Zimbabwe — July 18

And they are off!

It has been the most incredible 3 weeks with this amazing bunch of young people. I am so proud of them and how much they have accomplished! Thank you to all the parents for sharing your children with me and Zimbabwe. We are richer for this experience. Thank you to Jared for being a great role model to our students. He was an incredible support to me and I know our team appreciated everything he did. Have a lovely summer with your wonderful children, I miss them all already.

— Mrs. Conroy

 

Zimbabwe — July 16

Today was our last working day at Antelope Park. Our week has been jam packed with service to others.

We ended off our Saturday with helping finish the fence and officially leaving another trace of Shawnigan here in Africa.

This is called the “Shawnigan Enclosure” it was donated by last year’s EDGE trip. They helped build the enclosure that now houses five lions. With out their donation and hard work this enclosure would not have been possible. Thank you EDGE Zimbabwe team 2015!

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To end off our stay at Antelope Park, what better way than an elephant ride.

We will be saying our goodbyes to our new family and heading back to Bulawayo Sunday.

What memories have been made and what a special bond that has flourished with this incredible team.

— Mrs. Conroy

Zimbabwe — July 15

Today was an emotional one. We visited a drop-in centre for street children and saw where they live and sleep. There was silence in our team as we all just gave a word of thanks for what we have in our lives.

On a more uplifting note, we went shopping for them and learned how to make traditional sadza and stew for them. They get a meal twice a week at this drop in centre and rely solely on donations. We served them lunch and then went to play soccer with them. This is the highlight of the week for these children, as they are allowed to forget their street life and just be children for a few moments.

Our students were given $10 each and had to buy each orphan that they adopted for the day, as much as possible. They bargained for jackets and warm clothes at the local markets and found local goodies at the grocery store. Their bartering  techniques are way above par. As you can see in the pictures you can buy a lot for $10 in Zimbabwe.

— Mrs. Conroy

Zimbabwe — July 14

Today we donated our white boards, school supplies and face paint to the Alert Centre.

This centre is a free service to all grade 6 students to teach them about their environment and surroundings in a practical setting. They do six weeks of theory about animals flora and fauna, then get to interact with the lions and elephants and go into the bush and learn it all first-hand.

This is a huge undertaking for the staff at antelope park who operate out of one classroom block, with very little resources. Their success rate is incredibly high and an achievement in its self.

We raised enough money to donate 18 white boards to enhance their learning, as well as some face paint to have a little fun with. They children had just learnt about tracking animals and their spore markings. So our students took the time to draw their favourite animals spore on their faces. This was a great activity for all involved. We finished the day off by painting their entrance hall to welcome all the children and guests. The saying on the wall we chose is in Shona (the local language), translated means “we welcome you with open arms.” The staff at the Alert centre were very grateful for the donation.

 

E.T

Giving — verb: to give

To give is to receive. By giving not only do you impact another’s life, you gain a emotion and connection that will surely stay with you for the rest of your life. This rewarding action can be provided in a number of ways, whether it be emotional or physical. Also, to give is to understand another’s suffering and react in order to aid and help relieve this person or persons of that suffering. Not only does giving improve the lives of those assisted, it thoroughly enriches the life of the person aiding another. This selfless action is the essence of EDGE Zimbabwe.


Madi C

M – Making others lives better (and in turn our own)
A – Amazement (that comes from experiencing how other people live and finally knowing what true, utter, genuine gratefulness and happiness is)
D – Don’t want to leave (but also I miss my mommy)
I – Impressed (by the commitment of the teachers and volunteers)
S – Sunrise horse round up (being able to ride horses and work with them in Africa)
O – Obvious pride (in our teams accomplishments and the accomplishments of Antelope Park)
N – Non-stop fun (no matter where we go or what we do)


Barbara

B- Breathtaking
A-Antelope park
R- Realizing how lucky we are
B-Beautiful sun sets
A-Appreciation of our quality of life
R-Remembering the kindness of the people
A- Amazing experience


Tobi

From painting an amazing mural on the wall of a preschool to the humbling experience of visiting a disabled school, this trip has exceeded my expectations. Every day we do something different. This place never fails to amaze me. I love the community and energy of the people who live here. They make the work we do seem more like play rather than work.

Over the course of this past week, I have more paint on my body that I will probably ever have in my entire life, given high-fives to about 100 school children, eaten so much delicious food and have gained the experience and realization of how much a country filled with amazing people can completely change my ways of thinking.

I will miss the way the children run after the bus as we drive down the streets, the way women with buckets on their heads and babies on their backs wave with massive grins on their faces and the genuine niceness we receive from the staff of antelope park and the people of Zimbabwe. This trip is difficult to encapsulate in words but is rather an experience that I will keep with me forever.


Ethan

As I gazed out the window of the team mini bus, my eyes lit up like fire when I first saw my first glimpse of the lions in Antelope Park.

I could write many upon many paragraphs on the wildlife, such as the lions, that Antelope Park has to offer. Instead, I’m writing on what this amazing park defines itself as to me as well as the team.

My first impression of Antelope Park was that this is one of the best wildlife and research parks in Africa. Being here for five days now, that impression has not only stayed the same, but has enhanced my opinions even more — whether it be the outstanding food for every meal or playing soccer with the workers and some locals. It is difficult to put this place in one definition because it exceeds many aspects of this journey. Antelope Park is the place you go to experience African wildlife and culture, but because of the happiness and spirit of the people it enhances your journey to so much more.


