So long, EDGE Zimbabwe

After our days spent at St. Francis in Bulawayo, the team headed to Hwange National Park for two days to take a little time to relax and re-energize before our final project. Here we were able to sit just outside our cabins and watch the wildlife come to drink by the large watering hole. Hwange is home to the Presidential herd of elephants, one of the largest herds in Africa. Although we didn’t get to see this specific group, we were treated to other elephants, as well as zebras, wildebeests, warthogs, spotted dogs, and lions! It was, however, a little different seeing these animals here in the wild where only some grass and a row of logs separate you from the wildlife!

After Hwange, we headed up to Mlibizi. This is located in western Zimbabwe, where the Zambezi and Mlibizi rivers meet and flow into Lake Kariba. This by far was a highlight of the trip for me (it’s hard to pick one, but this just might top it). We began each day walking 10km to the local elementary school, Mankobole. It is here that you can see the work that has been done by Shawnigan Lake School students from past EDGE trips. We arrived to find the students standing in lines from the youngest ECD (Early Childhood Development) up to the Grade 7s. We were welcomed with song and dance and could not have been more humbled. As we took a tour around the school, you could see not only the work of previous EDGE teams, but also the work the community has continued since Shawnigan’s first visit three years ago. Previous projects included two classroom blocks, and from there, the staff and community have added a toilet block for the little ones (that has smaller holes so they don’t fall in), a teacher’s toilet and shower block, and a small building for staff housing that has rooms (one room each) for 5 of the 8 teachers. They have plans for another staff building, which will likely take a few years to complete (they handmake all of their own bricks and are slowly saving up). For now, the Headmistress’ accommodation consists of a small, square room built with logs for the frame, mud to fill the walls, and a dirt floor – And she is AMAZING. The pride the teachers and students have for their school is untouchable.

For us, this year’s project was to erect a large tent to serve as two additional classrooms, supply small desks and tables for this space to help keep them off the dirt floor, and paint the toilet blocks. We also donated a playground and painted it, and changed hundreds of bike tires to fix the bikes that had been donated by UNICEF – though because of the large, white thorns on the ground everywhere, a ride or two and the tires were done! Along with all of these projects, we got to spend time with the kids playing games, drawing, and even got a turn a trying to make mielie-meal – a labour-intensive process of husking and grinding maze, which is then made into sadza (a porridge-like staple that is eaten at almost every meal).

We finished our final day with the annual soccer game – another highlight in a trip filled with great moments. Although we gave it a good effort, in the end we fell shy with a 3-2 loss (although this is the closest any EDGE team has come!). The support and love and pride that this community has for this school is amazing. We loved Mankobole, and Mankobole LOVES Shawnigan.

From there we headed to Victoria Falls for a day of sightseeing, bartering, and seeing the touristy side of travel. We also took turns jumping off cliffs for 70 meter free falls on the world’s largest gorge swing. We were all surprised Mrs. Conroy didn’t have a heart attack!

All in all – this trip was one filled with memories, many first experiences, self-reflection, and humility.

Thank you EDGE ZIM 2018!

Love Mrs. Conroy & Miss Agate

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St. Francis Home

Here is a look at what we have been doing at the St Francis Home. It’s been an emotional two days with lots of hugs and smiles and amazing heartfelt work. We have made some children a little happier and left our marks on their walls and their hearts. We are so proud of every single person in the EDGE group for the passion and kindness they showed this weekend.

We are now off to the Hwange National Park for two nights where we will relax and enjoy the African bush. We will then move onto our last days of service in Milibizi. We will not have a WiFi signal for the next five days so the blog will be quiet, but we will have share all our updates and pictures as soon as we we return to a service zone.

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Farewell to Antelope Park

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Our hearts are happy, but it was a sad day when we left Antelope Park on Friday. It has been a jam-packed nine days. The staff came out to sing us farewell and was a very touching and special moment. We can’t believe we are halfway through our trip already; time has just flown by. The EDGE Zimbabwe leaders feel so privileged to share this adventure with an amazing bunch of young people who exceed our expectations daily.

