We first met ‘Team Marks’ earlier this year, during our annual BIG EGG Easter Competition. The adorably mischievous antics of the Marks children, however, are even more endearing in person. In this edition we meet Jackson, Courtney and Carter…and, of course, their parents Gavin and Riona!

It’s a gorgeous afternoon at the Kingfisher Community Centre; the sun is providing just enough delicious warmth to ward off the slight Winter chill. Master Jackson Marks (9) struts out confidently, introducing himself with a jaunty wave. “This is my sister Courtney. She’s five,” he grabs the hand of a blonde girl, spinning by in a lush pink tutu. “And, that’s Carter. He’s three, turning four.”

Carter takes a little while to warm up on Riona’s lap, as Jackson reels off the Marks’s address: just down the road, in fact, on Cussonia Way. He and his siblings were actually born in England, he says.

Riona shares that she and Gavin, originally from Durban, initially went to the United Kingdom in 2005 to travel. “It was only supposed to be for a little while…but, we ended up staying for fourteen years!” Once their children were born, Gavin and Riona decided to return home. “We wanted our children to grow up South Africa,” says Gavin, “The UK was never meant to be home. It was just the two of us, at first, but Riona and I wanted our children to have the childhoods we did. South Africa offered a better environment for children and, of course, the outdoorsy lifestyle.”

While they lived in the UK, Gavin and Riona would make an annual trip to South Africa. Each time, they would short-term let a home in Simbithi. “We always said when we returned home, this would be the place we settled.”

And, for the last three years, 13 Cussonia Way has been home for Team Marks. Riona, a teacher, and Gavin, who runs a UK-based children’s foundation phase development program, have fallen in love with the Simbithi way of life. “The program uses sport as a means to develop children,” he says. Jackson quickly chips in with: “I hear him say that on the ‘phone all the time!”

Riona believes their children are growing up with freedom, which she is grateful for. “I love that they can play in our backyard or go for a walk on the trails close to our house. Gavin and I did that growing up, and it’s amazing to see our children have the same privilege.”

Of course, there are other perks to living at Simbithi, too…as Jackson and Courtney agree, the Heron Pizzeria is a firm favourite. “I love ordering pizza with bacon and playing putt putt,” Jackson’s eyes light up. “And, I love the wildlife. I’m going to be a game ranger when I grow up.” Courtney loves to meet her friends on the Estate: a few pop up to say hello while we are at the Kingfisher. And, Carter is an avid fisherman, as he happily displays along the Heron dam wall, using a long reed as a ‘rod’.

As we leave the Kingfisher, Jackson has just one more request for SEEHOA: “do you think we could get a few zebra and giraffes here on Simbithi?”

(Let’s chat to Ayanda, shall we?)

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