Avery

A-Africa
V-Victoria falls
E-Enriched culture experience
R-Rare experiences (horse therapy with the disadvantaged children)
Y-Yesterday


Hannah

H – humbling (this entire experience)
A – admirable (the children at the disabled school)
N – non-stop smiles (from us,staff&the children)
N – new experiences (everyday)
A – astonishment (towards our achievements)
H – heart warming welcomes (from antelope park)

S – sad goodbyes (along with see-you-agains)
M – milkshakes (too many)
I – infinite memories (to be kept forever)
T – time elapsed (so quickly)
H – horse therapy (amazing experience)


Maddi J

M – Miracles can happen
A – A single heart that can be the cause.
D – Dreams come a little closer to being a reality.
I – I can become we.
S – So take my hand, and together;
O – On the path to change
N – No one is left behind.EDGE is something that happens when a group of people whom have hearts filled with compassion and courage, heads filled with hope come together to work towards a cause for the aid of their fellow kind. And after experiencing it nothing has ever felt so magical and life changing.

Jess

J- joining hands with the children
E- establishing lifelong connections
S- singing national anthems, Canadian and African
S- seeing the faces of the children as they proudly- and repetitively- beat us at soccer
I- impact made not only by our contributions to the communities, but also by their welcoming open arms and excitement to help and get to know us
C- creativity portrayed by the entire team towards painting classrooms and teaching young students
A- admiration towards everyone we have met here, for their passion and dedication towards everything they do

Anika

A – art (the hours spent bonding and transforming white walls into colorful masterpieces)
N – nemfaro (“with happiness” in Shona, the way I have felt when taking on any new project or experience)
I – involvement (everything from horse therapy to building fences)
K – kindness (what comes from everyone I have met and every smile and wave when driving down the street)
A – attitude (the refreshing positivity, creativity and willingness to always help that comes from the team)

Anastasia

I never want to leave Africa, and more specifically, Zimbabwe. The people here have made me happier than I’ve ever been in my life. Lately, Ive been catching myself thinking about how easy my life is compared to the people here and in other parts of the world, but somehow how so many of us aren’t happy with our lives.
Now, simple things like driving to and from Antelope Park make me smile more than I have before. I am definitely so much happier now than I was before, and I didn’t even realize what I was missing. Every encounter with the locals has been enchanting. We are always greeted with smiles, big waves and warm hugs from the smallest toddlers to oldest seniors. I almost always have a child hanging of my arm or touching my hair wherever I go.
I always thought Canadians were friendly, until I met Zimbabweans. They are so incredibly warm.
The past few days have been filled with service and it has definitely been my favourite part of the trip. We have painted at least four murals at different places, and at least 30 children’s faces — not including our own.
I have struggled a little this week with some of the standards people have to live in. Not because I feel sorry for them, but more so that I have often been ungrateful for small advantages in my life that I have always taken for advantage. If there is anything I have learned from this trip is that family and friendship are far more important than any materialistic things I could ask for.
The other day we spent time with the sweetest kids at a school for special needs. Many of the kids lived at the school, and although they weren’t born with what is viewed as the “ideal”, they were the most heart-warming and kind children I have ever come to know. We have also spent time with kids at their schools, and even very small preschoolers that sang- mostly belted- their prayers and songs before lunch.
I can’t begin to wrap my head around the fact that we are leaving in only a few days, but I am confident that because of this trip I have changed for the better and I hope that I have impacted something or someone in the same way while here. I will always hold Zimbabwe close to my heart and I hope to one day see the country and perhaps volunteer here again.

Thomas

Africa is the second largest continent both in the area and population. Unfortunately it is also the poorest. However, in many ways it is the richest.

It contains more natural resources than other continent but yet is often mismanaged and not operated to its full potential. It is also very rich in its own unique culture. Its music, dances, foods and arts are all very incredible and its people are some of the nicest I have ever met. The various beautiful landscapes and millions of amazing animals that can be found here are the another half of why it is such a beautiful place. In conclusion Africa is a land beauty and a land of development, it faces a wide range of problems but contains the most amazing landscapes, arts, animals and people in the world.


Chandler

There is a certain look people get when they talk about something that they love. This is my favorite interaction to have with people, unadulterated passion. Yet as all teenagers do, we wait desperately to be looked at like this, we hope to be the reason someone is so full of love. This EDGE team came into this trip craving this, and it is safe to say we have all come out both giving this look and having it returned to us.

It makes me incredibly proud to say this about the 16 people I have been living and working with for three weeks. The amount of raw passion that has been exchanged in between us and anyone we have come in contact with has given me a happiness I never knew existed. Yet as I reveled in this communal accomplishment out of nowhere, something ruined it. It sunk in that it has taken me 17 years to figure out love is the most readily available resource we have in this world.

Like a spoiled child who will not accept the best of treasures, I hated that I had not capitalized on the power of love. I have been waiting so long for it to be focused on me I was blind to the fact how much others wanted or needed it. Now with hundreds of memories, thousands of smiles, and a million looks given we are at the end of our trip, and oh so in love. With the kids who gave us their whole hearts and took ours humbly, the animals that wow’ed the thoughts out of our heads, the land that has given us a new home, but most importantly we learned there is a love out there for all of us. Even if it took traveling thousands of miles and years to use love to its full potential, we are the EDGE Zimbabwe team that did it. We are the ones who found out the secret to love is giving it to others first.

 

Zimbabwe — July 13

Today we donated our fence for the game park and spent the morning installing it. We raised enough money to buy a kilometre of fencing to start securing the game park and prevent animals from escaping and prohibiting poaching. It is an intricate balance between saving the animals and educating the locals on ways to preserve their own environment. This is something Antelope Park strives to reach an equilibrium. While we were at work, the four resident elephants decided to join us and give us a spectacular view while we worked.

In the afternoon we were fortunate enough to participate in a new program with the disadvantaged children and horse therapy. Our team was amazing with these children, giving them an afternoon of pure fun as well as a chance to ride and interact with the horses. Our Shawnigan students keep blowing us away more every day. We are privileged to work with such incredible people.

