On a few occasions over the past years, we have been fortunate enough to have people with equal measure of skill and passion ask to spend time with us at one or several of our projects, giving generously of their time and imparting skills which meet a specific need of a project at that time. Their experiences deeply impacting and enriching the lives they touch and it is our wish that they are also enriched with stories and memories of their experiences. We had the pleasure of Sheila Hammer joining us for a quick visit to Mambanje in July 2016, little did we know that this would be the beginning of a friendship spanning the USA, Australia and Zimbabwe. Here is what she wrote about her experience.
I was fortunate enough to volunteer at Mambanje Primary School and the surrounding community of Dete and Hwange Main Camp for two weeks. I had briefly visited Mambanje in 2016 and knew I needed to go back. I instantly felt a commonality between myself and the people of this humble community. The children always have a beautiful smile and a giggle to share. The parents want the best opportunities for their children and were very welcoming to me and other visitors to the community.
I was able to read with the middle school children and meet their parents/guardians. I learned what their home life included, the responsibilities they have and how, like any other child around the world, they love to play.
The African Bush Camps Foundation does an amazing job of involving the community leaders, teachers and parents in the decisions that need to made for the people that live there. They implemented the Mobile Cattle Boma Initiative that brings farmers together to fertilise their land, making for better soil while also protecting their cattle at night. This, in turn, protects the lions from being killed since they are no longer attacking the farmer’s cattle. It is programs like this that create harmony for people living in the community to survive, grow and thrive.
Two other groups, sponsored by African Bush Camps Foundation, I spent time in Dete with, were the Thandanani Sewing Group and Vukani jewellery group. Thandani consists of five women who run their own business and continue to learn new traits for their success. They can sew just about anything – skirts, shirts, bags, placemats, etc. The Vukani group consists of both men and women and they create colourful and fun jewellery from recycled magazine pages. They are entrepreneurs who believe in supporting themselves. Both groups were so pleasant to chat with and learn about their life. I really enjoyed my visits with them.
If you have the opportunity to visit this rural area outside of Hwange National Park consider yourself very fortunate. You will learn, smile and make a difference.