Project Luangwa Founder
In 1988 a young lady arrived at Robin Pope Safaris to take charge of the catering at Tena Tena Camp in the remote Nsefu area of South Luangwa. Here she was in her element, her bossy nature serving to help organise and expand Robin's safari business. She organised Robin too - right up the aisle, or should I say to the base of a giant fig tree, where they were married in 1991.
For over twenty years Jo worked alongside Robin but always found the time to raise funds to help a school in a local village. The school desperately needed attention and Jo worked hard to improve Kawaza School beyond all recognition. But that was not good enough for Jo Pope. She went on to support another school, Nsefu Basic and then build two community schools at Katapila and Kapita. And she didn't limit herself to building either; funds were also found to train and pay teachers, to sponsor vulnerable children and help the villagers start their own tourism project.
In 2008, twenty years after arriving in South Luangwa Jo wondered if the global recession could have an adverse impact on all these neighbours. By the following year she was sure that it would. There were fewer tourists visiting South Luangwa and some lodges were cutting back on staff. Visitors had less to spend and donations to conservation and community projects were falling.
How would the community survive these hard times? Jo was better placed than most to find an answer.
She set about rallying the lodge owners to come together for a co-ordinated approach to running the many individual projects in the area. She argued that as one body they could achieve more than the sum of their whole. The new initiative would be a registered charity and have managers for the day to day aspects of all the projects, releasing the lodges to do what they do best - raise funds.
And so, in September 2009, Project Luangwa was born.
Jo and Robin have stepped back from the running of Robin Pope Safaris. They now live outside Lusaka but still have a much loved home on the banks of the Luangwa River and visit the camps and community regularly.