Taryn Lock


Taryn Lock is the Executive Director of Read to Rise, the NGO she co-founded with her husband Athol Williams. Having now interviewed them both on The Legacy Project I formally declare this couple as one of South Africa’s most special jewels. What hearts and passion they have for a better South Africa. In 2013, Taryn left her demanding corporate job as strategy analyst and embarked on her life-mission of promoting youth literacy among Grade 2 and 3 children in schools in some of our country’s under-resourced communities through helping children both to read and develop a love for books. It is not the fact that she was named one of the Mail & Guardian’s top 200 Young South Africans that I am so taken by her, but it is the way she has dedicated her life to serve others with such kindness, passion and love.

My definition of Success | Success to me, is being happy, following your passions, living your best life with purpose, maximising your talents and skills, looking after and spending time with your loved ones and making a positive impact on people’s lives. Growing up as a third generation South African Chinese in Johannesburg, I used to think that “success” was having a high paying job, owning my own home and car and making lots of money. After achieving all this and tutoring English while on sabbatical, I realised that there’s more to life than possessions and money. In 2013, I quit my corporate job to follow my passion for literacy to start a NGO. While today, I might not be richer in terms of money, I am far richer in terms of relationships, experiences, learnings and making a difference in people’s lives.

I am driven by | I want to make a difference in people’s lives. The world is in such a state, there is so much pain and suffering so I do what I can to help make the world a better place.
Through my work at Read to Rise I hope to get children, especially in challenged communities, excited about reading. It was being able to read and getting an education that helped me to be financially independent and the person that I am today. As the Co-Founder of Read to Rise and a children’s book illustrator, it is incredibly fulfilling to see the expression on a child’s face when we give them a new story book to take home – it inspires me to want to help more children.

Characteristics Of Success | Grit – you must have a passion and purpose and have the strength of character to persevere to achieve your goals. Working in the NGO space, one needs to have a thick skin as it isn’t easy starting/running a NGO – you are always begging for funding and have limited resources so one needs to be willing to work hard, be creative, be ‘a jack-of-all-trades’, learn to accept rejections, take risks and keep persevering.
Having an honours degree in mathematics and having worked in business, I didn’t know much about NGO’s or illustrating and publishing children’s books. However, that background taught me how to be a problem solver, so I had to learn a lot by myself by doing research, speaking to experts and learning by trial and error. It’s important to get out of your comfort zone, do/learn new things and push yourself to new limits, this will help you grow to become a better person.

Principles I live by | Integrity and authenticity is everything – In a world that is corrupt with greed for power and money, it’s important to be ethical and remain true to oneself.
Respect – If we can respect each other as humans then we can all live together in harmony. We need to respect people despite their religion, beliefs, cultures, traditions, gender, age, race, nationality and preferences – as ignorance and discrimination causes hate and divides us.
Live consciously – Be conscious of why you do things and be accountable for all your actions. Our actions, no matter how small, can change the world. Be open-minded and willing to change your beliefs and habits for the good of humanity.

A key talent | My tenacity and ability to get things done. In a world that has many great ideas and not much action, it is important for people to put their words into action and  turn ideas into reality. Actions speak far louder than words and I want to be remembered for the things that I have done and not just what I said that I’d do. When I have a goal, I will give it my absolute all to get it done – resilience is key. I love creating and turning ideas into reality – creativity feeds the soul.

Lessons I have learnt | Be extraordinary. Dream, set high standards, give it your all, and keep pushing yourself to new limits. Keep creating and believing that anything is possible. Don’t just be ordinary, be extraordinary.
I’ve also learnt that money isn’t everything. We must live our lives with passion and purpose. Have the courage to follow your passion, despite social pressures and norms. It is better to live without regret than living with fear and wondering what could have been.
We need to remember those less fortunate than ourselves and do what we can to make the world a better place. There is so much human suffering. I’ve learnt that it is far better to give than to receive.

I am inspired by | As part of the 2018 Obama Foundation African Leaders Program, I am fortunate to have met so many individuals who come from varied backgrounds across Africa – people doing such incredible and impactful work in their communities. I am inspired by amazing people like this who want to make the world a better place.
When I visit schools in the communities in which Read to Rise works, I am inspired by the children, teachers and principals I meet.
I admire individuals who are passionate about empowering children through education such as the late Nelson Mandela, US President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Malala Yousafzai and my husband Athol Williams.

The Legacy I would like to leave | My goal is to create positive social change through literacy, social development and art. Through my actions, I hope to inspire people to follow their passion – whether it’s through my work to improve literacy at Read to Rise, through Proudly Chinese SA which I started to promote Chinese culture and individuals/businesses, through the books by local South African authors/poets which I publish through Theart Press, through my photography or through my illustrations.
I would like to be remembered for having the courage to quit my corporate job, following my passion for literacy and helping others and trying to make this world a better place.

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