We are on our way to Bulawayo for the weekend, where we will embark on a very emotional two days at the St Francis Home for mentally and physically disadvantaged children.

We know the whole EDGE Zimbabwe team are really looking forward to being able to make a difference and are up for the challenge.

Working with ALERT

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Wednesday, July 4th, we headed back out to work with the ALERT Centre (which we learned at trivia the night before stands for African Lion Education Research Trust!). We worked with the Scottish intern, Makayla, and taught 96 Grade 6s about deforestation, animal paw prints and poop, animal habitats, and endangered species (and also had a little fun with some face painting!). From there we had our first afternoon free, and had a bit of a chance to relax (although the cold weather from South Africa brought the temp down to about 3 degrees in the evening, it was still nice to have some down time). To finish the night, six of us chose to go on a night encounter to watch the lions hunt. Mrs. Conroy said she had been on this four times, and never seen the lions make a kill… we got the surprise of seeing three lionesses take down an impala in just over 20 minutes – what a night!

On Thursday, July 5th, we headed to an orphanage that houses 14 kids, aged 3-16. The place is run by two amazing women from the community, who have chosen to help these kids and live with them full time in lieu of having their own families. The building is cold and all cement (even the floors), there are barely enough beds, and because electricity is so expensive, they don’t use a stove, but cook outside over a fire. Before arriving we had stopped at the local market to buy vegetables to make the kids lunch (and even a few of us tried some worms!). From there we arrived and got to see a few of the youngest kids before the headed off to school. While they were away, we did all of their daily chores, so they would have some more time for their studies and relaxing in the evening. We watered the garden, folded laundry, cleaned the kitchen and bathroom, did dishes, swept the floors, and made lunch.

We are writing this as we wait for the kids to return from school, where we have a fun afternoon planned with activities and treats, and are looking forward to having some fun with kids just being kids! More to come soon!

A small glimpse into rural life

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We began Tuesday with an early morning ride in the back of an open air bus… 30 km on a dirt road with bumps the size of bathtubs made for a great wake-up call! Our first stop was at Juielen Primary School where we had a chance to see the work that Antelope Park is doing at this school. The contrast between the new buildings and the old 1940s school house was hard to comprehend. In the old building, the walls were cracked, there was no running water, and the roof was about ready to fall in. In the new buildings (two built since 2004), there were chalkboards, desks, and posters on the walls. That being said, they still use the 1940s school house for three of the eight classes. From there we went to work! We met Sakuru (which means ‘grandfather’ in Shona) and with two other workers, learned how to make bricks by hand by mixing earth and water. In each batch, you can make three bricks. By the end of the day, we had made just over 2000 (the same as five efficient men would do in six hours.) Not a strenuous day, but a long day – and a greater appreciation for a ‘hard day’s work.’ Our last stop of the day was at Sakuru’s homestead – something most visitors never see. It consisted of a cooking hut, food storage hut, and two sleeping huts. There were also pens for cattle and chickens and a large garden for growing mostly maze and pumpkin. We also saw the well that Sakuru had dug by hand. It wasn’t exactly what you think of when you think of a well in Shawnigan… it was literally a bucket on the end of a chain that was hand-turned to bring water to the surface. And to top it off, this well is 16 meters deep (just under twice the height of Groves’ – no joke, he dug it by hand). What an eye opening day we had with a small glimpse into rural life in Zimbabwe. (And to top it off, we acted as a school bus for some of the students on our way home. What took us less then ten minutes in the truck would take them upwards of two hours one way – an eye opener for those of us who sometimes take education for granted when we complain about getting up for Chapel 30 minutes earlier).