Zimbabwe — July 12

We have never been prouder of a group of young adults like this before. We brightened up a classroom block by donating paint and our artists to make some children have a better brighter experience at school. Our team had three paint brushes, pieces of cloth and a picture we had taken from the trip. How amazing did this turn out. Our students are absolutely  amazing  and we are so proud of them.

In the morning we visited a school for the mentally and physically challenged children. This was a very emotional experience. Our team again amazed the community with their passion and understanding of these children. We then went to a clinic where we assisted in weighing babies, measuring them, helping  with pill dispensary and helping with out patients, checking blood pressure and temperature. What a valuable lesson we all learned how they cope with so little in terms of resources.

— Mrs. Conroy

Zimbabwe — July 11

Anika

It’s hard to put the past couple of days into words. So many amazing things have happened in such a short period of time that I don’t even think I’ve realized what we’ve done.

We were welcomed on Friday to Antelope Park by a culture night attended by volunteers from all over the world. The highlight of the night was the food contest where Jade and I had to chug an indescribable drink that was absolutely disgusting. But really is was nothing compared to others who ate worms and chicken neck.

The following day was jam packed starting at 6 a.m. walking with lions. This was followed by an elephant walk and demonstration, a lion feed and the collection of snares to help in stopping animal poaching.

Sunday was supposed to be a more relaxed day but of course exceeded my expectations as we made taking invasive weeds out of the water so much fun. Today (Monday) started as we went to Mickey Mouse primary school to teach kids about the dangers of kidnapping, followed by going to help kids with disabilities study for their math and English exams and then leading an after school reading club while others coached rugby.

Every night the fun continues as we sit around the camp fire telling stories and playing the state/capital alphabet game. These past few days have been so amazing, from petting lions to being a part of the joy a child feels when getting 10/10 on spelling quiz. I’m sad that the day we leave is coming soon but am so grateful for all that I have experienced so far.


Madi

The first word that comes to mind when trying  to describe the past couple of days at Antelope Park is: wow.

From our lion walk at 6:30 a.m. Saturday and watching the lion feed in the afternoon, to cleaning every stall in the stables it has been an experience of a lifetime. Today in the morning , we traveled to Mickey Mouse Preschool on the outskirts of the city of Gweru where we taught the children about stranger danger and coloured. After this we then visited Mkoba 4 Primary School, to help the children with learning disabilities prepare for their math exam.

In the afternoon Madi C, Chandler and I journeyed back to Mickey Mouse Primary School to begin drawing a mural of giraffes in the savannah on the side of a building without a paint job in order to encourage the children to want to learn in that classroom block.

It has been one of the most rewarding days of my life and the impact it will leave on me, I can’t begin to know. Doing the services we have done and the experiences we have experienced as a group, we have learned so much about each other and grown so much closer as a team. I can’t wait to see how the next week will change us even further and bring us together, and I hope all our new friendships that we’ve made along the way will last forever.


Chandler

It’s burning plastic.

Mrs. Conroy tells me, after I ask, the people of Gweru are burning sage on their farms. How am I still this ignorant approaching the end of our trip? Embarrassed, it occurs to me I could spend decades here and still be this oblivious. I know that sounds like the opposite of what this EDGE trip is about, but you see there is a certain type of knowledge the people of Zimbabwe have that I never will.

As my team teaches disabled kids in the Mankobe Primary School, it is apparent the students are desperate to succeed in their educational careers. We help spell letters, count numbers and hope in our heart of hearts that these kids will pass an exam allowing them into the formal school the following day.

Yet our team, a group of incredibly blessed people are the truly desperate ones. I know all of us, through the amazing moments spent walking with lions, bonding with elephants, getting hugged  in mobs, and having formal educations would give anything to know how to make a warm fire from trash.


Jess

Our first few days in Antelope Park have been beyond incredible.

We have volunteered for numerous activities including preparing lion feeds and working with the local children. After falling asleep to the sound of animals roaring and rumbling through the night, we spent our first day traveling from school to school.

We started at Mickey Mouse School, where we sat with the preschoolers and taught them english words using drawings. Next, we stopped by Mkoba 4 Primary School, where we prepared special needs students for their upcoming english and math exams.

The working space was limited — we ended up using a metal board for a table and small rocks to teach addition and subtraction while sitting on the warm sand outside. Our last stop was Tekunde School to direct a book club. Barbara and I read to a group of approximately 10 students, then acted out the story with the kids. It was inspiring to watch them evolve from shy, quiet students, to great actors and readers. As we drove back by the end of the day, children ran after the bus waving goodbye with their usual bright smiles.


Hannah

From helping fold laundry in Antelope Park to helping the special needs kids at Mkoba primary school with math and English the beginning of our volunteer work has already been unforgettable and has made us all very excited to see what more there is to come.

The way the kids light up when they see us has had a constant indescribable  affect on all of us, so much so that it is easy to forget that it is volunteer work that we are doing amidst all the fun being had. Thus far there has not been a dull moment at Antelope Park, what we have experienced is unimaginable such as being face to face with elephants, walking lion cubs and much more however the volunteer work has not for a minute taken second place to these outstanding opportunities.

The kids we have worked with have been outstanding, I would have never imagined that volunteer work could be so enjoyable whilst rewarding.

It is astonishing to see what Mr. Connolly, the owner and founder of Antelope Park, and all the members of Antelope park have achieved. It is safe to say that they have truly made a difference and have an enormous amount to be proud and I could not feel more honoured to be a part of the work they do.  One of my highlights have been driving through the outskirts of Gweru, where the various schools are located, it is amazingly refreshing to see how happy these people are with so little. They can and have truly taught us a lot and I feel extremely privileged to learn from them and this entire experience.


Tobi

This trip just keeps getting better and better.

