In April 2016, 17 young, vibrant students and 2 teachers from the Danish school SKALs SIP class had just completed their last year of high school and decided to visit Zimbabwe to get an understanding of the communities and volunteering projects which are run there, namely our Community Teaching and Street Children Support Project on the private game reserve Antelope Park.
We began their experience by taking them to visit an aging orphanage that we work closely with in the area of Mkoba 6. The students were shocked and dismayed that the 30 boys staying there lived in such conditions, with all of them having to fit into four tiny bedrooms. One of the female pupils stated how grateful she was for all she has in life as she does not consider herself rich but compared to what she had just witnessed, she felt extremely privileged.
We then went on to see the new orphanage in Mkoba 10, to highlight to the group the drastic change that fundraising and volunteer support can make. As we approached the new orphanage, you could see the relief on the students faces - the site of the new improved building brought many smiles to their faces. What was even better was that a team of Norwegian engineers were putting up solar panels, so the pupils got to witness even more improvements being done to the orphanage, all thanks to fundraising.
As soccer is a “sport without borders”, a universal language that is not limited by race or nationality, a soccer game was arranged and played. The boys from the orphanage and the Danish boys were mixed up into teams with staff members as goal keepers. All parties involved had a wonderful time with the girls cheering them on. After the soccer game, some boys from the orphanage who love dancing did a little dance for the visitors. A welcome surprise was when the Danish pupils in turn did a performance for all who were at the orphanage. It was a day filled with laughter, fun and appreciation.
On the following day, the pupils went to visit the Drop-In Centre where we feed local street children who stay in the area and offer Basic Life Skills sessions. On arrival, the group was taken on what we call an “outreach”, where they were shown where the street children live. This is always a hard thing to stomach as it is not easy to face the reality of the squalor people live in.
They then went into town to do some grocery shopping for the meal they would prepare for the street children’s lunch, thereafter returning to the drop-in centre where some pupils assisted with the preparation of the lunch while some assisted with the lessons planned for that day. The Danish pupils facilitated a feelings and stress activity, which was very interesting for all. What was most interesting to note about the lesson on stress was the difference in what stresses the Danish pupils had and what stresses the street children had; e.g. a Danish pupil said he was stressed if the battery on his cell phone died and he could not charge it, whereas a street child was stressed because he could not find a plate of food to eat.
On the following days, the Danish pupils visited a garden that was set up to supply vegetables for the orphanage and the drop-in centre in the aim of helping them become more self-sustainable and also visited the ALERT (African Lion and Environmental Research Trust) Education Centre. The pupils were spilt into two groups, so while one half was working in the garden, the other half was assisting with lessons at the AEC.
While at the garden, pupils assisted with weeding. The gardeners were extremely grateful for the help as there is quite a wide expanse of land to work on (especially for just two people!). The pupils worked harder than expected and managed to get a lot of weeding done.
At the AEC, the remaining pupils were divided into four groups to work with the children who were attending lessons. The pupils then gave the Zimbabwean students a presentation on Denmark and in line with the curriculum, a lesson on big cats. This was a successful, educational day for all those involved and the Danish children were extremely proud to have been given a chance to do a presentation (which they had prepared before their visit to Africa) on their country and were glad to learn more about Zimbabwe from the Zimbabwean students.
Generally we had a superb time having the Danish children here as they were very friendly, always willing to help and eager to learn all they could in their short-time here. By their own account, meeting the children from the community not only humbled them but made them appreciate and be grateful for the life that they have.