Antelope Park thoughts

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Monday was a busy day of adventures around Antelope Park. We spent the late afternoon helping around the camp. We helped to fix the walking bridge (a Tetris game of new and old planks!), helped in the kitchen (where we chopped onions until we cried), did laundry (with a vintage iron press), and worked on grounds (where we learned about the behind the scenes of A.P.). Most of the people that we worked with this afternoon were the parents of the kids we had met in the school earlier this week. We hoped that by helping this afternoon, the staff would have more energy for their kids at night. These people work amazingly hard, and we were humbled by their willingness to chat and share stories while we tried to help in a small way. This afternoon we went and visited a community project that feeds the homeless street kids of Gweru. With our fundraising efforts we managed to provide them a cooked meal. That gave them a break from street life and a chance to just be kids. We then played them in a game of soccer on the community fields where we lost narrowly 4-3. The best Shawnigan team they said they have seen.

Caio
To be honest this last 3 days were the most amazing time of my life where I had my perspective changed many times through all the different experiences that I’ve been through. To start this place is completely beyond my expectations. During breakfast, lunch, and dinner they have been bombarding us with the most delicious food I’ve ever eaten. Also, it amazed me how happy they are with so little that they have. Zimbabwe people the probably the most welcoming and happy people that I’ve ever seen. One of the things that stand out during this trip was during one of our activities where we were teaching kids of grade 6 about Canada. After we went with the kids to their school and one of the kids pulled out his only 50 cents and brought me out and bought a snack for me and him just because he wanted me to try it out. Overall, it’s being an amazing time with this awesome crew in the best place in the world.

Maria
There are no words to describe how incredible our experience at Antelope park for the last three days. We have done so much in such little time and have gathered so many memories and  grown so much as a team. Working with the children has been so inspiring to me. Seeing how joyful and giving they are and seeing how happy they are contagiously brighten all of our faces. We have also had the privilege to interact and walk with lion cubs as well as feeding full grown lions. I am looking forward to the rest of this amazing trip.

Alli
Zimbabwe has treated us well! The food, the people, places, adventures and animals. We have seen a lot of wildlife including elephants, giraffes, zebra, wildebeest, lemurs and a full day of hanging with lions. The other night we sat out on our patio and a few of us were writing our journals and the monkey were in trees behind us and a lemur was in clear view and it was sucking on the tree. The children and community is very welcoming, we have worked with three different groups of school kids and they have taught me about their life, culture, language and games. Since it is winter in Africa, as soon as the sun goes down we have about 5 minutes until we are in are big winter jackets. We have been staying at antelope park for the past few days and the park is incredible, amazing food and the staff is so kind.

Georgia
The past few days have exceed all my expectations. We have done so much it feels like we have been here for a month. The experiences are unbelievable and unforgettable. We first helped kids read, and helped them learn about wild life conservation. The excitement and joyfulness these young kids had was amazing and inspiring. The lion walking was an unreal experience as well. Being here for only 3 days has already had a significant impact on me, I cannot wait for the rest of the work we do.

Maho
Since I came here I’ve been impressed by how grateful and giving people can be in any situation. Whenever we drive in the town, little children and even the adults are so welcoming and cheerful which makes my heart melt. Also, the beautiful environment and the animals we are surrounded by is just amazing. Every experience is nothing I have ever had before, and I will never forget. I am so glad that I came to this trip, because this trip has been the best learning experience for me.

Katelyn
So far on this trip we have been fortunate enough to stay at Antelope Park. We’ve got to work with inspiring kids who have the biggest smiles on there faces and can’t help but put a smile on ours! I have made so many memories from these kids and they are truly astonishing. Today I got to work with lions, feeding them and going on a walk with the cubs! It has been an amazing three days so far and I look forward to the rest of the trip! Then after lunch I got to help put in the kitchen and see all the hard work and effort they put into our meals. It was very fun talking to the different chefs and hearing there stories! The fact that I’ve only been here for three days  amazes me as I feel I’ve been here forever! I love the work we’ve been doing and can’t wait for more.

