Three years of planning, working, fund-raising and selling cakes all paid off for 16 pupils and four staff from Ysgol Gyfun Emlyn when they departed Newcastle Emlyn at the end of the school year for their two week expedition to Zambia with Outlook Expeditions.
They flew south to Johannesburg then changing planes and direction flew back north to Livingstone in Southern Zambia. Here they spent a hectic day acclimatising to the heat and buying supplies before separating into two teams each heading off to their different villages.
The expedition came in two parts, firstly the project, where the teams were to build traditional mud-huts for families affected by the AIDS pandemic. The average life expectancy in Zambia is only 46 years and recent figures suggest that approximately 14% of adults are infected with AIDS. This has meant that many families have been left without one or even both parents. Team One in Mukuni village, just outside Livingstone, were building huts for orphans while Team Two in Mwandi village, about 60 miles from Livingstone, were building a larger house for a one-parent family.
The huts were built from scratch, firstly levelling the floor, then sinking wooden struts & cross pieces to make the frame. Next came the filling of the walls using mud balls, which then had to be smoothed with more mud and finally came the addition of a thatched roof. All of this had to be done by hand, including the mixing of old termite mounds with water to make the mud and the smoothing / plastering. After a week of hard graft huts were donated with a sense of deep pride to their respective families.
Part of the expedition was to live in the village, as a local. This meant, in tents, buying food from the local market and cooking on open fires. Down-time was spent with the local children, playing games & football and helping out in primary schools. Schooling in Zambia comes at a cost, with many families unable to afford to send their children to school. Pupils from Emlyn donated clothes, posters, pens, balls, skipping ropes and money to support the village primary schools.
Both teams came together for the second part of the expedition which was to see more of Africa and its environment, starting with a safari in neighbouring Botswana. Up before dawn, in an open-sided truck, pupils made their way through Chobe National Park on a morning game drive. Highlights included close encounters with Elephants, Buffalo, Giraffe and five lionesses. In the afternoon the safari continued on a boat along the Chobe River, where there were numerous Crocodiles, Hippos, Buffalo and lots of Elephants, one even swimming!
The final stage of the expedition was to return to Livingstone and visit the Victoria Falls, one of the Natural Wonders of the World. The falls, the largest in the world straddles Zambia and Zimbabwe. Both teams enjoyed the awe-inspiring spectacle of the world’s largest waterfall, where around 550 million litres (rising to 750 million during peak months) of water cascade over the lip every minute. Endless photos were taken, both at dawn and at sunset.
On the last day the teams decided to do different activities. Team Two did an extra walking safari, in the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, getting extremely close to Zebra, Giraffe and a mother and calf White Rhino, while Team One did a sun-set cruise, seeing Hippos, Elephants and the sun go down on the mighty Zambezi.
All in all the expedition was a great success. Pupils and staff left with fond memories of Zambia, their country, countryside and the extremely friendly people. Not only that, they had left something behind, a sense of achievement and making difference.