Click on the photo below for a slideshow of more images from the Africa Foundation Gala!
From British explorer Sir Richard Burton's travels to East Africa in the mid-1800s (he is credited with coining the term “safari”), to former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt and his son Kermit’s nearly year-long hunting expedition on the continent—the West has long since been fascinated with going on safari in Africa.
The romanticism continues today. Many travel far distances to stay in luxury resorts that most locals will never get to experience; they wear khakis and leopard print clothing, get up close with the big five, take the mandatory picture next to a watering hole, then return home with lovely memories and perhaps a wood-carved souvenir or two.
But some leave behind something, too, like the beehives in Kenya and Tanzania that are managed by local communities. They sell the honey to nearby luxury resorts who then serve it to their guests. Or a school, like the Khulani Special School in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa that now provides a space for 160 special needs children to learn.
These are just some of the initiatives driven by the Africa Foundation, an organisation established nearly two decades ago. Their efforts are focused on rural communities who live close to conservation areas. To date, the foundation has funded and facilitated over 300 projects in more than 40 communities, in five countries across the continent. These include the building of over 200 classrooms, 2 pre-schools and 6 day care centers for orphans and vulnerable children. Through partnership with local eco-tourism operators, they’ve helped fund the training of over 500 teachers and thousands more pupils on the importance of wildlife conservation, taking them on field trips to locals parks. Over 250 university scholarships have also been awarded to students in local communities to further their education.
Funding for these projects are dependent on donations—with the foundation regularly calling on people to reach deep into their pockets during events like the recent “Evening in Africa” gala dinner and auction held in New York City. Up for bidding where a variety of exclusive packaged safari tours, including a stay at the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge in Tanzania, a trip to the Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve in South Africa, and a desert experience in Namibia. Several art pieces were up for auction too, like the “Slave Lodge” photographs by Cape Town twins Hasan & Hasain Essop, and a homemade cast platinum, silicone, and enamel-painted Birkin bag by Shelter Serra.
By the end of the night, over $260,000 was raised; a handful of people had a new piece of art to display in their home or a luxury African safari to look forward to – but more importantly, thousands of miles away, there are communities who will have an extra water pump or another school as a result.