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“Let my hands be of service to people. Let me earn wisdom through my hands. Let my hands do good work.” – Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Two weeks ago, working on documenting the story of our Londolozi Sunday walks (as we call them), I felt uncomfortable. It was the first time that I can remember that I knew I ought to put the camera down. To be honest, I felt lazy and disconnected. A little voyeuristic even.
The Sunday walk is based on the spiritual tradition of “seva”, or selfless service, and is a joint effort by the Londolozi community to spend an hour every week cleaning the village.
It’s not just cleaning though.
We chat, we laugh, we connect and, most importantly, we come together with the same goal – to walk through our village and take pride in replacing bin lids, straightening wobbly poles, and picking up litter that has been misplaced by animals, birds and the wind.
We also greet the elders sitting outside their huts in the afternoon sunshine. We check on the progress of our communal gardens. We turn off leaky taps.
Especially in Sikhism, seva is imperative for spiritual life and in fact, the gurus say it best when they say “you shall find peace doing seva.”
It’s a special time. The smiles, the togetherness, and the peace. And that’s why I won’t be taking photos again in a hurry. For seva, I need both of my hands and all of my mind. And it’s amazing how, when you’re not part of it, you really miss it.
I’m glad though that just this once, I got to capture these amazing moments:
After lunch on a Sunday, the Londolozi community starts to gather outside the central offices in the village. Depending on how busy the lodge is, we normally have a turnout of between 20 and 40 people. Two weeks ago on Sunday, these were the first Londolozi faces to show up for our Sunday “seva” or service walk.
To get in the spirit of seva, we have created 2020 service “waistcoats” – a reminder of our pledge to work towards becoming a model, futuristic African village. One of the principles relating to “seva” is the concept of working towards a common good for all. Yes they’re bright, but we wear our service waistcoats with pride.
Left: Andrea and Vusi from the Londolozi Creative Hub share a joke as they set off. Right: The group makes its way up through the village and onto Nelson Mandela Walk – a route that many visitors to Londolozi will have taken themselves.
Ranger, Andrea Sithole, stops outside a hut in the village to pick up an old chocolate wrapper. Off camera, to the right, the occupant of the hut asks Andrea if he wants to get the washing off the line while he’s there. His grin says it all!
Kate Collins and Maya Groch put on their service waistcoats and get ready to go! About our Sunday walks, Kate says: “People may see it as something small, but actually it’s really symbolic … all of us coming together to make our world a better, cleaner, and more sustainable place.”
Multitasking. Witty Mnisi picks up litter and a family of warthogs trim the lawn. According to Witty, “more and more we see people who understand the necessity of cleaning the environment, respecting the environment.”
“Service men” on the move through the traditional Shangaan village.
One of my favourite parts of the Sunday walk is the coming together of the entire Londolozi family. In this photo, Kate Collins works with Kate and Tom Imrie’s son, Thomas. An ‘A Team’ for sure.
Robert Sithole, Gogo Mo Groch and Andrea Campbell. These three individuals are drivers of all kinds of “seva” at Londolozi, from land management and rehabilitation, to education and conservation awareness.
We are always interested in new ideas to add to our service initiatives. What do you and your community do? Do you think the concept of “seva” is growing in the world, and how can we continue to grow it?
I am the Head of Development at Londolozi's not-for-profit partner organisation, the Good Work Foundation (GWF). GWF focuses on education, in particular helping people living in rural areas to connect to a new, digital Africa and all of its opportunities.