Sixth Form students and staff members have given up part of their summer holiday to visit an orphanage and an international school in Moshi, Tanzania. The programme has been running for eight years and provides community service to a local school and the Upendo Orphanage. Below is a series of diary entries from expedition leader and Head of Science, Jim Scott.
Friday 7th July
We started on our community project witch is to paint eight classrooms and construct 100 desks in a local school which is about half an hour from the International School. The school is one we worked in for a day last year digging a drainage ditch and the foundation for a toilet block and so it was pleasing this morning to find that the ditch is still intact and the toilet block fully constructed and in use. We really do make a difference in improving the school environment for the children and teachers.
Our students split into two groups with a student team leader to organise the work, one team painting the walls with rollers and the other the windows with brushes. A lot of paint ended up on the floor, but by the end of the day we had made good progress with everyone working hard and enjoying the task. The school was quiet as it is a public holiday, but in the morning break there was a chance to meet some of the school children and they were also around during the painting.
We travelled to work on the back of a lorry which was fun with everyone well shaken as we crossed the numerous speed bumps. By mid-afternoon we had returned to the International School and the students were able to relax and use the pool. The food is excellent and everyone is relaxed with new friendships being made and everyone comfortable in the group.
Monday 10th July
Today we completed our community service and it was a rewarding experience for all of us. We left the School looking much more inviting than it did when we arrived. The six classrooms are freshly painted inside and out in a fresh cream colour with red for the windows and trim along the base of the walls. 100 desks have also been constructed and are ready for use. The Sidcot students have worked hard and supported each other well. They have enjoyed interacting with the local children during breaks from work – the boys playing football with up to 50 a side and the girls playing games and dancing to music. We finished today with the school children dancing and singing for us and the Headmaster made a speech and presented us with a certificate of thanks.
Back at the International School we have been relaxing and packing for our three day trek which starts tomorrow. Everyone is healthy and hopefully this will continue to be the case. The boarding house is comfortable and the food is excellent. Yesterday evening we had 'culture night' which was entertainment by local dancers and acrobats with some audience participation which the students enjoyed.
Thursday 13th July
We are safely back in the International School having completed our three-day trek in the South Pare Mountains. It was tough, but not too tough for the students. They also enjoyed the challenging 30-kilometre walk which passed through stunning scenery with villages along the way to add interest and give an insight into local life. The first day was mostly uphill and a sharp initiation for those who had not carried a rucksack before. Up we went through small farms and then woodland before coming over a ridge and spotting our tents below already pitched for us beside a beautiful lake. We descended for snacks and a well earned rest. The sun sets early as we are near the Equator and so some keen students were able to climb up to see it. The evening then passed very pleasantly with supper prepared by our cooks, followed by games of cards under a starry African sky.
The second day was a long one and the students all showed determination in completing the 16 kilometres, which took us over the hills to our next campsite in the grounds of a local school where we were introduced to the 450 pupils. I, however, was treated to a tour of their chemistry laboratory which considering the school is in the mountains with only a dirt road was remarkably well equipped. As on other days we had started early and so finished the walking before it became too hot.
The final day was all downhill, taking us to the Jeeps which brought us back to the International School for welcome showers and wifi.
Tomorrow (Friday) we head off again on our safari. Everyone is enjoying the trip and getting along very well. New friendships are being made and there is much fun and laughter. So far, apart from a couple of sun burnt necks we are all healthy and hopefully this will continue to be the case.
Tanzania Sunday 16th July
We are safely back in the International School after our safari and we have had a great time. The first day we were up early and drove in our landcruisers to Lake Manyara National Park where we spent the afternoon on a game drive with lots to see. The elephants stole the show, adults and young close to our vehicles so many photo opportunities. Then it was off to our accommodation at the Haven Nature safari lodge, real glamping with tents but with proper beds and excellent food.
We were starting to get used to early starts but the next day we were up at 5am for the drive to the Nogorogoro Conservation area where we dropped from the crater rim into an area full of wildlife. Lions were top attraction this time, close to the vehicles relaxing as they finished their breakfast. Hippo, zebra, wildebeest, monkeys, a distant rhino, buffalo, and a few more elephant made it an absorbing day in a superb setting. Back at Haven Nature there was time to relax before a culture evening, dancing with local people around a campfire, the steps were easy and everyone joined the fun.
It is a packed programme and today on the drive back to Moshi we fitted in three excellent activities. First it was a visit to a Masai Bomar where we dressed up for a tour and more dancing which is mainly jumping up and down. Then to Shangar for a tour of a coffee plantation and visit to a fascinating workshop where disabled people make items from recycled glass and aluminium for sale to tourists. Finally the craft market in Arusha to bargain with the stall holders.
So the trip continues to go well, the students are excellent company and appreciative of their surroundings and open to the new experiences. I have been proud of the way they have conducted themselves, polite and friendly with everyone they meet and always dressed appropriately. Tomorrow is tree planting, the visit to the Upendo orphanage and our final meal out in a posh restaurant, so the trip maintains its impetus right up to the end.