What follows is a truly remarkable story that unravels across Philadelphia, Florida, Londolozi and now, Hazyview. The events – as they have unfolded – have touched lives in ways that no-one could ever have imagined. From a chance meeting at Londolozi seven years ago, to a young girl’s dream of being able to make a difference in the lives of Africa’s children. This is the story of the Leanna Knopik Cup and how it arrived in the hands of the son of a Londolozi Tracker.
Just over three years ago, 15-year old Florida-native, Leanna Knopik, threw her arms up in delight as she and her family – led by Londolozi Ranger James Tyrrell – crossed the Londolozi causeway. Londolozi Executive Chef, Anna Ridgewell, says it best: “I don’t think Leanna knew to what extent she would fall in love with the people and the wildlife here. After a couple of days here, there was little doubt that she would one day use her enormous generosity of spirit to support positive change in rural communities. I believe it was meant to be.”
Four years before Leanna’s visit, a Philadelphia-based family met one of Londolozi’s longstanding Trackers: Freddie Ngobeni. Many readers will know Freddie: soft-spoken, intelligent and a passionate interpreter of the bush. A lasting friendship was formed, and, at the end of the family’s visit, Londolozi’s education partner, Good Work Foundation (GWF), was on course to set up its first ever scholarship fund so that Freddie’s children would always have access to exceptional education opportunities.
In July, aged 16, Leanna passed away suddenly after contracting a rare heart infection. In the spirit of her heart’s wishes, the All Heart Fund was created in 2013, in collaboration with GWF, to provide the resources and education necessary to enhance the lives of rural African families. In addition, one special GWF student was be chosen annually to receive the Leanna Knopik Cup, an award honouring the student with the biggest “heart”.
The inaugural Leanna Knopik Cup was awarded to Freddie Ngobeni’s son, Shearer, at a graduation ceremony at GWF’s Hazyview Digital Learning Centre on March 14. “Once we had set up the GWF scholarship fund, Shearer became our first student to be given the opportunity to attend one of this province’s best schools” said Good Work Foundation CEO, Kate Groch. “He took the opportunity with both hands and blazed a trail for his two younger brothers to follow and he has all of the qualities we look for in young people: he has a kind, gentle nature and is hard-working and generous of spirit.
Two extraordinarily special women from over the seas have been part of this story. Jenifer and Leanna, this story is for you, with all our love.”
It with pleasure, that we finish with this letter addressed to Shearer Ngobeni, from Leanna’s mother, Beth Knopik:
To learn more about the All Heart Fund and Good Work Foundation, go to: www.goodworkfoundation.org.