We were treated ever so kindly by the staff on arrival to Antelope Park. While watching a variety of the presentations set in place for us to understand more about the park, one thing that stuck with me was a quote the founder of the park said. I can’t quite remember what it was word for word, but it was along the lines of “you can not save or help wildlife around you if you don’t help the people living in the area as well,” and he has done an amazing job integrating that portion into his goal.

Since arriving, we have been able to work with both animals and the community and all the work we have done so far has been amazing. When doing the work, I never realize how much I actually do but when Mrs. Conroy praises us for all the work we have done so far, I am filled with elation as I feel as though I have done something worthwhile. I am so excited for the work we will be doing in the near future, and looking forward to much more life changing events!


Avery

Antelope Park has been a blur of amazing things so far. Starting off our first full day with walking with 7-month-old lions was a frightening and unforgettable experience. But today has been one of the best days so far, going to the Mickey Mouse school and starting off the day with teaching 4 year olds different shapes and watching them try and say the word “octagon” was very cute.

Then we visited Mkoba 4 primary school, where we taught and helped out kids with learning disabilities study for their English and math exams. Finally to top off a fantastic day, we went to Takunda and we coached a bunch of kids how to play rugby. Even though they did not grasp the rules of rugby we still had a stellar time playing n-ball with them. My favourite part of today was when three girls approached me during the rugby practice with eager smiles and asked if girls could play rugby. After giving them a brief description of how to play, they threw themselves in the mix of all boys and immediately stood out amongst the others.

To all my family members reading this, I am alive and have not been eaten by a lion yet.


Barbara

Since arriving in Antelope Park I have been amazed by the kindness and generosity of the people, as well as  all of the animals and the beauty of the park it self. So far we have been fortunate enough to experience many of the wonders the park has to offer such as walking with lions and elephants. We even had the chance to help out around the park doing laundry, some housekeeping, and pulling lake weed from the river so that the employees who worked those jobs could go home early and enjoy a day off.

Today we went out into the community to work with the kids in several schools. We told them stories and read them books, and taught the younger ones games such as Simon says. We then helped some of the older special needs students study for their upcoming English exam.

In the afternoon we participated in the schools book club and read to smaller groups of students with similar reading abilities. It has been awesome! Each and every one of the children are the friendliest, and most happy people I have ever met. Helping them in any way possible, even if it does not seem like much, brightens up my day and puts a smile on my face.

I am very excited for the rest of the upcoming week working with these kids, in the community health clinic and at the park with all of the animals. We are all having a blast and are not ready, especially me, for this to be our last week.


E.T.

Although we haven’t even hit the halfway mark in our time at Antelope Park, the memories we have experienced will surely last a lifetime.

From lions to elephants, we have been immersed in the African safari. By the end of day one in Antelope Park, I was covered in a scent composed of lion spit, elephant drool and cow blood, which turned out to be a weirdly rewarding experience.

And of course the main reason we are in Africa, the children. Out of the three different schools we visited, my favourite activity was being able to help coach the kids in an after school rugby practice. To be able to share my knowledge and love for the sport was a truly satisfying event. I look forward to many more memorable experiences in the remaining days of our EDGE trip.


Madi C.

Since arriving at Antelope Park, everything has been simply unimaginable. From walking with young lions,to feeding fully grown lions, playing with elephants and ending every night by the bonfire, the fun side of things here are crazy and things people tend to check off their “bucket list.”

The community side of things is also outstanding as not only is everyone friendly and genuinely kind, but people here truly do want to make a difference and are incredibly selfless — so much so that you can just tell in the atmosphere as soon as driving through the front gates to antelope park. We are located on the outskirts of Gweru, and of only one day of going to the schools the volunteers at Antelope Park help out at I am already moved and anticipating the week ahead. The city of Gweru is pretty big, incredibly foreign and somewhere that would take a lot of work to live in. But the people are happy, grateful, genuine, kind and seem to be always smiling whenever we are around. I am loving the work here and get to incorporate my love of painting into it too which makes it even more fun.

I am so excited for the remaining week ahead and already am planning on coming back here.


Ethan

is quite difficult to express the joy and excitement that comes with being at Antelope Park. From riding elephants to cleaning out weeds from their dam, every moment has been one to remember.  Working with the kids of Micky Mouse pre school and teaching rugby to the kids of Takunda Primary school was special. Especially to see the happiness along with the competitiveness of the kids through their impressive athletic ability by teaching a new game. Of course I still have yet to find a suitable word to portray the experiences of  walking with lions and feeding them. Even though one tried to attack us. Interacting and being so close to lions is a very special experience. To me it is not about the pictures and videos you can get, but absorbing the unforgettable experiences.  As I reflect on the amazing opportunity here so far, I am thrilled to look forward to the next ones. I am sure they will be as memorable as the last.

To my family, I wrote a poem:

Roses are red, violets are blue
I was almost trampled by elephants and their poo, too


Anastasia

We’ve been at Antelope Park for three days. On the weekend we had a great time interacting with lions and elephants face-to-face, but today we got to work.

We met and interacted with many school children of different ages throughout the whole day. They climbed all over me, pulling my hair, squishing my cheeks and giving me hugs. We got to teach them different school lessons, read them books and be made fun of for our attempts at trying to speak Shauna.

Overall, today was extremely rewarding and heart-warming. Even while driving down the street, almost every person we passed smiled and waved. I am very excited for the next few days to come and to continue working with the people of Zimbabwe.


Jade

Since our arrival at Antelope Park, we have had nothing but good days. From our warm welcomes, to early morning lion walks, to ordering Oreo milkshakes after lunches, everything has been amazing.

