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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.