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Reflections on 2023 | The Kariega Foundation

Kariega Foundation Conservation Through Community

Conservation through Community

The Kariega Foundation is a non-profit Trust pioneering the sustainable protection of biodiverse landscapes in South Africa’s, Eastern Cape Province via the unique approach of building conservation through community.

Working in partnership with Kariega Game Reserve, we harness the influence of eco-tourism to unite a conservation community with the collective will to protect and preserve our beautiful, biodiverse landscapes and wild animals forever, by creating awareness and raising funds to advance the development, education and well-being of under-resourced communities that live within and around our expanding boarders.

Every guest that enjoys a world renown Kariega safari, staying in one of five spectacular lodges, becomes our conservation and community partner through a mandatory conservation and community levy paid to the Kariega Foundation Trust, funding numerous and diverse projects that support our core vision.

In addition we are privileged to work with a number of partner organisations, corporate companies and inspired individuals that share our vision and contribute significantly to our conservation through community efforts.

The Kariega Foundation is deeply grateful to Kariega Game Reserve and our fundraising partners for supporting us to do what we love and moving us towards the sustained and meaningful rejuvenation for our planet, people and wildlife.

Thank you. We feel blessed and grateful for all the support as well as the shared excitement and enthusiasm for the future.

This blog details what we have accomplished together in 2023!

The Kariega Foundation Community

Significant Growth 

The Kariega Foundation has grown exponentially over the past seven years. 

Starting with a staff component of three in 2017, the team has grown to 33 employees, with 15% fulfilling management and administrations roles and 85% employed within numerous conservation and community projects.

A significant increase in funding has facilitated this growth, with total funds raised in 2023 financial year surpassing R8 Million!

This growth can be attributed to these key factors:

  1. We have cultivated a trusting relationship with our beneficiary communities based on mutual respect and collaboration. This has opened the door to initiating and growing our core projects as reported on below.
  2. We are privileged to work in partnership with Kariega Game Reserve. This robust and values driven tourism company generates sustainable revenue for the Foundation via the conservation and community levy charged to all guests. With the return of tourism (post Covid19) Kariega Game Reserve was the Foundations largest funder, contributing just over 50% to our 2023 donation revenue. 
  3. We have developed meaningful relationships and collaborative fundraising models with several key organisations with like-minded community and conservation objectives. These partnerships have grown our fundraising capacity significantly.
  4. Select administrative costs are covered by Kariega Game Reserve, enabling the Kariega Foundation to cap admin and management costs at 11% of donation revenue and invest the balance directly into project costs.

Thank you to the amazing people from the communities of Ekuphuleni, Marselle, Klipfontein and Alexandria. The leadership, talent and growing sense of Ubuntu within these communities, as well as their vision for what is possible drives our progress

Community members celebrate ubuntu

2023 at a Glance

At a glance these are the outstanding highlights of 2023. 

  • 750 learners from Grade 1 to Grade 6, received weekly Social and Emotional Learning tuition throughout the year.
  • 310 players from u11-u18 participated in weekly sports training and 245 players competed in the Ubuntu Cup League.
  • 3 tennis players were selected to represent Eastern Province.
  • The first computer hub, with 16 computers, was completed at Ekuphumleni Library. Within the first five months 350 community members had used the computer hub.
  • 61 youths registered and participated in permaculture gardening and worked consistently throughout the year across nine community gardens.
  • The Special Needs Education Project was launched bringing these children out of the shadows and into the love and care of the community.
  • 30 youths participated in rhino dehorning procedures on Kariega Game Reserve and learnt about the plight of this species and the reasons they are critically endangered.
  • 5 young men were trained and employed as Alien Plant Control Practitioners, operating on Kariega Game Reserve.
  • 12 young men were selected from communities within the Eastern Cape for the Global Conservation Force Anti-Poaching Training Course. 
  • 6 men and women were selected for the Kariega Foundation Field Guide Learnership commencing in 2024.
  • The first Legacy Bursary student was selected to commence his Post Graduate studies at Rhodes University.
  • A three year long habitat expansion project was completed facilitating the introduction of cheetah onto the reserve and culminating in Kariega Game Reserve being appointed as custodians of South African government black rhino, made possible through a partnership with WWF South Africa and their Black Rhino Range Expansion Project (BRREP).

