“Each smallest act of kindness reverberates across great distances and spans of time, affecting lives unknown to the one whose generous spirit was the source of this good echo…” ― Dean Koontz
Before we got to spend any substantial time together, it was apparent that Tina Aponte, Managing Director of Zambia’s Royal Chundu, was one such spirit; that she was at the centre of something much larger than the lodge itself. There was a Butterfly Effect at play and the more I learnt about her the more I began to realise that she was the butterfly, at least one of the good ones.
It was apparent in the words and faces of the people of Mushewka, the local community I met on my first visit to her family’s lodge on a private stretch of the Zambezi River. “Mamma Tina,” they called her. They spoke of her constantly, with adoration and gratitude, giving me insight into a side of Tina that she, as the humble sort, would never communicate.
The Mothers of Mushekwa spoke of how much their lives had changed since Tina took over the lodge. How things had improved through Tina’s generosity and the community projects she initiated on their riverbank – such as the Royal Chundu school, the guided community tour for guests, the employment and training of locals at the lodge, the financing of the community vegetable garden by providing seeds and purchasing produce, and the support of local fishermen.
The more time I spend with Mamma Tina the more I can discern the effect in my own life. Her Butterfly Effect cannot be stopped, each kind act has taken on a life of its own. Her belief in the goodness of individuals impels those she meets to prove her right. (She’ll attribute it to the calm of the Zambezi River.) But it’s the simple art of compassion at work here and it’s what fuels everything she touches – including Royal Chundu.
For Women’s Month – celebrated this August in South Africa – we’re featuring Mamma Tina, to offer you insight into the inspiration we’ve been lucky enough to encounter.
Discover more in our short Q&A below.
Tamlin Wightman: Happy women's month from us at Relais & Châteaux Africa. What does being a woman mean to you?
Tina Aponte: Living and working in rural Africa, the role of women in the community is awe-inspiring. Women are the nurturers, gatherers, water-carriers, educators, disciplinarians, housekeepers, babysitters, farmers, and so the list goes on and always with a smile and never with a complaint of any kind. Women hold the communities together and that is the lesson I’ve learnt, in that the sense of community is set and nurtured by the women wholly – they weave the fabric of family and community together and always with grace and joy. I aspire to do the same through their example.
“It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world – Chaos Theory.” – The Butterfly Effect
TW: As someone who travels a lot for work and play, name 5 things travel has taught you about yourself, life and love?
TA: I adore the saying, “Who lives sees much, who travels sees more.” Never a truer word spoken! Travelling opens your mind to new scenery, new cultures, new cuisines, new mindsets. If the limits of our language are the limits of our mind then the same must hold true to our environments and situations limiting us too. Travelling teaches us to expand all that we know and gives us a new language to view the world by, in my opinion. I’ve been so fortunate to travel as part of my job but my best travelling is always done with my two boys, as seeing the world through their eyes ensures that I keep looking at the world with new eyes too.
“It used to be thought that the events that changed the world were things like big bombs, maniac politicians, huge earthquakes, or vast population movements, but it has now been realized that this is a very old-fashioned view held by people totally out of touch with modern thought. The things that really change the world, according to Chaos theory, are the tiny things. A butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazonian jungle, and subsequently a storm ravages half of Europe.” ― Neil Gaiman
TW: Where are yoy most at home/at peace? And why?
TA: I try to find peace wherever I am – I know that sounds trite but it’s true. However, I am also very lucky to usually find myself most of the time on a boat in the middle of the Zambezi watching the sun set, elephants drinking on the banks, hippos snorting in the water in front of me and a fresh, cold Gin & Tonic in my hand! Who couldn’t find peace or feel at home there?
TW: Final wise words you’d share with the younger you if you could?
TA: Have babies younger and have lots more! Family is everything to me and my biggest love affair has been my children – who knew that the heart could expand so much? Imagine having even more!