Although it happened in 2012, children living in greater Tzaneen may remember one astonishing koala. This koala's unique talent was riding a bicycle.
The koala's name was Katie and she cycled in tandem with me through Africa. We started in Uganda and made our way to Tzaneen in August of 2012. The reason was to raise awareness of the support and activities provided by Keep the Dream 196 for orphaned and vulnerable children. When we arrived, many of the children being supported by KTD196 waited at the roadside to meet Katie, the koala. Wherever she went, Katie was an attraction.
What was special about meeting the children around Tzaneen was that many of the children's eyes were wider than Katie's and their smiles even brighter.
I believe, that to smile you must have hope. Hope which stems from knowledge, skills and respect, not wealth, possessions or power. And hope is what KTD196 provide for many children in Tzaneen. When I spoke to young people being supported by KTD196, they spoke of changed lives, dignity and of finding their true self. Underlying all of this is hope.
When these young men and women spoke, it was with intelligence, motivation and a plan. They could say, I know who I am. I know what I want to achieve. And I know how I am going to achieve this goal.
The goals they spoke of involved fields such as social work, technology and communications. Not simply aspirations, but contributions. Ways in which they could enrich themselves and their communities. The way of Nelson Mandela.
Having a goal fashioned from their individual character gave these young people purpose and a drive. They explained this to me in words, but also in their confidence. To meet such people of character was a privilege.
In the time since, Katie and I returned to Australia, but we have never forgotten Keep the Dream 196.
If you are a part of Keep the Dream 196, that means we have not forgotten YOU.
We wonder about your struggles and your triumphs.
We wonder where your lives are now.
But one thing we do not wonder about is this: Your life is stronger because of Keep the Dream 196.