On Sunday afternoon — the coldest day by far — we were given the difficult task of clearing out the invasive weeds from the water underneath a bridge. We were freezing, wet and tired, and had barely made a dent in the weeds after two hours of hard work, yet it may have been the most fun I’ve had all trip.

Whether I was holding onto Mrs. Conroy as she leaned over the bridge, pulling the soaking weeds out of the water, or chucking the slimy plants at Tobi’s face, we were always laughing and were united as a team.

After thawing out our cold bodies by the fire or struggling to get hot water, we had another amazing dinner and campfire under the stars before an early night to bed to rest up forMonday where we would be visiting kids at local schools.

As usual, the kids were incredible and their pure happiness was contagious. However, one of my favorite parts of visiting them is the truck rides to the various schools. We could not go more than five seconds without people on the street shouting “Hello!” to us and waving with beaming smiles across their faces. It seems no matter where we are in this country, everyone is friendly and excited to see us.

I am so excited for all the other incredible things we will be doing in the days to come, but at the same time I want time to slow down so we don’t have to leave this amazing place.


Thomas

Although we have only been at antelope park for three days now, the incredible memories we have made will last us a life time. Everything from riding elephants to watching the lions at feeding time has been an unforgettable experience, but perhaps the most amazing thing we’ve done is volunteer at Mickey Mouse ECD School. Mickey Mouse is  a small but brightly coloured early child development school filled with dozens of smiling friendly kids. They were eager to learn about everything from shapes and addition to what the weather is like in Canada.

At the end of the day I was sad to say goodbye but happy knowing that we were coming back the next day. Everything we’ve done in Zimbabwe has been an incredible experience and I look forward to the remaining week ahead of us.

 

Zimbabwe — July 10

Arriving at Antelope Park in Gweru was a very special day for our group.

It started off with an early morning walk with the lions, followed by an elephant interaction lesson and to top it all off we helped prepare the lion feed for the day and got to experience a simulated hunt in captivity. Antelope Park prides itself on the conservation of animals in conjunction with promoting education to the surrounding communities

We learned how to do a snare sweep in the bush. Poaching is a big problem in the surrounding area and we did a boundary patrol to try and learn what to look out for and to try and take them down in the park.

We are lucky to be involved in both sides of the coin. Tomorrow we go into a rural school and teach children with disabilities how to read and write. We will have an updated blog from each student to recount their first few days here.

 

 

Zimbabwe — Team update

Tobi

It is hard to believe that we have already been here for just over a week. The short time that I have been here has already made such an extraordinary impact on not just myself, but for everyone on this trip. I can confidently say that this experience has changed me for the better. I find myself, constantly reflecting on my life now that I have seen how others live.

Although I am originally from Africa and have seen poverty at the level that we are seeing now, I have only ever driven past it. Here, I have been able to interact with the people and appreciated and loved every moment of it.

When we visited Mankobole school in Milabizi, I was expecting the children to feel sorry for themselves, but it was not the case at all. We hadn’t even reached the school yet and we could already hear their gorgeous voices singing, welcoming us with open arms. They were filled with so much energy it forced us to stop feeling sorry for them. The children there deserve so much more than they have, but never complain about anything. It is so difficult to put myself in their shoes, just because I have been extremely privileged growing up, but since being exposed to the raw nature and culture of their lifestyle, it has allowed me to humble myself and think of the things I normally take for granted.

One highlight that I have experienced so far was the 10 km walk from our hotel to the school. This activity was set in place so we could experience what it was like for many of the kids that had to walk to school and back each day. It allowed me to put into perspective how much I complain about unnecessary things and has made me determined to change my attitude.

I have thoroughly enjoyed each day spent here and look forward to more of the work coming up in the near future. Knowing that I have in some way impacted the lives of the children in the school make my stomach turn with excitement and although they see us as their inspiration and heros, I know that I will never forget how much of an impact they have had and will continue to have on my life.


Anna

Every single moment here in Zimbabwe has been full of powerful, raw, emotion. Although our purpose on this journey is to serve others, I have received more than I could have ever asked. I have been both humbled and amazed by the people here and how dedicated they are to their families and jobs. Not only are the people great, but Africa is more beautiful than I ever thought it would be. Everywhere we have gone we have been treated to the most amazing sunsets, starry skies, breathtaking wildlife and scenery.

In Mlibizi, we spent our days with the children at their school, and the evenings on the beautiful Zambezi river bordering Zambia. We saw crocodiles and hippos and would stay out until the sunset.

As for the children, it is impossible to describe the impact they had on me. I have never been given so much love in my life. Despite their long treks to school without any food, their broken shoes and the poverty many if not all of them lived in, positivity radiated off of their small bodies. Even though most of them could speak very good English, they were mostly too shy to and would communicate with us through a mixture of giggles, songs and hand gestures. Those kids will always hold a special place within my heart.

For the past few days we have been lucky enough to take a bit of a break and have some  fun. We went to one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls, and were in awe of its raw beauty.

Now, we are in Ganda at a wildlife reserve. Everyone is relaxing around the pool watching elephants and zebra wander by as we prepare for the next 10 days in Antelope Park. I am excited for the rest of the trip and I feel very blessed to not only be here, but to have experienced all the privileges I have in my life. By the end of the trip, I hope I can say I have changed for the better and that the work I have done has changed even a single life in some way.


Hannah

It is surreal to comprehend that within a mere week in Africa we have already seen and experienced so much.

Immediately upon arrival we were warmly welcomed in Bulawayo by the Tzircalle family and shown around the beautiful city. We spent the first day visiting a wildlife orphanage and seeing Bulawayo before traveling nine hours to get to Milibizi. I think it is safe to say that this is were, for many of us, the EDGE experience began and it has exceeded any expectations.

