“The trip was awe-inspiring, and I am so grateful to be a part of this incredible organization.”
In July, the Onderstepoort team embarked on the journey of a lifetime that left us in admiration of Zimbabwe, its people, and its beautiful natural surroundings.
This was untapped territory for us which left the team filled with excitement for what was to come.
After days of driving, we finally reached the Honde-Valley in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe.
Here, we were pleasantly surprised by the warm welcome we received from the staff at Aberfoyle Lodge.
We took the rest of the day off to debrief, prepare for the days of teaching ahead, and take in our incredible surroundings
Early the next day, the house was vibrant with the excitement of what lay ahead.
Nevertheless, none of us could have predicted how life-changing the days to follow would be.
Upon arrival at Aberfoyle Primary School, we were overwhelmed by cheers sprouting from a mass of smiling faces - 117 to be exact!
We kicked off our lessons with a touching message from our very own Dean Carlisle, as well as words from some students we've had the pleasure of teaching over the years.
With each lesson, we watched every face around the room spark with interest and excitement - so much so that their teachers lent us a hand here and there to keep everyone on track!
Surrounded by wide and eager eyes, we could do nothing less than give our hearts and souls to this community.
The next day, Aberfoyle Lodge was the star of the show by organising an opportunity for all of us to spend the day with Morgan Saineti, a renowned bird guide in Zimbabwe.
Here, right in front of them, the students had an opportunity to put everything we'd taught them into practice by joining Morgan on a birding walk around the property.
He was the most incredible guide, and the students sucked in his knowledge like sponges.
The influence that Morgan had on them was clearly that of admiration and hope - someone from their own community, a role model.
You could see the flames ignite and flicker in their hope-filled hearts.
Although we all sported heavy hearts leaving Aberfoyle, we set out on the next leg of our adventure rejuvenated and ready for the next pitstop
We hopped into the bakkie and drove through Mutare to arrive in Harare where Adrienne Berkhout, one of our generous FLiCs (Friends of LiC), and her family had offered to host us for the night.
With Aberfoyle leaving us simply awestruck, we doubted there was much more this trip could possibly offer - but it had only just begun.
Early the next morning, we set off to Emerald Hill Children’s Home in Northern Harare.
The second we arrived, we were greeted from all rooms and halls by the family of children living there.
The caretakers wasted no time in welcoming us, and within a matter of minutes we were back in the thick of it, kicking off our second set of lessons.
Straight away, we noticed that the children were already vastly knowledgeable about everything we were sharing with them - we were going to have to step it up a notch!
Throughout the day, every child began to steal our hearts, bit by bit, one by one.
These last few days had already given us so much more than we could have expected. - this is why we do what we do.
Traveling to places throughout Africa, hopefully leaving a path of risen sleeping lions in our midst - the same sleeping lions that will protect Africa and all her children in the years to come.
With familiarly heavy hearts and the first signs of sleep deprivation beginning to show, our time at Emerald Hill kept us going on to our last leg.
Our third and final destination: Zumbo Secondary School, on the banks of the Zambezi River in Mozambique.
Once we arrived, just like clockwork, we plunged straight back into lessons.
We spent some time focusing on a few important topics the children weren't too familiar with and ended our last first day with a smile and full hearts.
That evening, we spent a lovely evening with our hosts, Russell and Julie Lovemore of Chawalo Safaris.
We chatted about the day's events and sought advice on how to brush up on certain topics the children were struggling with from earlier on that day.
It took a bit of brainstorming, but by the time we retired to our beds, we were ready to put our plan in motion.
The next morning, we set off once again to Zumbo Village, this time with Julie and one of her employees in tow.
Their first-hand knowledge about everything we'd taught the kids and more proved invaluable - it was our most successful day with them yet!
From pollution and deforestation to poaching and overfishing, every single one of us in that room was inspired and ready to charge into a new tomorrow.
As our final lesson came to a close, we felt renewed - not only were we given yet another opportunity to raise awareness about specific shortcomings around us, but we were also given a platform to provide the community with sustainable long-term solutions to so many of them.
The cherry on top was the Lovemore family graciously gifting the school with 15 fruit trees, along with some must-knows on the importance of sustainable land use.
As the sun set on our last day of teaching, we rested up for the 1500km drive home and reminisced on the high points of our journey before heading out on a sunset boat ride.
We cruised down the Zambezi, content, knowing in our hearts that we'd achieved everything we'd set out to achieve and more.
In silent awe of our surroundings, we watched as the sun set gold over one of Africa’s last true slivers of wilderness, humbled and drifting further into the sunset.
It was time to go home.