Please continue to read the Kariega Foundations reflections on 2023. There is so much joy to be shared in the detail!

Community youth learn why rhino are critically endangered

Community Development and Education

Youth Development

Youth Development is one of our core projects that feeds directly into community skills development and employment.

We aspire to invest in the whole youth – that is the whole point!

We achieve this by running a broad, vibrant, and multi-faceted programme which includes:

• Broad-based Social and Emotional Learning
• Sports Development
• Information Technology and
• Environmental Education.

A dedicated team including a project leader and seven Youth Development Practitioners implement this programme with unrivalled energy and passion.

2023 saw an intentional investment in the personal development of these Youth Development Practitioners through a mentorship programme which has greatly improved the delivery of the programme across Social and Emotional Learning, Sport, Information Technology skills and Environmental Education where the focus has been permaculture gardening.

There were the highlights of the Youth Development Programme for 2024.

Social and Emotional Learning:

The Kariega Foundation has partnered with SEL specialists COOL TO BE ME and CoolPlay. Both organisations offer valuable SEL training and curriculum support. We have made incredible progress with the delivery of Social and Emotional Learning within our communities.

  • There has been great co-operation from Ekuphumleni Primary and Nompucuko Primary, with our Youth Development Practitioners being allocated regular, weekly SEL teaching times per grade.
  • A total of 750 learners received SEL tuition throughout the year.

The Foundation Phase learners (Grades 1 - 3) completed:

The Intermediate Phase learners (Grade 4, 5 and 6) completed:

Practicing bubble breathing to regulate emotions

Our focus for 2024 is:

  • Training and implementation on two additional COOL TO BE ME, SEL Programmes
  • Training selected YDP’s from Klipfontein and Alexandria communities.
  • Planning Youth Development Programme Implementation for Klipfontein and Alexandria communities to commence in 2025.
  • Measuring the impact of SEL in our communities.

Sport Development

Kariega Foundation  youth displaying keen sportsmanship

  • The total number of registered youths playing sport in 2023 was 310.
  • Coaching took place across the following sporting codes: netball, soccer, rugby, tennis, and mini cricket.
  • Social and Emotional Learning was reinforced on the sports field via the CoolPlay Coaching Cards.
  • 245 players participated in the Ubuntu Cup Sports League across netball, soccer and rugby and enjoyed an awards evening at the end of the league.
  • The players that did not qualify for a team played friendly matches.
  • Three of our tennis players were selected to represent Eastern Province and two additional players were selected as non-traveling reserve.
  • Our Ekuphumleni Rugby coach has been selected onto the regional referee’s panel.

Ubuntu Cup award for the players that demonstrated ubuntu

Our focus for 2024 is:

  • Up-skilling of sports coaches in coaching knowledge; practice planning and management and reporting protocols.
  • Growing participation in Ubuntu Cup League.
  • Development of a soccer and rugby training field in Ekuphumleni.

Thank you to the donors of the Kariega Foundation SEL and Sports Development Programmes: Kariega Game Reserve and Freedom To Roam Adventures.

Kariega Foundation netball players high-five our donors

Information Technology

The Information Technology Project was launched in 2023 as a collaboration between the Kariega Foundation, Ndlambe Municipality and our donors, bbd Software Development

The Ekuphumleni Library was renovated to accommodate two computer rooms with  eight computers in each and a full time IT Programme manager and technician was employed. 

Computer Hub in Ekuphumleni Library

The Computer Hub opened in August 2023 and it has already proven to be an incredible resource for this community with over 100 learners and community members making use of the facility every month. It is important to contextualise that most of these children and community members have never had access to a computer.

In order to fast track the learning process the Kariega Foundation capacitated our Youth Development Practitioners with Chromebook laptops and access to on-going IT training.

These are the key Focus areas for 2024:

  • Greater collaboration with Ekuphumleni Primary and Ikhamvalesizwe High School.
  • Educator IT training.
  • Aligning with IT instruction with CAPS curriculum.
  • Upgrading the Marselle Library with a computer hub of 14 computers and a dedicated IT programme facilitator.

From our observations Social Emotional Learning and IT are powerful transformational tools for under resources and impoverished communities. This is a space to watch!

Thank you to the donors of the Kariega Foundation IT Project: bbd Software Development.

