Katherine Mathias is an inspiring young woman, who’s been with Tshemba since the very start in April 2017. She runs the everyday workings of the lodge, offers behind-the-scenes support to the volunteers and assists in making the volunteers’ stay as enjoyable as possible. It’s thanks to Katherine’s hard work and commitment that the doctor’s refuge is just that for the volunteers – a place to rest and recuperate.
So, what does Katherine have to say?
1. Why did you decide on Tshemba?
I have a great love of the bush and wildlife; something that I’ve been passionate about since my first experience working in the Serengeti in 2015. The fact that I could work on a project that is based on a humanitarian scope was the cherry on top. I find great purpose in supporting the work of people who heal and provide healthcare in any way.
2. What is the most challenging thing about what you do?
The challenges I face are both mental and physical such as learning patience and sometimes having to carry heavy 25-litre bottles of water around. After growing up in a first-world country and having worked in fast-pace companies for most of my life, slowing my “get things done efficiently in record-breaking time” way of thinking has been diluted slightly to accommodate the flow of my surroundings.
Running a farm/lodge as a woman is incredibly rewarding and takes a huge amount of energy, physically as well as mentally. Learning the skills of how to run an operation from eco-friendly maintenance to being cost-effective with as little impact on the natural environment are some of my challenges, but it’s most exciting!
3. As a woman, do you feel safe?
Being on a Big 5 (no buffalo’s so really 4) estate and having the animals around me gives me a greater feeling of security in terms of potential crime. Crime is not a huge occurrence in the area (knock on wood); I personally prefer to live in a rural area as opposed to a city environment as it is calmer here. Running into a lion or an elephant is one’s biggest concern – if that, kidding but kind of not kidding. :)
4. What would you say is the male to female ratio amongst the volunteers?
I speculate that it is pretty even numbered, to be honest with you. I think that having the moral value of care is not dependent on gender, race or sexual preference from my personal experience. I am so grateful to be surrounded by people who share the same values as I do.
5. What was the most striking thing you’ve experienced at Tshemba?
During the day, I work in supporting healthcare, but in my off time, my extra-curricular activities include K9 anti-poaching training and learning about wildlife conservation. Being involved with people within the area who are actively contributing to the welfare of wildlife and conserving our natural habitats are a huge inspiration to me. I have striking moments more than not from their stories and my excitement around how I can potentially, in the near future, lend myself towards those needs in whatever small or big ways.
6. What is the one thing about this experience you’ll remember forever?
There is not one event, it's a constant feeling of gratitude to be supporting health practitioners. If I can give you an example, it would be working with the women in the Tintswalo hospital on special projects that have been a game changer for me.
My Ouma (grandmother) worked in South African healthcare institutions her whole life, always contributing her time to people in need. I would never have imagined that I would ever work in a healthcare type of scenario and to be a part of it is such a privilege, you can count that as a continuous experience.
7. What would you say to doctors, especially women, who are considering a visit?
This undertaking does not only benefit the patients you see but also yourself. The way of life you learn in this environment, not just at the hospital, but also here on the farm is incredibly empowering. An almost sixth sense arises as there are so many elements around you at all times. One becomes more connected to being present, listening to all the sounds, watching how your surrounds interact with one another and having the peace to find yourself. It’s sometimes overwhelming, but fantastic for the soul.