What Does Tawonga Mean?

By: Ken Kramarz

One of the most frequent questions I get is, “What does Tawonga mean?”. If you ask a camper from the 1920’s or 30’s, they’ll tell you that Tawonga means “I WILL.” It was always written in all caps, capturing the feeling of a powerful declaration of rugged determination. Quite appropriate for the tough times they were facing during the Great Depression.


Today, we have the internet, where thisismybabyname.com says Tawonga means, “To love God” while Urban Dictionary says it means, “A kick ass summer camp.” Keep poking around and you’ll find other great answers. I love how generations of Tawongans may interpret our name differently, ascribing its value to what is personally meaningful and resonant to them.


My personal favorite was captured in this 1998 photo of Tawonga wilderness leader Paul Buseck in Malawi (Africa) during his Peace Corps service. Behind him, we see “Tawonga Shoppings” painted in the very same Hevetica Outline font we use in the Tawonga logo!  


Every time I look at this photo, I think we’re in a sci fi movie in which someone goes back in time and leaves behind a Tawonga songbook, and this one act — like moving a pebble on a beach — changes everything!  


In Malawi, Tawonga means “We Thank You!” which is so perfect for this Thanksgiving. Heading into this holiday centered around gratitude and togetherness, Camp Tawonga indeed thanks you for being a central part of our loving community.

Ken Kramarz served as Camp Tawonga’s executive director for three decades, until 2016.