The joy of learning. Thank you bbd

Environmental Education 

While sport creates a healthy body and SEL nurtures a resilient and positive mind-set and attitude, environmental education stimulates the mind and shares knowledge that directly impacts living conditions and inspires the will to conserve our precious environment.

The Kariega Foundation Environmental Education Programme is developed and implemented by Youth Development Practitioners. While the community has established goals of sustainable food production though gardening, litter management and domestic animal care, it is an added objective of the programme to provide every opportunity to reconnect learners with the beauty and wonder of nature and ignite within them the will to protect and preserve this natural heritage.

The highlights for 2023 are as follows:

  • 61 youths registered and participated in permaculture gardening.
  • The number of working gardens (with healthy harvests) grew to nine with only one garden becoming non-operational since the project inception.
  • Tools were purchased and supplied to all gardens.
Garden Tools donated to each garden
  • Many participants are successfully propagating and planting their own seedlings.
  • Several participants are showing interest in starting their own home gardens which the programme encourages.
  • Participants can educate guests who visit the programme about permaculture and the gardening techniques they are learning.
Kariega Foundation youth feeling proud of the the yield from their permaculture gardens
  • Over 100 children participated in the Rhino Run 2024 with one of them winning the 5km race!
Kariega Foundation participants at Rhino Run 2023
  • 30 youths participated in rhino dehorning procedures on Kariega Game Reserve and learnt about the plight of this species and the reasons they are critically endangered.
Kariega Foundation youth attend a rhino dehorning to learn why this species is critically endangered
  • Our youth led a community clean-up in Ekuphumleni and a beach clean up with the theme of 'Effect of pollution on our fish'
Kariega Foundation youth cleaning up their community
  • Arbor Day was celebrated by planting trees in three separate community locations.
  • Youth participation in a water-awareness programme to increase water safety on rivers and beaches in our area.

Thank you to our environmental education donors: Inspower and PARCA

Community Skills Development

As a result of the Kariega Foundation Youth Development Programme which has been running for seven years to date, self-motived youth with enhanced self-management and relationship building skills are emerging from our communities eager to engage in skills development programmes and opportunities on offer.

The highlights for 2023 were as follows:

Alien Vegetation Control Training

In May 2023, a team of five youth were selected and trained to assist in addressing the threat of invasive plants on Kariega's rich biodiversity. They were trained in:

  • Alien plant identification.
  • Certified chainsaw operator qualification. 
  • Basic herbicide training. 

This qualified, energetic, well-equipped, and dedicated Alien Plant Control team are now working full time on Kariega Game Reserve.

 Kariega Foundation Alien Vegetation Control Team

Thank to our project donors, Freedom To Roam Adventures, for giving these young men this wonderful opportunity.

Field Ranger Training

In January 2023, 12 youth were selected from four of the local communities around INDALO reserves to attend a 5-week basic Field Ranger and APU course at the Kariega Foundation Conservation Centre (KCC), presented by Global Conservation Force and to be placed as Cadet Rangers for 1 year at their respective reserves after the training. 

They were trained in: 

  • Armed Field Ranger certificate
  • Basic and business firearm competency
  • Two cadets received further training in Kariega’s Mounted APU (MAPU) 

As a result of successfully completing this training five candets earned employment within Kariega Game Reserves Anti-Poaching Unit (APU): 

  • One candidate was employed as Field Ranger.
  • Two candidates were employed as Junior Field Ranger’s.
  • Two candidates were employed as Junior and Field Rangers respectively in the Mounted Anti-Poaching Unit. 

This brings the component of APU team members from our local communities to 65%

Kariega GCF APU Training 2023

Thank you to our donors who made the GCF APU Training 2023 a reality for these young men: Global Conservation Force; Rhino Tears Jewellery and Be Moved Collective.

Field Guide Learnership 

Taking our inspiration from what has been accomplished via the Field Ranger, APU Training we have set our sights on significantly growing the number of local, community Field Guides within Kariega Game Reserves Guiding Department. 

During 2023 we scoped the training pathway, formalising the Kariega Foundation Field Guide Training Learnership Programme; taking into account the massive undertaking it will be for a young man or woman raised and educated in an under-resourced community.