We began our first day at 8 a.m. where we walked for 10km to get to the local school where we would begin our volunteer work. Although the walk, to us, seemed never-ending this is the reality of what the students do every day. Once arrived at the school we were greeted by the 375 children singing, as they had been for hours waiting for us to arrive.

We set up desks and chairs and improved the learning conditions in their classrooms. In comparison to the life we know, these kids had little to nothing, but they were the happiest children I have been fortunate enough to meet. If anything, they showed and taught me more than I could ever put into words.

We ended a long day watching the sun set on the Zambezi river surrounded by crocodiles and hippos. After returning to the school the next day and continuing our work, we bid a sad farewell to the children and teachers and head to Victoria Falls.

Seeing the falls was a magnificent experience that I feel extremely fortunate to have seen. After travelling for three hours we have now arrived in Ganda Lodge where we are surrounded by beautiful wildlife right outside our chalets. So far the experience has been surreal and exceeded all my expectations. I feel extremely fortunate to be here and am excited to see what more there is to come.


Madi C

From the warm welcome of the African sun to the equally warm welcome of the Tzircalle and Versvalt families of Bulawayo, our team has experienced nothing but kindness and the generosity of others while on this trip.

Our drivers, Norman and Malcolm, helped us out of the stickiest of situations. Mrs. Conroy’s mom, Lulu, has been by our side this entire time cooking 5-star restaurant-worthy meals. She helped us with the hard labour of volunteering and the even tougher work of helping me decide whether to get a banana or coffee milkshake.

I have nothing but gratitude to all the people listed above and to Mrs. Conroy and Mr. Riseborough for everything they have done so far. It has only been a little over a week and this team has formed into more of a family than a group, with everyone showing more unique talents and quirks every day. It feels as though it has been a month since we have been in Zimbabwe and although only having two days of service so far, they were some of the hardest, best, days of the week.

We put together donated desks, decorated and cleaned classrooms, planted trees, learned how to make Milipulp, and walked 10 km to the school both days so that we could try to understand what a real day for these kids is. Keep in mind that these children walk 10 km there and 10 km back in barefeet, on the scorching, rocky cement roads, with backpacks, from Monday to Friday — they are the happiest kids I have met in my entire life.

What really gets me is that the teachers and students both have little to nothing when it comes to material things, but yet managed to give all 14 of us a handmade woven bowl to show gratitude for work that we came to do. They wanted nothing in return except for the satisfaction of helping others.

The minor cuts, bruises, blisters, paint stained hands and sore muscles from those two days at Makiboble Primary School in Mlibizi were worn proud and were not complained about as this was a sign we worked hard. We made genuine friends, learned things, taught things, played a very intense game of soccer in which we tied with the girls’ team and got demolished by the boys team, and I can proudly say I learned (somewhat) how to balance a bucket of water on my head and carry it from the well to the garden without spilling all of it all over myself.

We made not only a legacy in those two days, but a difference, and leaving my new best friend Felistaz along with all the other children to move on to greater adventures was anything but easy. The fun of sunset cruises on the Zambezi River after a hard day of work in Mlibizi, seeing all of the animals at the Chipingala Wildlife Orphanage in Bulawayo, going over the Gorge at Victoria falls thinking “I’m going to die,” learning how amazing custard tastes on everything, bartering and trading at markets, going to awesome traditional restaurants, staying at the Ganda Lodge and going on a safari has made us all happy, energetic, a little darker than when we first stepped off the plane and all in all feel like a true team.

I know now that we are ready to move on to Antelope Park for the remaining 10  days and get to work because everyone on the team hasn’t just said they want to make a difference, but have proved it either in the two days working at the school or the generosity of telling someone to “keep the change.”


Madi J

Before visiting Makiboble Primary School in Mlibibzi, I don’t think I truly understood what pure, unpolluted happiness looks like.

The children that we met there have nothing, and yet are happier than I have ever seen anyone in North America. Since landing in Bulawayo, I have seen and experienced things I never could have dreamed of before. From volunteering with the children in Mlibizi, to flying across the gorge in Victoria Falls, this journey has already changed me in ways that I don’t even know myself.

I have made so many new friends and learned so much about the people travelling on this trip to change lives. By meeting the children and doing the things we’ve done I am already a happier person and I can’t believe how lucky I am to have to have this chance to make the world a better place.


Thomas

These last eight days we’ve spent in Zimbabwe have been among the most amazing and eye-opening days of our lives.

We’ve been able to experience everything from zip-lining across Victoria Falls, to walking threw the street markets, to dancing to traditional Zimbabwean music at an authentic restaurant. However, perhaps the most incredible thing we’ve done in Africa is volunteer at Makiboble Primary School.

Makiboble is a rural and undersupplied school located in the highlands near Mlibizi. I will never forget the kindness of the students we meet there and the soccer game we played against them (and miserably lost). Everything new thing we’ve tried in Zimbabwe has been an exciting experience and I feel extremely fortunate to be able top experience this once in a life time opportunity.


ET

It is difficult to put into words the emotions experienced thus far on our EDGE trip.

Highlights have included zip lining and swinging through a gorge in Victoria Falls, watching the setting sun by hippos and crocodiles on the Zambezi, and most important the children.

My goals on this journey were to provide a valuable service to those in need and challenge myself. When I first set out to complete this with the children of Mlibizi, I found I may have a hard time finding something that I would find mentally difficult. I thought that maybe the 10 km walk to the school would provide some difficulty, but I realized while walking that if these kids did this everyday in their bare feet, I would be fine doing it this one time in my comfortable Nike runners.

The actual service was a breeze because I knew that I was helping someone and leaving a lasting impression on these kids. I hope to find several more ways to help impact the country of Zimbabwe and continue Shawnigan’s legacy in Africa.


Anika

Coming on EDGE Zimbabwe I knew would be life changing, but it wasn’t till I stepped of the plane with my amazing team by my side that I realized just how powerful it would be.

