Community Newsletter – March 2020

by | Mar 31, 2020 | Community Blog

Warm greetings from Savanna Private Game Reserve! We have a team of staff staying on at Savanna during the nationwide lockdown to ensure that all is well at the lodge. We all feel incredibly grateful to be ‘locked down’ in the reserve, and we are trying to make the most of this unexpected downtime.

The rangers are sharing daily video updates on the activity and sightings in the reserve in the Stay@Home Safari videos that you can find on our Facebook and YouTube platforms. We are doing maintenance, gardening and spring cleans, and we are hand-raising a puppy that we took in days before the lockdown. We are doing our best to keep busy and safe during this uncertain time. A lot will have changed by the time this is over and we, along with our communities, will have new challenges to overcome.

But for now, please read on to see what we have been up to during the first few months of the year.

Tiyimiseleni Home-Based Care Centre

We welcomed the start of the school year at Tiyimiseleni with school uniforms, toothbrushes, sanitary wear and sweeties! At the beginning of each year, the house mothers at Tiyimiseleni check on the condition of the children’s school uniform, and after a busy year of school, fun and games and loads of growing, everyone needed something. Thanks to a generous Savanna sponsor, we had the funds for new uniforms ready and waiting.

Late last year, we received a huge bundle of toothbrushes from an anonymous donor (Thank you!), and through Kimberly-Clark we received a box of sanitary wear for the teenage girls at Tiyimiseleni. We gathered all the children together one afternoon to hand out the uniform and extra goodies. As always, it was wonderful to see so many smiling faces. While school uniform, toothbrushes and sanitary wear are easily accessible for many, the vulnerable children from Tiyimiseleni and the rural communities around the Sabi Sand are not so lucky. We are so grateful to our sponsors for all these valuable contributions. 

Pictured Left: Betty and the primary school children showing off their wares

Pictured above: the remains of the wooden shack leaning against the structure that Thandi started building.

No Place Like Home

The new year also brought the beginning of our next building project. We are building a home for a vulnerable family from Tiyimiseleni, which will be the third family for whom we have built a home. This family of eight siblings lost their parents a long time ago and have been struggling ever since. None of the children, except the eldest sibling Thandi, have any birth certificates or identification documents, which means they are not eligible to apply for government grants. They have been living in a wooden shack while Thandi tried desperately to save money to build them a house.

Prince Mdhluli, our trusted builder, and his team broke ground in early February, and were hard at work right up until South Africa went into lockdown. So far, they have completed the toilet and shower room and the plastering work on the existing room that Thandi started building. Now the family have a safe and sheltered area in which to live while we finish the main house.

Pictured Above: the toilet and washroom structure has been built. All that remains is to paint it.


Pictured Above: the door and windows have been installed in the existing building, and plastering is complete. Installing the ceiling and painting will commence after lockdown.

The foundation of the main house was completed just as South Africa went into lockdown. Prince and his team are safely in their homes, ready to start again as soon as we are able.

Pictured Left: the completed foundation for a two-bedroom house with a combined lounge and kitchen area and a large verandah running across the length of the building.

Once again, thanks to our generous Savanna sponsors for providing us with funds to build this family a home!

Making a difference

We have been informed about a fourth vulnerable family that needs our help: the Mbungeles. 
Pictured below: July (18), Zeck (16), Amando (14), Freddy (12), Sibongile (9), and their mom Gilda (4-year-old Prudence was at Nursery School for a special function on the day of the photo). 

The family lost their father late last year and were devastated further when the husband’s family chased them away from their family home. They have taken up residence in a neighbour’s spare room. The Headman of Marbaruhle alerted Tiyimiseleni to the situation, and the children have been going to the centre since January for food and extra care. To add to their struggles, Gilda is living with HIV and is currently unemployed.

A house for this family will cost about R250 000 ($17 000) and provides vulnerable families like the Mbungeles with a safe, comfortable place to call home, and gives mothers like Gilda the opportunity to raise their children in a happy and healthy environment. Should you or anyone in your network be in a position to contribute to this project, please do get in touch with Jen on

Pictured Right: an example of the house we hope to build for the Mbungeles 


Going the Extra Mile Together

The Extra Mile is a trail run through the Bushbuckridge Community bordering the Sabi Sand and greater Kruger Park. This event aims to raise awareness and funds for the communities in the area, one of the poorest areas in South Africa. We have a team of 10 runners from Tiyimiseleni who will be participating in the Extra Mile later in the year, hoping to raise money for Tiyimiseleni as they run. 

Pictured Right: the Tiyimiseleni team for this year’s Extra Mile Trail run to be held later in the year.


Pictured Left: Extra Mile Trail Run runners from 2019 wearing the running kits from a sponsor.

Are you interested in becoming a sponsor? Thank you in advance for considering one of the following sponsorship options, with all proceeds going directly to Tiyimiseleni: 

  • Sponsor R100 per kilometre for any of our runners
  • Sponsor R2500 per runner, which covers the cost of supporting a single child at Tiyimiseleni for an entire year!

To care for those who once cared for us is one of the highest honours

Nyiko Mokoena, the founder of Hlayisekani Nursing Home has had a busy start to the year. He had applied to the National Lottery Commission several times over the years, and finally received feedback from them last month. The National Lottery Commission will finance building projects and vehicles, and they have encouraged Nyiko to apply for funding to build a dementia ward for the Nursing Home and a mini-van that will allow him to transport up to 14 people to the clinic and to doctor’s appointments. We hope Nyiko is successful in this endeavour. 

The government has not yet provided the funds vital to the running of the Nursing Home this financial year. We fear that the funds will not be transferred for another month or two due to the current situation in South Africa and across the globe. However, we didn’t despair, as our extended Savanna family was waiting in the wings with donations of food and funds which will assist Nyiko greatly in the coming weeks while we work out how best to proceed. 

Giving back to the community

Hlayisekani Nursing Home has been blessed with several fantastic donations so far this year! 

We recently made contact with Kiaat Private Hospital in Nelspruit and asked that they keep Hlayisekani in mind should they have equipment or medical supplies available for donation. Less than a week later, we received a call to say that Kiaat had nearly 30 couches available for donation. In no time at all, Agree and Sandile (fellow colleagues at Savanna) had picked up the couches and delivered them to Hlayisekani. 

The couches have transformed the entertainment and visitors’ area at the centre, and we have moved several couches into the newly-built office and reception area. Thank you to Candice and Kiaat Private Hospital. 

Netcare Hospitals have repeatedly donated equipment and supplies to the Nursing Home, and they have come through for us once again. We have received 20 hospital beds, several bundles of linen and a stack of curtains. The carers at Hlayisekani had a busy few days rearranging furniture and putting up curtains, and are so thankful to Netcare for this wonderful contribution.

Progress not perfection

 The completion of the new office is on hold until further notice due to the lockdown, but we are nearly there! We need to install electrics into the building and finish it all off with a coat or two of paint. Nyiko has already managed to move into the new office, which has freed up the old offices for conversion once the lockdown ends. 

Thank you

We would like to thank everyone for their continued support and interest in our community projects. We look forward to welcoming guests back to Savanna and encourage all of you to consider including a community tour as part of your next trip to South Africa.

Don’t forget to keep up to date on the latest news from Savanna Private Game Reserve by looking at our social media feeds!

For any donations, click on the button below or information on how to donate, please contact Jen on or Natasha on



With warm wishes
The Savanna Trust Team