In November 2023 six youths were selected from the local communities, two from Kenton-on-Sea and 4 from Alexandria to join our Field Guide Learnership Program which commenced in January 2024. Their programme is intense and includes the following elements:

  • Theory: Prepping candidate to write the FGASA apprenticeship exam at the national sitting in October 
  • Practical: Prepping candidate to write the FGASA apprenticeship exam at the national sitting in October. 
  • Assisting candidates in obtaining their vehicle driver’s license and PDP
  • Completing First Aid level 1. 

Kariega Foundation Field Guide Learners 2024

Candidates who successfully accomplish the above will receive internship positions within Kariega Game Reserve’s Guiding Department where they will continue their learning and career pathway to becoming a qualified and experienced Field Guide.

The first candidate to be enrolled in this program in 2022, Akhanani Bhari, qualified in November and is now a guide at Kariega Main Lodge. He is a great inspiration to our new students!

Kariega Field Guide AK

Thank you to the donors of the Community Field Guide Learnership: Kariega Game Reserve.

Legacy Bursary Fund

The Legacy Bursary Fund was launched in partnership with Port Elizabeth Law firm,  Rushmere Noach and Partners. The Legacy Bursary serves to fund the tertiary education of deserving candidates from the communities bordering Kariega Game Reserve. We were extremely excited to award the first ever Legacy Bursary to Luzukiso Kom from Marselle. Luzu has already been awarded a Bachelor of Science degree at Rhodes University. The Legacy Bursary will now enable Luzu to conclude on Post Graduate Certificate in Education and pursue his dream of becoming a teacher.

Luzu commences his continued studies in 2024. In addition he will be starting a holiday mentorship programme in partnership with the Kariega Foundation for Grade 11 and 12 learners that wish to pursue tertiary education.

Thank you to the donors of the Legacy Bursary: Rushmere Noach and Partners.

Luzu Kom Legacy Bursary Candidate 2024

Early Childhood Development

The Kariega Foundation supports 9 ECD Centre’s who care for and educate over 300 children between the ages of one and five years old.

Support is given via donations of art supplies, stationary and educational toys, received for guests visiting Kariega Game Reserve who Pack for a Purpose.

The highlight of 2023 was facilitating parent workshops to shift community culture towards parents contributing to the upkeep and general care of their children’s school. Many skills exist within a parent body that are useful for maintenance and infrastructure improvements. The guiding principle is to initiate meaningful collaboration between the Kariega Foundation and engaged, motivated parent bodies that wish to act in service of the ECD Centre their child attends. One focus for 2024 will be on bringing this engagement to life.

Kariega Foundation ECD Parent Meeting

Exciting news for 2024 is that the Kariega Foundation is facilitating the building of two new ECD Centre’s, funded by our friends and partners at Helping Rhinos and operated via The Liggerman Education Centre NPO which has been established by community members in Marselle, Ekuphumleni and Kenton-on-Sea. This is first community initiated NPO of this nature - certainly a mile stone worth noting.

Thank you to our ECD donors: Helping Rhinos and Kariega guests via Pack for a Purpose . We have also received boxes of educational toys from Cymbidium Farm School in Cape Town for which we are most grateful.

Special Needs Education

Children with disabilities or special needs in under resourced, rural communities are often completely neglected and their families and caregivers unsupported. The opposite should be true. With the right therapies and interventions children with special needs can reach their fullest potential and grow into adults with skills that contribute to their families and communities. In additional these special children and adults often demonstrate an enormous capacity towards love, patience and compassion.

Our Special Needs Development Programme was launched in 2023 with the initial aim of showing love, care and support for children and youth living with special needs(disabilities) as well as their families and caregivers.

Our immediate goal was to create greater awareness and educate our communities at large about the challengers for special needs children and their families and what we can do to help. 

On 18 July 2023, Mandela Day, we hosted our first Special Needs Connect Day , for the purpose of educating, raising awareness and bringing community members with special needs children together, so that we might find the way forward. 

Kariega Foundation Special Needs Connect 2023

It was a great success and resulted in:

  • The Special Needs School re-opening in Ekuphumleni with on-going support from the Kariega Foundation.
  • A parents forum being established so that the parents of special needs children can meet with professionals more regularly to learn how to care for their children.
  • The special needs children being embraced within the community. One youth works daily at the IT hub in Ekuphumleni Library and another youth is starting an apprenticeship with local potter, Meshack.