Already this trip has exceeded my expectations, having a huge emotional impact on me. Our first moments of service approached as we walked 10km to a local elementary school in Milibeze. For us Shawnigan students, walking from our houses back at school to the science building seemed like a long trek —having to walk 10km in the scorching heat was a real eye opener.

We were welcomed at the school by all the children singing and jumping joyfully for us. It was impossible to not smile due to the overwhelming warm spirit coming from each child. Soon after being introduced we were able to interact with the kids. I was overwhelmed by the amzing personalities and kindness from each child and also how much they loved my hair and holding my hands. We were told that just our presence meant so much to the kids but it wasn’t until one girl asked me to say hi to specific people who came on the trip last year that I really realized the impact we have and how it will stay with them forever. Our adventures continued as we went to Victoria fall and crazily jumped off of 150m cliffs, went bargaining at local markets and continue to see countless numbers of astonishing wild life.

So far this trip has been unexplainably amazing, and I am so excited for what will come next.


Ethan

It has only been a week and a bit since we endeavored from Shawnigan at 3:15 a.m. but I have learned and absorbed so much since then. I really do not have one favorite part or experience so far on the trip. They have all been equally amazing to be a part of.

The indescribable adrenaline that Victoria Falls gorge swing offers or the immense spirit we saw in the children of Mlibizi. Even getting our butts kicked by the kids in games of soccer was fun. While meeting some interesting characters along the way like a stray cat who followed us around everywhere or our boat drivers who can spot any animal at anytime of the day.  They were all extremely fun and educational.

Since we arrived in Hwange national park, the sights and sounds have not ceased to amaze me. If it is the 150 elephants that we gazed at as we entered our resort or even admiring the humble warthogs indulge themselves in some pristine mud. I can not stress enough how enjoyable and educational this trip has been so far. I can easily say that this has been some of the best few days of my life so far and many amazing experiences are yet to come. I am very excited to take my experiences in Zimbabwe wherever I go and leave a part of me in Zimbabwe.


Barbara

From all of the amazing stories about EDGE Zimbabwe that I heard over the course of this year from last year’s team, I was super excited when we finally began our work in Africa.

Arriving in Milibizi after a six-hour bus ride we were told the plan for the next two days, which would be working with all 175 children at the Mankobole primary school.

When we arrived to the school the next day, we were greeted with the most amazing reception by all of the children singing songs and high-fiving us as we walked arrived. Helping them build desks for their new classroom block, plant trees and play with the children was truly life-changing. It really put into perspective how lucky we are to have all of our basic necessities.

Even though these children have next to nothing they were all the most positive, happy, and energetic people any of the members of our team have ever met. After saying our goodbyes we left Milibizi and began our few days of sightseeing around Zimbabwe before we begin our next days of work at Antelope Park.

At Victoria Falls we did many extreme activities as well as see the stunning beauty of the falls them selves. We have also had a few delicious meals of traditional African dishes and learned how to barter for the best deals in the markets. As short as this trip has been thus far it has been the most eye-opening, and life-changing experience I have ever had, and I know I will never forget the memories I will make here and they will stay with me forever.


Jade

When signing up for this trip, I knew it would be life-changing, but I could not have imagined the extent of the impact it would have on me in such a short amount of time. Touring the country with a local has given us a much more raw and true experience of Zimbabwe, but has also made it much more emotional.

The morning after arriving in Milibizi, we walked 10 km to the local elementary school, which is a walk many of the kids do twice a day. For less than 100 meters, Mrs. Conroy had us walk down the road in bare feet just as most of the kids do for the entire walk. My feet were burning long after I put my shoes back on which was an extremely humbling experience considering the students do so everyday without a single complaint. When we got to the school, I could not have prepared myself for what we were about to experience. Hundreds of kids lined up singing and jumping with excitement of our arrival, which commenced the best two days of my life.

You could not walk 20 steps without several children clinging onto your hands and laughing alongside you. They were helpful, full of life, polite, spirited and most of all, happy. Their infectious joy has had a lasting affect on the entire group in our days since Mlibizi. Through our amazing adventures of visiting Victoria Falls, bartering at local markets, seeing countless wildlife here in Hwange and more, I have been unable to stop thinking about the children that we helped for a single moment, and I truly believe that is something that will stay with me for the rest of my life.


Avery

So far this trip has been incredible, the team and I still very fortunately have two more weeks in the beautiful  Zimbabwe. From trying my first milk tart to being randomly handed a baby has been truly unforgettable. The children of Mlibizi will always have a special place in my heart where I will always remember the fun but short times we spent together, being surrounded by ecstatic smiles is one of the most amazing feelings in the world. I could not have imagined a better team to help the amazing country of Zimbabwe, also being lead by Mrs. Conroy and Mr. Riseborough has made the trip even better. Zimbabwe has proven to me that you don’t need an ACL to have fun.


Chandler

I have been told, “cynicism will destroy your life, but never others.”

A Shawnigan teacher said this to my class, and the fact it crossed my mind on a daily basis haunted me. Am I a cynic? For what reason do I doubt others, what do they have to hurt me?

Now abroad, Zimbabwe has afforded me the perspective to understand why I thought so hard on this quote. I needed to learn what could build others’ lives as you built yours, while differentiating friend from threat. By giving yourself so fully to the service of others, something miraculous happens. A certain magic I found as the kids of the Mankobole School sung to our team. I had such an emotional reaction, which at the time I could not understand why. Now in retrospect, the community invested so much into our visit from our welcome, to thank you gifts, also including the sacrifice of their food reserves to demonstrate traditional cooking preparation (which I ended up spilling most of).

