Amanda Lind and Thea Stangeland, Norway, Teaching and Lions Combo Project
“When we left last year it was with heavy hearts. We said that we were coming back, but of course everyone says that so they didn´t believe us. We both cried from when we said our goodbyes until we landed in Oslo 24 hours later. The time we spent at Antelope Park had been the greatest time of our life. One reason was the project in itself, actually helping people that really need it and being part of such a huge thing as saving a species from extinction is an incredible experience. But the wonderful people working at Antelope Park was also a big reason for why it was so hard to leave. All of the staff members and the other volunteers working there made our stay so much better than we had ever imagined. Thats why we made a promise to ourselves that we would come back. The first couple of weeks being home was sad. Everything we did seemed meaningless and pointless. Eventually things got back to normal, but Zimbabwe was always close to our hearts.
In july this year (2015) we came back to Antelope Park. It was amazing to meet up with the staff and kids, and to see the lions again. Even though it was over a year since we had left AP, we felt at home immediately. Last time we were in Zimbabwe we saw how much they needed donations but since we had been traveling for four months already, we had no money to donate. Because of that we decided that we wanted to bring and donate some money when we were going back again. During the year we were home we both worked and saved a bit every month and when we got back to AP we had quite big amount – aver 2400 USD. After a meeting with two of the managers, Dan and Liesl, we agreed on splitting the money so that half of it would go to the lion project and the other half to one of the community projects. And after hearing about where the money was most needed we decided that the money for the lion project would go to a lion clinic that they are building at Antelope Park and the money for the community project would go to Mudavanhu Zimcare Trust School. The lion clinic is needed so that the staff can operate, vaccinate and research on different diseases without having to go to the town Harare which is a four hour drive away.
The Mudavanhu School is a school for disabled kids in Gweru. It is a school where children with different mental diseases can come to learn to take care of themselves. The classes are divided by the kids skills and not the age. In the first grade they learn how to go to the bathroom, how to eat and drink, how to put on a jacket and other basic skills. Each child stays in the same grade until he´s ready to move on to the next one. Some of them stay in the same class for years. Since most of the kids live at the school, they eat every meal there as well, so if the school doesn´t get any donations in a while, they eat dry bread the whole day.
It was amazing to see the children we had worked with last year and their progress. The kids at this school are so loving both to each other and to the people who come to visit. And you can really see that just by being there you make them feel special and important, which is exactly what these kids need.
When we talked to the community manager Liesl she told us that this school had not gotten any donations in a long time and they had sent a list to Antelope Park of basic groceries and medical equipment that they desperately needed. That is why we decided to help this school. We used a day together with a helpful driver from AP and went to a big grocery store to buy the things on the list. We got a lot of help from the people working at the store as well and after a couple of hour the truck was full of supplies. Our last stop was a couple of pharmacies to buy the medical equipment and then we drove to the school to hand everything over to them. While we were loading the stuff of the truck, the kids started cheering out of joy.
They had been eating dry bread every meal for some weeks at that time. We had an emotional meeting with the headmaster Susan where we explained why we had chosen to donate to them and she told us how bad things had been there lately, and that they almost had to close the school. She thanked us, and blessed us and even cried a little bit, so of course we teard up as well and the whole meeting was emotional and moving. We had bought groceris enough for half a year and there are no words for how it felt to give that to these people.
We left Antelope Park again with tearful goodbyes and heavy hearts. We have gained a lot of new experiences, a lot of new friends and we promised again that we would come back. This time no one doubted us. We are coming back, we have to, and this time for a couple of months. This amazing place is truly our second home and as Liesl said, we have African blood running through our veins. Yes, we did a good deed, but it is because Antelope Park and all the people working there have inspired us always to try to do more, and be better. It is not you that should be thanking us, we are thanking you. Thank you. See you soon!
Love, Thea and Amanda”