In 2024 this project will take on a more formalised structure focused on increased support for the Special Needs School as well as training for the parents, educators and care-givers of these children.

Thank you to the donor who inspired this project and continues to fund it: Randy Steen via Randy Steen Law.

Community Welfare

Donations – Pack for a Purpose

We are very grateful that many of our guests chose to Pack for a Purpose and many local individuals and organisations support the work of the Kariega Foundation. As a result, we receive significant donations year around that include items such as stationary; educational games, books, and puzzles; soft toys; babies’ clothes and nappies; sports equipment and kit; school shoes and uniforms and sometimes furniture, household goods and linen.

Over 200 families in need (800 people) received donation gifts during 2023!

 Kariega Foundation Youth Gifting Community Donations

We also receive wonderful support from Kariega Game Reserve and our Lodge Managers who frequently donate items that can be reused.

Main Lodge has initiated a feeding programme by saving excess food and distributing it via the Kariega Foundation to over 80 families and three Age in Action centres.

A notable highlight was the donation of an entire collection of library books from the Diocesan School for Girls in Grahamstown.

Thank you to all guests visiting Kariega Game Reserve who Pack for a Purpose! Thank you to DSG for the incredible donation of books.

Domestic Animal Care

Teaching and supporting community members to care for their domestic animals is the first step to connecting them to the plight of rhino, elephant, pangolin and other endemic and threatened species. 

We were lucky to collaborate with many different individuals and organisations to make a huge, positive difference to the domestic animals within the communities surrounding Kariega Game Reserve. The highlights included: 

  • The Siyakhonkota Education programme was run with children from Marselle on how to care for and train their animals. 
  • Six Domestic Animal Outreach Events reaching a total of 503 animals that received tick and flea treatment, rabies vaccinations and were dewormed. Educational material was also given out. 
  • A two day sterilisation drive in collaboration with Dr. René van Oudtshoorn, Prima Vets, Kariega Foundation and Domestic Animal Care in Kenton on Sea. The event was a great success with 52 dogs being sterilised. 

Thank you to our partners in this programme: Domestic Animal Care Kenton; Ikhala Vet Clinic; Prima Vets and Dr. Rene van Oudtshoorn.

Kariega Foundation Siyakhonkota Pet Care Programme Graduation Copy

Community Gardens

The SOIL permaculture training programme extended its reach beyond youth development to include the broader community.

  • 24 community members attended SOIL training at the Kariega Conservation Centre Training Garden. These individuals have now started their own backyard gardens which we will continue to support with compost, seedlings, and general advice.
  • We assisted five community gardens with fence repairs.

Thank you to our SOIL donor: Inspower.

Kariega Foundation Community Permaculture Training

Boma Dancers

All guests staying at Kariega Main Lodge would have experienced the joy of being entertained by this young group of dancers made up of 10 girls and 5 boys who share their Xhosa culture via song and dance on Boma nights.

For the children this programme is so much more than singing and dancing. They arrive early on performance nights to do their homework as a group and eat a healthy dinner provided by the lodge. They revel in the opportunity to meet guests and children from all over the world after their performances which has had a notable impact on their confidence, inter-personal skills and knowledge about the world.

In compensation the children receive everything that is needed for the school year in terms of uniforms, stationery, and books as well as monthly toiletries and a birthday gift of clothing each year. Tips are saved and once the dancers matriculate these monies are used to obtain their driver’s license and open the door to tertiary education opportunities.

This year nine of the dancers will be getting their drivers licenses and completing a hospitality training course which will lead to employment opportunities.

Thank you to our donors for the Boma Dancers: Kariega Game Reserve.

Kariega Foundation Boma Dancers

Conservation, Habitat Expansion and Research

During 2023, Kariega Game Reserve in partnership with the Kariega Foundation actualised a 15-year dream to bring the upper reaches of the Bushmans River Valley into the reserve and under protection forever. Thus, heeding the urgent conservation directive, to bring back and protect our planets biodiversity.

We embarked on this ambitious habitat expansion project three years ago, with the objective to acquire and incorporate critically important farmlands along the Bushmans River into the Kariega Game Reserve protected area, ensuring the protection and conservation of 25km of this pristine river valley forever. This made possible through the generosity of the Ferguson Family who purchased and donated the land to this conservation effort.

