In July of this year along with 21 other students and 3 teachers I flew out to Namibia! For many of the group this had been a long two year wait, consisting of fundraising, collecting resources and preparing to spend two weeks of their lives in Africa. However I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to join the trip with just 10 weeks to go! I couldn’t have been more excited leading up to this adventure and it didn’t disappoint!
Arriving at Oegab! was a humbling experience. As we pulled into the school grounds we were greeted by children shouting, laughing and running excitedly up to the windows. In that moment I think it really hit everyone how important the next week would be for both us and them. Smiling, the children introduced themselves to us. They hugged us and touched our hands and faces; we were the first English people they had ever met. They were so happy yet had so little. Collectively, we agreed to work as hard as we could to improve their lives. Before we began working, we were treated to an assembly in which the head teacher spoke about the build up to our arrival, he told us that the school had been counting down to this day. It was such a lovely feeling that the school had been anticipating our arrival. The children then danced, sang and performed for us, I’ve never seen a group of people put so much effort into something, it was an emotional heart-warming day but it reiterated how important the work we were going to do would be.
The school had previously experienced a fire which meant that the girls’ dorms were destroyed. As a result the girls’ moved into the boys’ dormitory and the boys’ now slept in the dinner hall. So we started by painting the dinner hall so that it was more welcoming and entertaining for the children. By the end of the week the boy’s dorms were decorated with planets, astronauts and stars. They looked amazing! We then moved on to painting the classrooms, with number lines, shapes, alphabets, maps and other educational pictures, to make learning more fun for the children. Meanwhile other members of our team were outside building netball and football pitches for the children to enjoy. This was hard physical work in the African sun but everyone worked together to make sure everything was finished in time. Teamwork was a big part of our trip to Africa and the group got on so well it was like a family! We supported each other and all got stuck in.
On the first Wednesday of our trip we got the pleasure of handing over the 50 mattresses and 100 blankets we had purchased for the children to sleep on. This was a highlight of the trip for me as we got to see just how excited the kids were to have beds to sleep on instead of the cold floor. We formed a line to move the mattresses into the dorms and the children couldn’t wait to join in and help us. Throughout the week we spent a lot of time getting to know the children and playing games with them. They enjoyed plaiting our hair, singing and dancing with us. I think a lot of us really enjoyed getting to spend time with the children, learning about their lives. Whilst we were at the school I met a little girl named McQueen who was 5 years old. McQueen was one of the more fortunate children at the school who lived in the village with her grandmother, brother and two sisters. On one afternoon whilst we were at the school, the children showed us round the village. When we got to McQueen’s house I was shocked, the entire house was smaller than my bedroom. This was when I realised just how fortunate I am to live where I do and be supported by my parents. You realise just how much you have when you see how happy others are with so little. I can honestly say seeing McQueen’s house is something I’ll never forget.
Our donations included stationery, musical instruments and sports equipment. We took netball and football kits over to the school so that the children had their own to wear whilst they played and the head teacher was so thankful for them. He suggested that we played both a football and netball match against the children and teachers from the school. Thankfully Team Friesland managed to win both games and the atmosphere at the school was amazing! Everyone got stuck in and it was great to spend even more time with the children. As the end of our time at Oegab! grew closer I think everyone was dreading the goodbye. On our last day at the school we went to another assembly where the children performed their school anthem. Afterwards we received letters and thank you gifts from the children. We performed “Stand By Me” for the school and then began a very emotional goodbye. As we drove out of the school there was a real sense of achievement along with both happiness and pride. Everyone was so sorry to be leaving and many of us wish to return again in the future!
The hard work of the trip was now at an end and we went on to visit Spitzkoppe that evening. What a beautiful place! This was another highlight of the trip for me as it gave us time to reflect on the past week. We met people at the school who made a real impact on our lives and it emphasized how lucky we all are. Being in Africa made me realise how important the people in your life are and how you should never take anything for granted. To spend a night under the stars with those who had experienced the visit to Oegab! with me was incredible. The next day we travelled for 9 hours to Etosha National Safari Park where we got to see Giraffe, Zebra ,Lions, Rhino, Elephant and many more wild animals. We drove round the park in our giant truck that had become our home away from home .Camping close to the waterhole and spending our evenings watching the animals arrive. We also had time to purchase gifts for people at home and experience the African culture. Before enjoying our last meal together at a restaurant in Windhoek, Namibia’s capital city. It was a lovely end to the two weeks we spent in Africa.
I’d personally like to thank Miss Hodge, Mr Tunstall and Mrs Pitman for allowing us to experience this once in a lifetime opportunity and I hope that other people get to do the same in the future as I had the best two weeks with most amazing people!
To read more about the Friesland Namibia trip, read Joe Futter’s account, pubished on the School’s Worldwide website here: http://www.schoolsworldwide.co.uk/blog/making-a-difference-in-namibia