It was a long, incredible journey to Africa and we all returned inspired. Michael was our photographer and took thousands of images which will be uploaded to a drive and shared once he finishes making his impact video. Here are a few from my computer. =)
Day 1: Upon arrival, we enjoyed a hearty lunch on the Raft, the only floating restuarant in the Chobe region. This was followed by a sunset boat cruise on the Chobe River between Botswana and Namibia where we saw hippos, elephants, kudu, and elan.
Day 2: Early Morning game drive where we saw some of the big 5. Chobe is amazing because the animals are free to roam between the 4 countries of Nambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia, so its always exciting when you end up at the same place at the same time.
Next we made a visit to the Kasane Secondary School to see the kids that made the very first walk to school with us 4 years ago. They moved up to secondary school in January, so we wanted to pay them a visit. The execs did a great job of speaking to the students and motivating them to succeed; and Allison read the book that the Elementary School Ambassadors wrote for them. Joona made a village boys dream come true when she presented him with a laptop her family donated.
We then stocked up on supplies and headed to Pandamatenga where we visited the bread lady, Ma Mishack before arriving at the Eco Lodge in time for dinner, sunset and a special Happy 18th Birthday for Ruben.
Day 3: We held our Environmental Awareness Event with the Wildtrack Safaris Eco Lodge. The Ambassadors had been planning this event for months, coming up with activities for various age groups all the way from preschool to adult. Everyone had a great time and the villagers were very grateful for the sausages and drinks served at the end. Andrea, Alex, and Greta took some time to speak with the women of the village, empowering them to improve their lives.
Day 4: We woke early and made the long walk to school with the children through the bush. In order to truly “Walk a Mile In Their Shoes” we did not eat breakfast or take water for the walk. After the walk, we met with the Tribal Chief Ma Rebecca to request permission to enter the village. Emily started us with a prayer (as per tribal custom) then Ronan and Maria made the request, impressing us all by introducing themselves in Setswana. We then ate breakfast before heading to the village where we installed 100 mosquito nets in memory of Teacher Sharon Holoboff. Making record time, we finished by lunchtime so the kids had a free afternoon for swimming, studying and playing games. After dinner, we baked cupcakes for the Bakers Without Borders Event.
Day 5: Today was about construction! We put up the first building (reception/office) for the school in Pandamatenga and made almost 300 bricks for the new kitchen for the bread lady. We took a break to bring the cupcakes we made to the school and deliver them to students in their classrooms. With the help of the Pandamatenga community, we were able to treat the students and teachers to over 600 cupcakes. We also met with the new Silent Dropout group. These students are at risk of dropping out of school so Ambassadors were happy to reach out to them. We finished the day with a farewell barbecue, tribal dancers, and stick bread.
Day 6: Today we crossed the border into Zimbabwe. We visited the Baobab School where students met Francis, the boy who needed hearing aids and his parents and spent time with the special needs students and the computer class. Eileen, the late Mr. Gathered’s daughter and her mother came as well. Ambassadors have paid for Eileen’s schooling since her father died and she took a bus 10 hours to join us at the school and have lunch with us. Maria, who raised $1000 from her birthday for Eileen’s education was especially happy to meet her. We then stopped at the majestic Victoria Falls Hotel for a group photo and a quick tour of Larry Norton’s Gallery, before hiking Victoria Falls. Dinner that night was at the Boma where students dined on WartHog and impressed everyone with their drumming skills.
Day 7: Today we headed to Zambia where we toured the YCTC facilities before heading to the school in Kamatanda. After a moving ceremony with distinguished guests including the tribal chief, head man, councilmen, students, and parents, we dedicated the new library which is in the final stages of construction. The festivities included slam poetry, songs and speeches. Zara, Allison, Emily, Jessica, and Maddie each sponsored a child to go to secondary school and when they presented the money, the mothers danced for us and hit their knees in thanks. We met Baby Francy for the first time and gave out the Dress a Girl Around the World dresses. We had a late lunch at Olga’s Kitchen, part of YCTC, then headed to the African Market for shopping at Souvenirs. Dinner was at Cafe Zambezi where we celebrated Jack’s 16th birthday.
Day 8: We drove to the border after breakfast, then took speed boats across the river to Botswana. After a visit to a local orphanage, we ate lunch, then headed to the airport for our long journey home.