Having joined the African Bush Camps Team this year, I have been looking so forward to getting out to the projects and meeting all the people that we are connected with in Hwange Main Camp, Dete and Mambanje communities. I went for my first site visit this week and it was a great experience.
On a fresh winters morning we set out to visit the African Bush Camps Foundation Projects in Dete and Mambanje, in the Eastern part Zimbabwe, adjacent to Hwange National Park. The skies were blue and the crisp weather made for pleasant traveling from Bulawayo, some 300km away. On arrival in Dete we were graciously offered a quick cup of coffee by Simon, the manager at Miombo Safari Lodge before we carried on our way to Mambanje Primary School which is quite a way off the beaten track. It is a remote Primary School that boarders the Hwange National Park and the community are mainly subsistence farmers. The African Bush Camps Foundation is currently finding sponsors for all of the 79 orphan and vulnerable children at Mambanje Primary. The families of these children fail to raise the school fees for these children, which make up 75% of the school population due to the level of poverty that they live in.
As we drove up you could see the young faces pop in and out of windows, excited to see a visitor approaching. Even though the children walk many kilometers to get to school, they may go for a number of days without food due to lack of income for the families, and one or more of their parents may have passed on… a wonderful smile is never too far away.
We had a very positive meeting with the school’s teaching body and the Village Development Committee. In our constant drive to create accountability in the communities we partner with, teams are assigned to take on responsibility for the various projects and we encourage them to come up with solutions from within these bodies. One of the pressing issues is the need for Solar Power for the borehole, at the moment there is a hand pump which is difficult to use, especially for the children and once the water table drops in the dry season, the children and community revert to digging holes in the dry riverbed for water which is very time consuming and also unsafe water for them to drink and use. The whole school and teachers accommodation would receive access to solar power through this exercise which would make a huge difference to the community. Our budget for this project on getting Solar Power to the people of Mambanje is estimated at around $12,159.00, we have been very fortunate to connect with Elefence International who have to date raised $5,500.00 of this. We continue our efforts in raising the capital for this project.
The children came out to play for their lunch period and swarmed onto the single jungle gym that is in the playground. One can only marvel at how clever the children are, they have made balls out of plastic shopping bags for them to use in place of a football ball. Their energy is infectious and you can see some serious future Football players in the making.
It was late afternoon when we made our way back to Dete to meet with some of the Income Generating projects in the Dete Community. The ladies of Thandanani have been very industrious and were busy making their wares orders that they have received marking the beginning of the safari season. Kanga Camp and Somalisa Camp have made some good orders and guests of these African Bush Camps Properties will find the colorful Thandanani gowns in the rooms and enjoy the place-mats during their meals. The members of the Vukani group have also been hard at work, creating very attractive pieces of jewelry that they hope to sell when guests go on Village Visits.
After a long, happy day spent with the people of these two communities we were hosted by Brian & Marlene of Sable Sands. The perfect way to end off the day was a taste-bud tantalizing meal that was eaten around a warm and welcoming campfire and the very comfortable bed that welcomed us in the guests’ rooms.
On reflection … the children run and play in the quiet roads in the villages with the other children in the block, laughter permeates the atmosphere in the late afternoon as they push around homemade toys. A father sits under a shady tree, eating a Mango with his daughter, content in just being together on a Tuesday afternoon. All the people know each other and animatedly chat over their low boundary hedges to their homesteads. There is a real sense of unrestricted community here. Going out and being in the village makes you sit back and re-evaluate everything. Living in the city where you don’t know your neighbor, and the children are kept behind high walls for safety… maybe it’s time to get back to basics!