden was started in 2014 at the Hananani Primary School in Dixie, a community near the Sabi Sand Game Reserve. The garden’s main purpose is to provide fresh produce for the making of a nutritious daily meal for 253 schoolchildren. Both learners and teachers are invited to participate in the preparation, planting and harvesting of the garden.

In keeping with the Thornybush ethos of empowering people, Keysman Nkuna, who started out as a labourer helping at the Hananani Vegetable Garden, is now a small-business owner in this garden business. Not only does it provide produce to the school, but any excess vegetables are sold on to locals.

A visit to Nourish Eco Village, is a must, one of those non-negotiables. In 2022, an amazing partnership with Andersen Construction and Thornybush community saw the incredible development of this space. A non-profit focusing on building resilient communities that is in the nearby village of Sigagule, near Acornhoek, Their projects range from education and conservation to sustainable farming, economic empowerment, and tourism and boast a coffee bar – go see for yourself!

Thornybush efforts are focused on the surrounding communities and making sure that we use local suppliers and artisans as often as we can. Many of our projects are designed to empower people and small businesses by providing them with the tools to build a fulfilling, sustainable life.

We are also proud partners of the South African Tourism College in Graaf Reinet, in the Eastern Cape, where help facilitate 5 new entry students from this greater Kruger region, majority females, on a one-year, fully paid-for tourism-accredited course. Following a jam-packed year of studies, these 5 students are placed within the Thornybush Collection group of lodges for a paid internship to learn their newly learnt theory and given some life-changing skills to enter the tourism and hospitality world fully equipped!

There is also the wood collecting project on the Thornybush Game Reserve that has since developed into a thriving business that now fully employs 7 people. The team have a permit to enter the Game reserve to collect wood that has been damaged mainly by elephants, its bundled and then resold to the lodges on the reserve. The Game reserve supplies the team with correct protective gear for safely working and uniforms!

Another wonderful example of using local is the waste removal and recycling company – 100% locally owned and now employing a number women to separate the waste before it heads to the recycling depot! This waste removal company is the preferred supplier for the Lodges on the reserve and a brilliant example of how the tourism world can 100% incorporate using local businesses and help be the driver in keeping these businesses operational.

As we all know, Covid-19 pandemic has put incredible restraints on many industries, especially tourism, these hardships are likely to continue for some time as we rebuild but we did not sink, Africa is tough – and boy am I proud to be a tough, resilient African!

What’s next?

We certainly look forward to harnessing more magical partnerships in 2023 – beneficiaries, donors and for-profit entities – feel free to follow us on Facebook and Instagram to get all the feel-good updates and to connect with me to see what non-negotiable efforts we can re-imagine together. 

It’s good to be back – Big Love Lowveld, can’t wait to see where this new chapter takes us!

Stay in Touch – would love to hear from you.