This intensive project concluded in November 2023 and resulted in significant habitat expansion and conservation benefits for keystone herbivores like elephant and rhino and apex predators like cheetah and lion. 

In addition, the reserve is now fully appointed as custodians of South African government black rhino, made possible through a partnership with WWF South Africa and their Black Rhino Range Expansion Project (BRREP).

Kariega Game Reserve and the Kariega Foundation extend a heartfelt thank you to these key partners and donors of the Bushmans River Habitat Expansion project: The Ferguson Family; Phil and Trish Liggett and the Freedom To Roam Adventurers; Simon Jones and Helping Rhinos; Coyote Petersen, Brave Wilderness, Mike Veale and Global Conservation Force via Save The Horns.

The Kariega Game Reserve estate team, and Kariega Foundation ecology and wildlife protection teams have been the outstanding heroes of this story working relentlessly to get the job done. Incorporating new land into a conservation area is incredibly complex, multifaceted, and work intensive.

Bushmans River where a major fence has been removed

In addition to delivering on a busy annual, ecology calendar across wildlife and habitat management our ecology team also facilitates the following Research Projects in collaboration with numerous partner organisations and academic institutions:

  • Elephant Reintegration Trust (ERT) – Social dynamics and animal health – NEMBA: National Norms & Standards
  • Bring The Elephants Home (BTEH) – Effects of landscape expansion on group associations, spatial utilization & stress hormones. 
  • White rhino monitoring focused on habitat selection, associations, habits, conditions, population dynamics, and breakout- and poaching risk. 
  • Black rhino monitoring focused on habitat selection, associations, habits, conditions, population dynamics, and breakout- and poaching risk. 
  • Lion monitoring focused on prey preferences, habitat selection, associations, population dynamics and breakout risk. 
  • Cheetah monitoring focused on prey preferences, habitat selection, interactions, population dynamics and breakout risk. 
  • Leopard research in partnership with NMU and other INDALO reserves on a PhD leopard study to help determine the region's population dynamics, range use and prey selection using camera trapping data. 

Ecology team working at a Black Rhino procedure

Wildlife Protection 

The Kariega Game Reserve, Anti-Poaching Unit (APU), managed by the Kariega Foundation has continued to grow in skill and professionalism during 2023. With advanced training in K9 work, Mounted Unit riding and patrol skills and wildlife forensics skills as well as applying advanced technology to surveillance systems, equipment and techniques, this team has achieved many successes in 2023 and continues to safe guard wild animals and the habitat they live in.


The most notable were:

  • Zero rhino poaching’s on Kariega Game Reserve.
  • Five successful arrests: 3 x meat poachers and 2 x trespassers.

Thank you to Kariega Game Reserve for funding the Anti Poaching Unit with much support from donors: PARCA, Chipembere Rhino Foundation, Rhino Tears Jewellery, Dancing 4 Rhino and Veldskoen SA.

GCF Mounted Unit in the field at Kariega Game Reserve

Special mention must be made of Global Conservation Force who have worked tirelessly with un in building the GCF Mounted Unit which is fully funded by GCF and operational on Kariega Game Reserve. A heartfelt thank you - it has been a journey!

Message From Our CEO - Lindy Sutherland

Sir David Attenborough is famously quoted as saying:

"It's surely our responsibility to do everything within our power to create a planet that provides a home not just for us, but for all life on Earth." and “If working apart we’re a force powerful enough to destabilise our planet, surely working together we are powerful enough to save it.”

These words, and the truth that they embody, are the driving force of our motivation at the Kariega Foundation. Working together with Kariega Game Reserve as custodians of 11, 500 hectares of pristine wilderness in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, re-wilded from 21 different farms and now home to the Big 5 and every other living creature great and small; we understand that if this protected wilderness does not serve us all, the wildlife, fauna and flora as well as our staff and neighbouring communities, we have failed in our mission.

This perspective gave birth to our unique model of building conservation through community and as one can determine from reading the reflections of 2023, it is gathering momentum. 

It has been a privilege and a joy to be part of this unfolding conservation story along with so many extraordinary people. We are stepping into 2024 to write the next chapter with energy and passion - building on the solid accomplishments of 2023.

Thank you to the Kariega Foundation Team and Trustees; Kariega Game Reserve and every single person and organisation who has supported us. We are co-creating something profound!