As part of our honeymoon in Africa, my husband James and I had the privilege of visiting women and children in a rural community on the outskirts of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. Before leaving Australia, we “packed for a purpose” to contribute to two projects, the Chezhou Primary School and the Women of Joy’s small business group. We ended up having 30 kilos of school, business and health supplies which was amazing!
We asked to visit the primary school which has 305 pupils aged 4 through 13 years old. The school is trying hard to keep itself afloat but struggling due to funding difficulties and a lack of resources. Although it was school holidays, some kids were taking extra classes – the feeling was that it was a privilege to be given the opportunity to be educated. We toured the school’s permaculture garden, a great initiative that teaches farming principals, provides food for the school and income as the surplus vegetables are able to be sold. We saw firsthand how students are enabled through their education, to change their life and their families’ lives forever.
We gave the school supplies to our safari camp, the Hide Community Trust, as visitors are discouraged from personally handing out donations (the disappointment felt by those who miss out negates the joy experienced by those who receive). So instead, we took some postcards of Australia for the classroom walls to show where we are from – photos of native animals (including a surfing kangaroo), Australian plants; indigenous Australians performing ceremonies; Australian landscapes. We also took a Polaroid camera with heaps of film so each child could have a turn at taking photos. It was a big hit! (Check out the kangaroo poses – the postcards obviously made an impression! ?)
We also had the pleasure to meet a local women’s empowerment group, The Women of Joy who’s philosophy is “empowered women, empower others”. This echoes what philanthropists like Melinda Gates extol – when you lift up women and girls, you lift up whole communities. It was rewarding to bear witness to the ways the group encourages women to come together to learn new skills, such as farming, craft making, accounting, or other income generating initiatives so that they are better equipped to look after their families.
Of special interest was an income generating enterprise whereby rubbish was up-cycled into new products. Glass bottles were collected, smashed and melted in a kiln to make beads which are then turned into jewellery.
Plastic was collected and weaved into colourful shopper bags and placements which are then sold in the safari camp shop. I loved the threefold benefits of this project – the environmental benefits (less rubbish pollution), the economic benefits (income for the women crafting the goods), and the community benefits (a shared cause to unite locals with visitors buying the goods).
Our hearts were completely full for the people we met. We found it incredibly rewarding to travel with a deeper purpose and were humbled by being able to give back in some tiny way – not only though the tangible donations but by listening, connecting and spending time in the community. We will value the connections we made for the rest of our lives.
I think more and more people want to travel in a more authentic and meaningful way and Pack for a Purpose makes this really easy! You’re a fantastic organization, thank you!