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When Businesses Change the World


How The #1 Safari Lodge in Zambia Runs an Award-Winning Trust School for LocalsTongabezi School

Tongabezi Lodge sits on the banks of the Zambezi River, upstream of Victora Falls in Zambia. Voted the number one safari lodge in Zambia and a top 100 hotel in the world, one would think it’s the breathtaking location, cultural charm, and warm customer service that makes it so special.

All of those things do make Tongabezi stand out from the crowd, but what’s equally remarkable about this tucked-away lodge is that it founded an award-winning trust school for local children, many of whom are children of the hotel staff who walk a great distance to attend each day.

What Started Out as a Practical Solution Transformed a Community

Ben Parker and the late William Ruck-Keene established Tongabezi Lodge in 1990. At the time, Ben’s wife Vanessa was a volunteer teacher in Livingstone. In 1995, members of the Tongabezi staff asked Vanessa if she would start a pre-school to teach their children to read and write.

On the condition that it would remain small, she agreed and Tongabezi Lodge donated the money to build one classroom for 15 students who lived within walking distance. Vannessa named the school Tujatane which means “let’s all hold hands together” in the local language Chitonga.

The Tujatane Trust School accomplished everything Vanessa originally hoped it would but remain small. Today, 280 students are enrolled in a multi-classroom school with an art room, music room, sports grounds, library, and canteen.

Vanessa still runs the school on a volunteer basis but she’s now assisted by an incredible team and staff. Students have graduated to become engineers, accountants, pilots, teachers, and more. Vanessa’s vision expanded with the school and thank goodness that the original vision to keep it small grew.

Tongabezi School

The Tujatane School Choir

The Tujatane School has an incredibly talented children’s choir that sings at weddings and events. Their voices are angelic and every time I watch them perform, I get goosebumps. Sometimes, tears even fill my eyes.

The children’s choir performed for a client wedding which my Love From Mwai business planned and designed. It was such a touching moment and something the bride and groom cherished. They also performed for Karen Tran’s masterclass in Zambia and everyone was incredibly touched.

To watch a talented children’s choir perform is something I think every individual should experience. The Tujatane children are so dedicated to developing their talent and craft, and it’s amazing to watch them shine.

Tongabezi’s Support of My Own Journey As an Entrepreneur

Not only does Tongabezi support a Trust School, but this lodge and its management have supported me every step of the way on my entrepreneurship journey. They sponsored a riverboat safari cruise for the students at Karen Tran’s masterclass that I hosted in Zambia and they’ve contributed so much towards hosting the destination weddings I plan or visitors I entertain. From offering discounts to sponsorships to completely gifting stays, they are truly a remarkable business that balances earning a profit and supporting others.

The trust school is supported by Tongabezi (which has seen a decline in bookings due to the COVID-19 pandemic) but it’s also run entirely on donations by organizations and individuals around the world, which means they’re incredibly reliant on and grateful for the generosity of others in helping uplift the students.

From the students to the staff to the donors, the school is truly a picture of “holding hands together.”

Tongabezi and the Tujatane School are so near and dear to my heart and I love supporting them. If you feel led to donate…

£6 or $10 feeds a child breakfast and lunch for 1 month!

Tongabezi and the Tujatane school represent everything I love about my home country. It’s heart-centered entrepreneurship and community upliftment at its finest. If those two things align with your values and vision as a person or business, please consider supporting them, too.

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