Hallie
I feel very very lucky. I can’t really explain it any other way. And there’s a few reasons why. I feel lucky, simply because of what I have and what some of these kids that we have seen and worked with do not. I also feel lucky because of the things I have witnessed and been apart of here at Antelope Park so far, the opportunities I have had the chance to take and the relationships with my teammates that have been manifested and strengthened. My favourite moments so far have been meeting all of the incredible children at two or three different primary schools. At all of which I met kids who’ve said they’ll miss me after knowing me for about two hours, wrapping their arms around me like I was their best friend in the world and telling me their entire life story at a rapid-fire pace. And I adored every single one as they were each so special. I thoroughly enjoyed walking with the lion cubs and watching the majestic males and females stretching, fighting, hunting and play fighting with their brothers and sisters. My parents always told me how lucky I was to have the home and family and schooling that I did. And those were just the basics. I always said stuff like “yeah, yeah okay” but I never truly believed them by seeing with my own eyes how they were right.

Annika
This trip has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and it’s only been a couple of days. The kids we have met are the sweetest, most genuine people, and also some of the happiest. I am so grateful for every minute I get to spend here, and can’t wait for each day that comes next. Not only are the people amazing, but the wildlife is mesmerizing. The lions we have encountered are beautiful and we are so fortunate to have this opportunity. I am so thankful for all of the things I have come across in the past couple of days.

Trinity
From the three days of being here my expectations have already been surpassed. This trip has given me so many opportunities that had blown my mind. Being here feels surreal. However, I’ve met the happiest people, seen the craziest animals, and connected with the kids. I’m excited to venture more of Africa and experience many more insane experiences. I’m confident in knowing the rest of the trip will be as good if not better.

Makenna
Marcia, Denzee, Grait, Ethel and Elizabeth are only a few of the names of the children I’ve met. Each and every one has been nothing but kind, loving and amazing. My heart genuinely feels overjoyed, the smiles and laughter were more than enough to last me a lifetime. Apart from the children, the wildlife has been incredible. I look around and feel like I’m in a Planet Earth episode. All the animals exceeded all of my expectations, the lions so far have been a highlight. Although they’re powerful killers they are also playful kittens. The trip has been beyond amazing, I cannot wait to see what the rest brings.

 

What word would you pick?

“How do you capture an amazing morning of experiences in just one word?”

Carolina – iconic
Georgia – heart warming
Anika- grateful
Maho- enthusiastic
Tatum- emotional
Katelyn- inspired
Trinity- joyful
Hallie- enlightening
Jayden- legendary
Maria- inspiring
Caleb- moving
Caio-energetic
Ali- exposure
Makenna- mind blowing

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Antelope Park

After 59 hours of travel, we finally made it to Antelope Park (a few hours later than expected, but safe and sound!). Although we were so exhausted, arriving just after midnight, our excitement made it hard to fall asleep! Our first day started out with our first non-airplane meal, of eggs, bacon, toast and beans. From there we had a tour of the main camp, and an orientation about all the project and work that Antelope Park is involved in (they currently have 90 different projects across Africa). From there we set off on our first adventure, which was at Mkobe No. 4 School. We walked into a classroom of 22 kids with special needs, ages 8-10. We were overwhelmed with their warm welcome and smiles. We read books together and got to see first hand the support that Antelope Park provides this school. Without this relationship, the students we worked with today would not be allowed to continue to attend school because of their learning differences. What an incredible first day! And an extra surprise, was seeing giraffes and zebras in the wild on the drive back to camp! We ended the day with reflections around the campfire, and can’t wait to share more about our trip in the coming days!

Please click through the slideshow below to enjoy some of today’s incredible images.

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They’re off!

The EDGE Zimbabwe team share their thoughts as they depart for their adventure!

Katelyn – Although an early morning, I feel excited about going on this trip–it hasn’t really set in. I don’t think it will till I actually get to Zimbabwe. I’m stoked for Paris, to see the sights and learn more about France. I wanted to come on this trip because I feel like I will get a new perspective and so I can do good in the world. It’s important to give back and help out and I think EDGE is a great way to do this.

Jaden – This morning was an early start, we finally are on our way to our first destination, Paris. It still doesn’t feel real that we soon will be in Zimbabwe in a matter of a few days. Right now I couldn’t be more excited to see the sights of Paris and enjoy some good food. After another long plane ride we will be in Zimbabwe and the work will finally begin, I couldn’t be more excited to meet all the new faces and to put a smile on the children’s faces. Being apart of this incredible experience was my dream and I am more than grateful to finally be able to take part in it.

