Just a perfect day
Jim Lewcock and Justin Bisnar get connected in South Africa with Richard Branson
One day highlights of an amazing week in South Africa as they seek the meaning of Virgin Unite’s 'profit and purpose' with a fine bunch of fellow entrepreneurs
Nearly was a perfect day in bed for Justin – nursing third consecutive hangover, some friendly 'nudging' and we are off...
Game drive in the bush at Ulusaba. Branson’s up front on our jeep, sun rises in two minutes flat and the night crawlers make way for early morning beasts as a giraffe meanders across the track. Sightings of a leopard with a cub are rare indeed and after hearing a loud squeal an even rarer sighting - a baboon running off with an impala (small deer) in its jaws. Lord please don’t bring me back as an impala! (or a baboon…).
Breakfast in the lodge, overlooking an expansive view (just like a real IMAX cinema!)
Off in minibuses to see the local nursery school for orphans, built from funds donated by last year’s entrepreneur visitors (fair play, Greg Secker). Feeling mixed emotions as happy smiling faces greet us - your hugs replacing their parents. One takes a real fancy to Sir Richard!
Back on the minibus to an HIV clinic supported by Virgin Unite, meeting carers with boundless energy and passion, giving hope and longevity to those that seek it.
Witness the Starkey Hearing Foundation in full flow! Quite simply, Bill and Jean Starkey are profit and purpose personified. Having made a few hundred million dollars selling hearing aids in the US, they now spend 10 months out of 12 in the world’s poorest places fitting people with hearing aids for free. And they do it with an appetite like it’s their first day on the job! We are all humbled.
Driving back to the lodge, the minibus pulls over by a dirt track. Steve Bennett and wife Sarah step out to inspect a shack and scrap of land that they hope to convert in to a new school. (Fair play to the Bennetts too).
Arrive back at the lodge for some respite, Bisnar retreats to bed.
Time for the night game drive, shake the walrus awake and off to the jeep. The sun drops like a stone, revealing the full sound effects of the bush. We see a lioness with lots of cubs, looking docile and well-fed. We hear an angry adult lion growling close by in the undergrowth (rather worryingly for a group of Japanese tourists whose open-top jeep has just conked out!).
A timely beer stop creates an opportunity for us all to climb a tree and sing ‘The lion sleeps tonight’.
Arrive at a magical venue, welcomed by a parade of drum-beating Zulus around a campfire in the middle of the bush. (Heading off for a pee in the trees, you can’t help wondering if a lion might sneak up and bite it off…payback for the earlier ‘singing’). Serenaded by Morley, a ‘proper’ American hippy singer who has brought us all peace and harmony throughout the trip. Now we are belting out the songs with her, all inhibitions left back in Jo’burg , love fully in the house! Couldn’t resist stepping up to quote Lennon (in wavering, sloshed tones): “Woman, I shall try to express my inner feelings and thankfulness, for showing me the meaning of success.”
Zoe (of Zoe and Stuart Conroy, chuckle friends for the whole week) announces this as her third best day ever (after wedding and baby). That feels about right to me too…
And work is now fully underway on the fourth hangover.
A perfect day in a perfect week says this Virgin Connect trip was worth every pound we donated. Note to Virgin Unite team: profit and purpose – message received and action being taken in 2014!
Virgin Unite is the non-profit foundation of the Virgin Group. The aim is to unite great people and entrepreneurial ideas, reinventing how we live and work to help make people’s lives better. For more information on their great work, go to: www.virgin.com/unite