I was born and brought up in the South Luangwa Valley and grew up in a loving family of 18. This included my parents, 5 siblings and 10 cousins who had lost their own parents. My parents took in my 10 cousins (who I call my brothers and sisters) and cared for them as their own.
My father was the only bread winner of the family. You can’t imagine how hard it was to support 16 children and educate them but he managed it and gave us all good values and education to Grade 12 and well beyond. With such a big family there was never a normal day, and living side by side with wildlife made things even more interesting. My father was a passionate and respected guide at Norman Carr Safaris, he had a deep passion for wildlife which he instilled in all of us. This sometimes had crazy consequences like when I had a Black Mamba in my bedroom. I ran screaming to find my father who ensured we carefully moved the deadly snake to a safe place without harming it.
Living next to wildlife sounds romantic but it brings real financial challenges. At one point we had elephant eat 3 quarters of our crops, for a family of 18 surviving on one salary this was very hard. But our respect for wildlife meant we just got on with it. We always survived these adventures and there was always love and support in our home.
Despite all the financial challenges my parents managed in such a positive way. It was through watching all this that I became so determined to work extra hard at school, so I never let my parents effort go in vain. I also wanted to lessen their challenges in the future.
I was 17 when I completed school and I had so much love for creativity; but at that point I couldn’t pursue further education because my father had a terrible accident. With all the hospital bills it was financially impossible. It was at that time that a job at Mulberry Mongoose was talked about. In a valley where employment is scarce, especially for a 17 year old who wants to be creative, I jumped at the chance. My interviews went well but the challenge was that I was very young; I said my age will not be the barrier, and luckily Kate believed me.
I loved Mulberry Mongoose from day one. Through hard work I showed Kate that I could help her run our growing shop. I loved this chance to meet and talk with international clients and share the story of the team’s hard work. Sometimes crazy things would happen, once an elephant bashed her head through our shop door, shattering it. She looked in and then, thank Goodness walked away. I remember thinking, I wonder if Kate asks me why I didn’t sell her some earrings!
I have learnt so much through working here. Our company motto is ‘There is no sweet without sweat’. We take on many challenges at Mulberry Mongoose and are proud of what we are achieving, it empowers us to achieve the seemingly impossible.
By Clera Njobvu