During the summer holidays, some of our students were lucky enough to experience a trip of a lifetime by taking part in a World Challenge Expedition to Swaziland in Southern Africa.
The expedition is designed as a developmental experience for students whereby they take part in 3 phases of an expedition:
- A community phase
- A multi-day, self-sufficient trek
- A period of rest and relaxation
The Community Phase
During the community phase, we were assisting in the building of an NCP (a neighbourhood care point). This is a building where vulnerable members of the community can visit to receive an education (which they would otherwise not receive).
Some of the tasks that we assisted in were the sieving and mixing of cement and plaster. We also painted the main room, assisted in blockwork and plastering, installed ceiling joists, ceiling panels and dug a foundation trench for a veranda. All of this was tough (character building) work and during this period we camped at the NCP and cooked all of our meals on an open fire.
Our students not only learned a great deal of life and work skills but they also did themselves and our community proud!
At the end of the community phase, many members of the local community came to the NCP and we swapped menus and socialised together. There then followed some very humbling speeches in which the community showed their gratitude for our work and then treated us to a traditional dance.
The trek phase was one of the activities that some of the students had been apprehensive about. It involved three days of trekking whilst carrying heavy rucksacks and living and cooking in the African wilderness.
We began by driving to a zip wire activity and travelled via different cables through a ravine to the start of our trek. We then trekked to our first campsite, pitched the tents and headed to a pool in the river for some rest and relaxation. This involved many river crossings and walking through some quite dense vegetation.
Day two involved around 4 hours of trekking and we were all relieved to reach camp 2. We were even more relieved to find out that it was located at a beautiful waterfall and pool section of a river. Rather than explore, we spent the afternoon swimming, sunbathing and relaxing. Dinner was once again prepared, cooked and eaten around a campfire.
The final day of the trek was the most challenging and involved around 7 hours of trekking whilst gaining a lot of altitude. The students did all of this in good spirits and we finished our trek phase in good time, although fairly exhausted.
The period of rest and relaxation
For this phase, we had organised to take part in a dawn and a dusk safari to hopefully get a glimpse of some of Africa’s big game and we were not disappointed. Within 5 minutes of leaving in our van, we came across a heard of elephants (literally about 20 metres from us).
Following this, we met a few rhinos and then went in the search for lions. Once again we were not disappointed. We found a pride of lions just waking up for a nights’ hunting and believe me, these were too close for comfort! (for me to be comfortable anyway) Our guide didn’t seem as bothered as me however and our students had not been this quiet during the whole expedition. It was amazing!
It is fair to say that all of us were pretty exhausted after the expedition and keen to once again sleep in a bed! We had spent two weeks camping in different locations, cooking every meal over a campfire and buying our food on a budget to cater for all dietary requirements whilst giving us the energy we needed to do these activities.
In order for this to happen our students had to work as a team (by the end they were so efficient at this), they had to make certain sacrifices and compromises. They had to show good humour and understanding, their accounting had to be perfect (otherwise we would have gone hungry) and they had to develop in a dynamic and changing environment.
They managed all of this and left having made new friends.
This was truly a life-enhancing experience and one that I was privileged to accompany them on.
Thanks to all involved!