Training camp includes a community service event at two primary schools
Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) prides itself on retaining the best Trip Leaders in the business: local residents who are experienced, knowledgeable, engaging, and fluent in English. Once they are hired, they go through a rigorous training program that ensures they are well versed, not only in the details of the adventure itinerary, but also in the OAT culture of experiencing the life local communities lead on a daily basis and of giving back worldwide.
Those two strands of OAT's corporate philosophy were tied together at a training event on January 16, when a group of 24 Trip Leaders were attending a training camp at Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. On that particular day, the Trip Leaders were treated to A Day in the Life of the Tsholotsho area, which is on the boundary of the Wilderness Camp Concession.
Integral to the event was community service to two schools supported by Grand Circle Foundation in the region: Ngamo School and Ziga Primary School. Traditionally, villagers chop trees from local forests to fence in crops and livestock near the schools, to protect them from wild animals. The fences deteriorate quickly, however, and devastate the forest. The OAT team decided to help by planting hedges that would not only protect the schools, but their trimmings would also provide bio-fuel for the schools and the larger community.
An OAT travel partner in Zimbabwe, Wilderness Safaris, supports the planting of vegetable gardens at schools, in hopes of their becoming self-sustaining, so the team also planned to plant corn at each school and to feed the community for the day.
The OAT Trip Leaders were joined by Program Services Manager Ian Wallace and Program Services Coordinator Cathrine Myburgh. Participants from the community included the two school principals, Mr. Moyo from Ngamo School and Mr. Chilufiya from Ziga Primary School, as well as 12 teachers (six from each school) and 45 schoolchildren.
The group was quickly divided up into smaller task forces. After a short ceremony at each school, hedges totaling 400 Jatrophe seedlings, provided by Grand Circle Foundation, were quickly planted.
By this time, the day was getting hot, and participants began to worry that the weather would soon prove too uncomfortable for planting the corn. The group was determined, however, and Trip Leaders, children, and villagers alike decided to forego lunch and keep on working. Toiling through the hottest part of the day, Trip Leaders with hoes made holes, others poured in fertilizer, and children followed with seeds. Volunteers completed the process by adding manure and covering the holes with sand. A friendly competition helped to keep spirits high, as each team challenged its opponents as to the amount each planted over the course of the day.
It was just about 3:30 when the process was finally completed, and everyone broke for the nutritional lunch that the OAT associates had brought and that community members cooked and served in a school classroom. In keeping with providing an authentic experience for the Trip Leaders, the meal was eaten in a traditional manner, with village elders at the head of the table and the community leader, Mr. Johnson, in the middle. Western-style hierarchy disappeared as Trip Leaders were arranged in order of age and seniority in the community. As is the custom, all in attendance ate their meal with their hands.
At last, the OAT associates said farewell to their new friends, taking with them warm memories of their association with this welcoming community and the satisfaction of knowing they had made a difference in their lives.
Featured in our March 2012 E-Newsletter. Read the full issue here.