We spent a few days visiting an orphanage in a local village. It was about a 30 minute drive to get there and we had to travel through a vast expanse of bush on a little dirt track. The village was the first sign of human life that we had seen for a while, other than the odd chalet perched on the edge of the Zambezi.
The village was on the other side of a wooden fence with the skull of an antelope on it. I wasn't sure what this signified at first but perhaps it was the border to the National Park we were in - if we were in a National Park!
Onwards we drove until small huts made of mud and straw began to appear, specked across the landscape. Some villagers waved as we passed, whilst young children chased our vehicles calling, "Sweets!" I guess they wanted some sweets from us.
Typical village accommodation
A happy villager waving at our vehicle with her dog
A local resident of the village
We arrived at the orphanage and were greeted by the kids who sang us some songs and clapped along to them ecstatically. After we were introduced, we had chance to mingle with the kids. I had brought 2 packets of Haribo with me and as soon as I opened the packet, without having taken a breath, hands reached from all directions and grabbed the sweets. There was nothing but a torn rapper left. I was shocked and surprised. My first thought was, oh no, only a few got the sweets - they weren't shared out! When I think about it, it's hardly surprising that this happened. These children don't see sweets every day so when they are presented with them, they want as many as they can get. I tried to fairly distribute the second pack with no avail.
The next dilemma I faced was when a child asked me for one of my bracelets. I had around 10 on my arm and felt torn. I remember thinking at the time that I have so much more than these children, it would be selfish of me not to. Even though each bracelet had some meaning to me, I had so many of them. So, I gave her my bracelet. I realised after that it probably wasn't the best thing to do as more and more children started asking for them - more children than I had bracelets! I had to turn them down and gave a few some bobbles instead. They were not fooled by the bobbles and one of the children threw it to the ground in disgust. I was saddened by this as now I had no bobbles and the children weren't even happy with them. What do you do in these situations?
The mood quickly lightened when we got out some balloons. The children loved them! In fact, they couldn't get enough of them. They must have been playing with them for hours, even the older children who must have been round 14/15. This made me think about our society and how these children living in remote Africa are so appreciative of little things that we take for granted. It was quite a culture shock for me, but in a good way.
Over the few days spent with them, I really got to know some of the children. I even took part in some day-to-day activities with them such as cooking and harvesting. It was hard work, especially in the blazing heat. I really admired them for their strength and stamina. We also played some games with them such as football and catch.
When we said farewell to them it was a touching moment. I hugged my new friends and waved sadly as our vehicle drove off. The entire orphanage was outside waving and shouting, "Bye!"
A toy car made of wire
Seeds typically used in cooking
Villagers collecting water from a local well
The orphanage waving goodbye
On our way back to camp, we saw several animal sights. One that we saw was of two jousting impala, locking horns in typical bull behaviour. They do this to win mating rights. After some viscous head movements, the loser retreated and raced away, leaping over the dirt-track just ahead of us in a single elegant bound.
We also saw several elephants including a mother and her young calf. It was a truly magical sight.