Values to live by
When he’s not at Hilton College, home for Wim Ebersöhn is a remote and rugged reserve in northern Mozambique, a 17-hour drive from the nearest town.
Living in the wild and Wim’s deep love for his family have gifted the grade 11 boy with wisdom and grace beyond his years.
To reach home, is a three-day journey, he has to fly to Johannesburg and then on to Maputo. Another flight takes him to Nampula and a fourth takes him to Lichinga or Pemba – and all that is before the exhausting drive through the wilderness.
In that world the small things in life are luxuries and people are more precious than ever.
“What’s most important in life isn’t material: it’s the relationships you have and what you learn,” says Wim.
“Living outside of mainstream society has given me a different perspective. I appreciate people a lot. And the small things, like red meat.” He chuckles. “For quite a few years, I lived on chicken.”
The “camp” Wim calls home is in nature reserve “a bit bigger than Switzerland”.
Wim’s father, Wim Senior, manages Chuilexi Conservancy, operating a 7000 square kilometer conservation area, which preserves wildlife and prevents poaching in Mozambique.
Wim’s mom Chelene does financial management for Chuilexi.
“My role models are my parents: my dad pushes through when the pressure is on him, and my mom gave years of her life to homeschool my little sister Beatrice and I.
“My parents are always available to me and my sister. Always willing to just sit and talk on the phone. My dad is a determined, strong-willed person, being able to work in Mozambique over the past 20 years; to build the camp from scratch. He loves being in Mozambique and it has made him happy to see poaching decrease and the elephants come back.”
Wim’s love for adventure and sense of humour is evident in his boarding house, and he’s not averse to bringing some of the wild into school life. In grade 8 he and his friends found a dead snake in the reserve and decided to play a prank on their dorm mates, “We left it near the bathroom door. It had the desired effect.”
Wim says his family lives by two mottos: “One is ‘Never Give Up’ which we had written on the wall of our home school. The other one – which my parents say a lot – is ‘education will be our greatest gift to you’.”
On arrival at Hilton College, Wim was blown away by the sheer size of the school but found solace in a welcoming dorm. “From day one, I was made to feel included. We’ve got people from diverse backgrounds – from Zambia and Zimbabwe, so it wasn’t just me from a foreign country.”
Wim finds strength in his faith in God and his friends. “Whenever I feel down, thinking about the people who got me here and who look out for me, I can look at the situation differently. If I don’t keep going, I will be letting them down, and myself.”
With his sights set on a career in international relations and law, hopefully with a future in the United Nations, Wim says Hilton College has taught him perseverance. “If you can look forward, over the bad times and say, ‘This is who I will be’ and imagine yourself being that person, you will succeed and push through the hard times.”