A couple of years ago I had an amazing opportunity presented to me: an organisation called Camps International came into my school to talk about their expeditions around the world. I was easily persuaded and set about raising the money I needed to go – this included having a part-time job, running a dog show and a Christmas themed coffee morning in aid of the cause.
Finally after months of building excitement and trepidation, I set off and spent a month in Tanzania and Kenya with nineteen other students from various schools in England.
One of the main aims of us going was to do voluntary work in the communities. It wasn’t until I was out there that I truly realised how important this work was – there were times when it really hit me how lucky I am and it changed my perspective on a lot of things.
Our first project was on the coast of Tanzania near Tanga – we spent three days working on a house for a lady who was living with her brother; her children had died and she had thought that the house would never be built. In the time that we were there we took down existing walls that were unstable and put up new ones. We made a framework with branches tied in a grid and then filled the spaces with mud – our team worked well together and we had some people mixing mud, some carrying it and some working on the walls.
The groups which worked there after us continued the project and it is now finished and ready for the lady to move in – she really appreciated this as living in her own house would give her a lot of independence.
Our next project was in Moshi, a town near to Mount Kilimanjaro. We went to a school and built some steps outside a classroom – it sounds like a fairly small task but it was actually more strenuous than the work on the house in my opinion! To make the cement we had to carry heavy buckets of sand, gravel and water and then shovel them constantly until they were thoroughly mixed. Then some people started to create the steps whilst the rest of us toiled to keep the cement from drying out in the heat.
Unfortunately I didn’t get any photos of the finished step but got some of it in progress…
We then moved to Kenya – our camp was in between Tsavo East National Park and Tsavo West National Park and while we were there we took part in a variety of different projects which Camps International were running in the area.
The first of these was de-worming goats in the communities – people brought them out to us and we had to catch them and stick a medicine-filled syringe in their mouths. I had actually done this before so I found it quite an easy task, and also de-wormed a calf while I was there as well!
On the same day we built elephant deterrent fencing. The aim of this is to keep elephants away from the settlements and reduce human-wildlife conflict – therefore protecting the elephants and reducing the likelihood of them being killed. We cut up sheets of corrugated metal and strung the strips on wire, which was then suspended between wooden posts. The sound of the metal clattering in the wind and the way it reflects the sunlight (and moonlight too) frightens the elephants away.
In Kenya we also visited the Marungu Tree Nursery and helped to mix soil with animal manure, which we then placed into small black bags and planted seeds in. Our team was known for beating records previously set by other teams and this day was no exception – by the end of it we had planted around 1350 seeds!
When the trees are older they will be planted on the surrounding hills – they are a huge benefit to the farmers as many of them have nitrogen-fixing properties and they reduce soil erosion.
I will be posting more about my journey to Tanzania and Kenya, so stay tuned!