In an interview at the sidelines of the official opening of the new kitchen, student leader of the day Jasper Naylor (16) revealed how the group’s trip to Eswatini has changed the volunteer tourists’ perceptions about life.
“This trip, and meeting such wonderful people from underprivileged societies like this one has changed the way we perceive life. The people in Eswatini have been very friendly and welcoming, and we have made lifelong friendships with children from this area,” said Naylor.
Naylor said Eswatini, and Africa, turned out way better than most pupils in the group had imagined.
“This country is absolutely beautiful. Every place we have been to so far has been wonderful, and most of us are already considering coming back in future for touring and further voluntary work,” he said. Naylor and his peers just finished the last year of high school and are looking forward to starting tertiary education this September.
Other than assisting in the construction and painting of the kitchen at Mbita primary, the volunteers also did some conservation charity work at Mbuluzi Reserve. They also visited Hlane Royal National Park, and will be visiting Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary and Malolotja Nature Reserve before they head back home next week.
Sense Earth director Jenny Bowen, who in 2017 brought a similar group from the same school, revealed that the new group raised about E51 000, which was donated to Mbita Primary, and went towards the construction work. Last year’s group had assisted in the construction of a similar structure at Mlindzini High School, which is about three kilometres from Mbita.
STA Marketing Manager Bongani Dlamini appreciated the work done by Abbey Gate College volunteer tourists, and said it will leave an indelible mark in the lives of children and parents of Mbita community.
“Sense Earth, through sending various volunteer groups to Eswatini, have surely become a lifelong friend of Eswatini, and we do not take this relationship lightly. We commend the Abbey Gate College pupils for their generosity, and impacting young lives of EmaSwati in the rural areas. Surely, volunteer tourism’s social impact cannot be understated,” said Dlamini.
According to the head teacher of Mbita primary, Linah Shabangu, the school enrolls about 211 pupils, all who benefit directly from the school’s kitchen. Shabangu expressed her school’s profound gratitude to the UK school for its continued support, which, she said, dates back to 2014. The relationship forged by Mbita primary, Mlindzini primary, and Mlindzini high schools with Abbey Gate College, said Shabangu, resulted in the construction of an access road to the remote schools; hence aiding travel to and from Nhlangano.
Also present at the kitchen opening ceremony were officials from the Shiselweni Regional Education Office, Eswatini Tourism Authority (STA), Royal Eswatini Police Service (Gege station), traditional and community leaders, teachers and parents from Mshengu High, Vulamehlo Primary, Mlindzini High, Mlindzini primary, and Mbita primary schools.