Trinity – Today made things seem more real. As I get ready to board the plane I can’t say I’m not scared. However, knowing that we’ll be there soon and helping makes the nerves better. I’m most excited to meet the people in Zimbabwe. Being submerged in the culture will make the experience all the better. A little Paris pit stop will be fun and an exciting break from traveling!

Alli – Although our journey has begun I still can’t grasp the concept that I will be in Zimbabwe soon, it feels unreal. I’m looking forward to traveling to a new place, experiencing a new culture and working hard and seeing the outcome of work we will have put in. The travel days will be long, the flights will test our patience and the day in Paris will be amazing. I cannot wait for the days to come!

Anika – I feel super excited. I’m speechless and can’t wait!! I came because I want to experience giving back to people who don’t have much. I can’t possibly know what to expect and know there will be many surprises along the way, but I’m ready to put some smiles on some faces!

Hallie – I feel nervous but very excited to be going on this trip. It was an early morning, but I am surprisingly energetic. I am most excited for the people we will meet in Zimbabwe. I can on this trip to make new friends, have experiences and do things for someone other than myself for a change.

Maria – The journey has finally begun although it doesn’t feel real yet. I am looking forward to spending the day in Paris but most of all to landing in Zimbabwe. I do not know what to except but I do know that this experience will be a once in a lifetime opportunity. I am looking forward to getting to know the people, culture and country of Africa!

Georgia – This morning was an early start but the excitement woke us all up. Our upcoming day in Paris is something I’m looking forward to, but more than that landing in Zimbabwe and seeing the vastly different culture and land will be amazing and an unbelievable experience. The reality haven’t truly set in yet but I’m sure as soon as our plane takes off it will become real. I can’t wait to see and experience the exciting new things to come.

Maho – I’m already at the airport waiting for our first flight, but I still can’t believe that it’s happening. I am so excited to see what we’ve been waiting for the last 8 months!
Since it’s my first time going to a developing country I think it’ll be a wake up call for me.

Makenna – I am unbelievably excited for this adventure; however, the fact that we’re going to be in Zimbabwe in 2 days has not yet set in. This trip will be beyond memorable, I can’t think of one thing that I’m most excited for, overall I can’t wait to see how this goes.

Carolina – This is actually starting to feel real, I can’t believe that in a few hours we are going to be on a plane on our way to Paris. The idea of finally arriving in Zimbabwe is enough to wake me up, I feel like I just drank 4 cups of coffee! I came on this trip because I want to give back to the world. I often feel trapped in a world that never changes or progresses, but now I finally feel like I can give back to the world and do something to change it!

Caleb – We are only a sliver of out way into our four-week voyage and I am still not too sure how I feel. I fear the unknown, that is now within arms reach of us as I sit patiently in YVR. But want to overwhelmingly leap for joy when the realization of what I’m about to do kicks in. The doubt still lurks in the back of my mind, but I know all of it will vanish right at arrival. The thousands of unfamiliar faces within the airport put the size of the world into perspective for me. The rectangular patterned steel tunnel guides me, and signifies the start of my trip into the unknown.

Tatum – I am beyond excited to go on this amazing journey. I’ve always wanted to travel somewhere new and make an impact that I know will benefit people’s lives for the better, and I can’t believe that I am getting the opportunity to. I am most looking forward to being immersed in a new culture. I hope that seeing different ways of living will open my eyes to be more grateful for what I have.

Caio – I don’t know where to start, but here I am sitting by gate 55 with half an hour before we board a 9 hour flight to Paris and it still doesn’t feel real. Right now I have a mixture between feeling nervous, excited, hungry and tired. Also, I can’t stop thinking about how the Iceland’s coach is a dentist. However, overall I’m extremely excited to go on this trip as I feel it will be an everlasting life change trip. I’m excited for all the new experiences and opportunities that I’ll gain from this amazing volunteering trip.