The school was so ready to give to us in lieu of our visit being about them. Simply the sense of self did not exist in these school children, and I found it only fair that I take part and do the same. Having done so my world has been so embraced from those around me. Opening me to new relationships and experiences I would have never felt otherwise.

I owe a large portion of this discovery to the inherent kindness of my team, Mrs. Conroy, Mr. Riseburough, and Mrs. Tzchicale. As their dedication to this trip has allowed me to trust them so fully, something that does not happen with me very often. Yet as their watchful eyes keep us in safe harbor, learning their dynamics as they tackle challenges prompted the second part of my discovery. How to analyze situations keeping yourself safe even when your mindset is set on service for others. Its comes with figuring out the situation and not going to lie a lot of “gut feelings.” Yet again I found their success in leading us, did not come from internal satisfaction.

When road blocks would stop us, what did Mrs. Conroy do, offer a muffin to the officers and bystanders surrounding. Instead of becoming tense in sketchy situations, cynicism was thrown out the window. Literally, as outstretched arms from the car would put a pastry in peoples’ hands. With so many amazing moments gifted to me in the time I have spent in country, I am proud to say I have learned how to build others lives while building my own.


Jess

Every moment of this trip has been filled with excitement and unforgettable moments.

One of the most memorable experiences, amongst many, is our visit to Mlibizi. This is where we volunteered at Mankobole School. Our day began early with a 10km walk to the school, which is half of what the students have to endure every day to make it to class. We were greeted by the children’s lovely voices, as they sang “we learn/sing together, we are a family.” We spent two days in their company assembling desks, painting blackboards, decorating classrooms and planting fruit trees.

Although there was an obvious language barrier, the students did not hesitate to come up and talk to us. They played with my hair and taught me various dancing and clapping songs. Wherever we went, the kids would cling onto our hands, laughing and smiling. It is hard to believe that these children have little to nothing, yet they were the happiest, most outgoing students I have ever met.

I connected especially with one little girl that I met on the first day as she watched me cleaning windows. I grabbed a stool and invited her to come help me. She wore a little red dress and was too young to know any English. She sat on my lap while the older kids taught me a few words from their own language.

When it was time for us to move on to our next destination, she was the hardest goodbye. Although we had only been with the kids for two days, we already had such a profound connection, and it was extremely hard to leave them. They all waved as the bus left, saying “goodbye my friends!” We all felt so proud of our work at the school, and I look forward to seeing the community prosper over the next few years of EDGE contribution.

Our following stop was at Victoria Falls, where we signed up for different activities such as zip-lining, croc diving, etc. To my mother’s horror, I signed up for the gorge swing. I did a handstand at the edge of a wooden ledge opening up to a 150m gorge, pushing off facedown to what seemed like a never-ending free-fall over the rushing water. There are no words to describe the exhilarating feeling which overtook my mind as I looked up to the immense walls of the gorge surrounding me.

The last few days have been spent in Hwange, where we took some time to relax and reflect upon the past week’s experiences. We sat by the fire telling stories and making smores in the unimaginable company of a herd of approximately 150 elephants, a few zebras, baboons, kudus, etc. So far this trip has been more incredible than I could ever have imagined, and I look forward to sharing endless adevntures and memories with the other members of the team, including our amazing Chef Lulu, Mrs. Conroy’s mother.

Zimbabwe — July 3 & 4

The last few days have been a rollercoaster. From going from staying at Mrs. Conroy’s in Bulewayo, to extreme poverty in Mlibizi, and now having seen Victoria Falls, it’s easy to say we are all fully invested in Africa. In Mlibizi we walked 10km every day to the children’s school, and it definitely made us not only see the way others live but actively be a part of it. On the second day, I along with Thomas actually walked to school with four of the local kids almost the entire way. The last few days have been truly heart-warming. It is impossible to encapsulate the emotion we all felt with the 375.

I asked each of my team members to describe the last few days with a single word. Along with that, Chandler wrote a few paragraphs about her own experience the past few days and it is beautifully illustrated below.

Avery: Love

Thomas: Realization

Ethan.: Promising

Hannah: Enlightening

Jade. Connected

Anika: Blessed

Jess: Unimaginable

Tobi: Reflective

Madi: Together

Madi: Legacy

Anastasia: heartwarming

Chandler: Us

Barbara: Amazing

Mrs. Conroy: Proud

Mr. R: Humbling

Lulu (Mrs. Conroy’s mom!): Lucky

 

Chandler’s piece:

Of all the things the Mlibizi School needed or could have wanted, all they asked for during our visit, was us. Above the help our EDGE team could offer, they embraced 16 crazy humans ready to become a family. In a matter of seconds our presence would become their whole world and in return, their love would change our world completely.

After walking the last of our 1ok trek to The Mankobole School without shoes, it was sure to say we were on the outskirts of our comfort zones. Although most people would not like what we experienced during the walk; we all learned our group are not those people. We were excited beyond measure, to see what else would prompt different emotions and scenarios, welcoming the challenge full heartedly.

Even with the occasion being so focused on our arrival, our attention towards the school kids never faltered. Introductions were made of hundreds of high fives, some happy tears (not going to lie), all while asking for their names they so adamantly practiced to pronounce in English. Once we had finally seen the faces we had been waiting a year to meet, it was second nature to forget about ourselves and do anything in service to this school. The team became handymen as desks were built and trees were planted. We transformed into teachers defining terms like agriculture and singing the ABC’s. All of us became parents as we held onto children and explained how girls are strong and boys are gentle. We were seen as wise elders chanting, “school is important, and education leads to the happiest of lives”. Relationships like no other were made, when groups of small hands pulled us into friendship. Above all the Team became true humanitarians, completing every job needed to make the dreams of this community a reality. A reality our EDGE Team is so blessed to call everyday life.

— Anastasia G.

Mankobole School

Victoria Falls