By Lucy Ellis in 6.2
Over October half term, a group of sixteen 6.2 students and four teachers flew out to Swaziland to work with Othandweni Primary School. In the months leading up to the trip, we each came up with fundraising activities – some were more adventurous than others (skydiving vs. ice cream selling), but we managed to raise the amount of money necessary to buy our supplies.
At Othandweni, we partnered with SKRUM, a charity working to improve schools throughout Swaziland. They helped us with our main project, which was the digging of a trench for water pipes. This trench ran for 250 meters through the school and connected to a newly installed solar powered water pump lifting water from 45 meters underground through a borehole – dug with the money we raised earlier in the year. Unfortunately, our final days working at the school were accompanied by clouds and persistent rain so we were unable to see the solar panel in action, but we have since received word that it is successfully pumping water throughout the school.
Our other large project was the painting of the five main school buildings. The colours of the school buildings had previously been red and yellow, but with Othandweni’s recent association with a local church, the colors were required to change to white and blue. In addition to these projects, we varnished, repainted and repaired around 100 desktops and frames. The loveliest part of these tasks was that the students from Othandweni volunteered alongside us and they obviously took pride in improving their school. They put us to shame, painting with precision and digging with a power none of us except maybe Maud could match!
On our last day at the school, they took part in a ceremony for us, which included traditional songs and dances. We were presented with small souvenirs as tokens of thanks, as well as a handmade card designed by a student.
Aside from our work at the school, we enjoyed waking up early to go on walks where we managed to see a family of hippos swimming together, a sight we didn’t realise until later was quite rare around those parts. We also had one free day at the end of the trip where we had the chance to go on a horseback ride or cycle through the game reserve, and later in the day we visited a local crafts market to pick up small handmade souvenirs.
It was truly amazing to feel we had made a difference at the school, and we were so lucky to have the unique chance to get to know the warm and welcoming children and adults in a culture so different to ours. The swarms of tiny high fives and hugs as we were leaving Othandweni were enough to make any of us return at the next possible opportunity.