In 2011 I began uni and one day a group called Volunteer Eco Students Abroad (VESA) came around advertising volunteering trips to Africa, Fiji and South America. I had always wanted to make a difference in Africa (40 hour famine participant, 6 years running) so I was interested straight away. I went to their information session and a week later I had paid a deposit and was going to be setting off on 21st November! I did not know anyone else going and was a bit nervous, but mainly excited.
Because I was going for a volunteering trip I ran a fundraiser called Ashlee For Africa which was a huge successes and paid for my flight!
Anyway, I had to fly down to Sydney to get a flight to Africa so the night beforehand I stayed with my Uncle Fred and his family which was nice as I had not seen them in years! Arrived at the airport, checked in and then spotted a girl I had seen on FB that was going on the trip! After a long flight we finally arrived in Africa and met the whole team (50 plus staff). Most of us were Aussie but then there were 6 kiwi girls!
We had to drive in a bus for 9 hours from Joberg to St Lucia where we were staying and volunteering. I met a few girls, Demi, Lauren and Ria who I hit it off with. It was so surreal being in a developing country because right outside Joberg there was a massive slum where people lived in mud/brick/box houses!
We finally arrived in St Lucia to our hostel where I was rooming with Lauren, Demi, Ria and Erica. We got fed and told about what we would be doing for the next few weeks!
Days 1 and 2 I was on CONSTRUCTION at a creche. The little kids were super cute and all they wanted to do was help but ti was so sad because their creche was just one round room. Our goal was to build them: veggie gardens, sanitation pit and toilet block. Because my group was first was had to start by digging all the holes, moving bricks and making concrete! Was the hardest work I have ever done. I ended up helping dig the 2x2x2 meter hole with some of the others! Chucking dirt 2 m above my head was so tiring and just getting out of the hole was a mission! But we completed it and the sense of accomplishment was amazing.
Day 2 and 3 was Education where we had to play with the little kids in the creche and down the road at the orphanage! So sad to think we were in a 95% HIV Positive area 😦 The kids were amazing though, all they wanted was cuddles and to play games. They all shared everything with one another, the community feel in St Lucia was unreal. On the second day we got to see the little kids at the orphanage preschool ‘graduate’, this was put on by the Prince of the area. All the kids were dressed in little hats and clocks then they got into traditional dress and danced for us! At the end there was a big feast which was organised by all the ladies in the area, so delicious!!
Day 4 and 5 was conservation. We began at the Cheetah Conservation by cleaning the massive Cheetah pens (Cheetahs still inside) we got to pat the cheetahs which was cool. To clean the pens we had to chop grass and trees with machettes, which left us all blistered and bruised. Next day it was time to go see the crocodiles! I was scared shitless of going in those croc pens so I ended up helping clean the snake pen 🙂
After the week of volunteering it was time for adventure! WE GOT TO GO ON A SAFARI, so so so so amazingly cool I don’t even now how to describe it. We saw so many amazing animals including hippos, rhinos, elephants, giraffes, warthogs and gazelles. Unfortunately we didnt get to see Lions or Lepoards sooo I will have to go back 😉
We also got to go on a hippo/croc river cruise and to the beach which was insanely windy. In St Lucia we also went to the isangoma who is like a fortune teller! Creepiest house with chicken livers and fur on the walls!!
The hostel we stayed at provided us with some great drunk nights where we did shots on the bar, danced, skulled, sung etc etc. But it was time to say goodbye and head to SWAZILAND. On the transition we stopped in Golea which is a neutral piece of land between the two countries. In Swaziland we stayed in the cutest lodge and got to go to these awesome local markets where we all spent our left over money. On the last day I went horse riding with Gemma, Beck and Amber, it was crazy but fun! We saw some awesome sights and got to ride next to Zebras 🙂
Finally it was time to make the longggggg bus trip back to Joberg and oh was it eventful! Some of the girls brought a bottle of tequila for the journey, at the border crossing we almost got into a brawl with big african men and at a servo we saw armed men waiting to rob people! We got back to joberg at about 3am and our flight was not until 1pm the next day so until then we just hung around, slept, ate and shopped! It was so sad having to say goodbye to everyone 😦 Made some great friends and Africa is a place to return to!