By Jo-Lea Edery, 6.2
In the half term break, 22 students and five teachers ventured off on an expedition to Southern Africa. Our destination? A small landlocked country called Swaziland. Our goal? To provide a sustainable, free supply of clean drinking water to a primary school in need, but first we had to get there.
After a seemingly endless flight and a series of car journeys, we arrive at the residence that we would occupy for the week. The scenery of Swaziland was very rustic and beautiful, in any direction you looked the view could be considered ‘postcard’ worthy. The warm hues blended with casual herds of cattle, antelope, wildebeest, and even the occasional crocodile, most of which could be seen at close range during the optional early morning walks at 6am.
The general routine for the rest of the day involved the trickle of aching and half-awake students in and out of breakfast and bed, where we would get ready for the day by packing the essentials: sunscreen (SPF 30+), sunglasses, bug spray, hats, and a packed lunch. This all occurred between 6:30 to 8:15, where there would be a war of finding all the best snacks and items before they were used up for the packed lunches. Then we were off to the school…
Arriving at the school grounds always energised the drowsy buses. The cheers, smiles and greetings of the children, officiated the beginning of the day. As the week progressed, our relationship with the children deepened. Trust developed and friendships formed: possibly through the daily football games, dance sessions and photo shoots.
But our journey wasn’t just for fun and games, there was work to be done. Jobs ranged from digging trenches with pickaxes and hoes, painting the walls, and constructing new desks to teaching lessons in English. The students’ breaks from their classes and our breaks from work were simultaneous, allowing for the various activities and games mentioned above. Trenches were dug, pipes were laid down, murals finished drying, and desks were bolted.
After each day of work students would either go to the supermarket to shop for dinner or head back home. A different group was responsible for dinner each night, buying enough groceries to qualify for a maths problem, while the others would entertain themselves in a WiFi-free environment with card games, reading, and board games (our favourite being ‘Game of the Goose’). After demolishing the delicious food prepared by the students we would sit around for our evening meeting and be on our way to bed exhausted at this point.
By the end of six days of hard toil in the Swazi sun the group had achieved digging in excess of 350 metres of trenching for water pipes, all necessary plumbing for a water storage tank, four taps and two sinks whilst installing 45 desk tops, the painting of three buildings, painting of three signs and a the school’s entrance! This was a truly excellent effort by everyone involved.
On the last day of work, there was a tremendous amount of satisfaction in the air as we collectively overlooked the last of the trenches being filled and attended the resurrection of the water pump that would bring fresh water to the pipes. This was all made possible by a combination of the money we raised and the work we put in collectively, not to mention the fabulous group of staff that had also volunteered to participate in this amazing experience by looking after us and all of our shenanigans.
Overall I’m glad I had the opportunity to contribute to such a well-rounded and rewarding trip, even if it does mean that I had to trade in Swaziland’s welcoming sun for England’s grey skies.
None of this fantastic contribution to Hawane Primary school would have been possible without all of the generous donations by so many people connected in some way to the Bedales community – you have all helped to make a tremendous difference to a school and wider community in need.