It ended in Tears... Tears of sadness for the plight of the children, tears of pride for their achievement in making a significant difference to all the children’s lives - and tears of happiness, for having created new bonds with people from a world they knew very little about.
Zambia was at the top of the client’s ‘wish list’ and this year, being able to put a little more money into the pot, we tried to make it fit again and were able to create a unique and “once in a lifetime” experiences in a very special location.
The group had a long journey, all coming from various European destinations. They met up in the UK and flew as a group to Johannesburg, South Africa, which is the hub into the rest of Southern Africa.
A special VIP meet and greet facility was arranged, whereby the group was met airside as they disembarked and fast-tracked through customs. The VIP team escorted the group through immigration and into International arrivals where the owner of the DMC was waiting for them in person, in a designated area reserved for the group. Refreshments were ordered while they waited for the connecting flight to Zambia.
This was a great opportunity for everyone to bond a little as most people in the group came from different offices/countries and had never met before.
The hotel chef created menus especially for the group, for each evening they spent at the hotel. These included set menus with a variety of excellent selections and one evening a stir-fry theme buffet was set up especially for the group. This turned out to be a great deal of fun, inter-active and literally created quite a “stir”!
The hotel general manager provided a special bottle of red wine and a fruit platter upon arrival in each room on a complimentary basis. This gesture was hugely appreciated, especially by the managing director of the group. The MD recognised the compromises the hotel manager had made to work within their budget, yet still ensured that the group had an amazing experience.
Victoria Falls is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the world’s 7 greatest natural wonders. Located between Zambia and Zimbabwe, is the world’s second largest waterfall. None of the delegates have ever visited Zambia before, so the excitement of this first time experience was immense as the group got to the hotel, saw the location and knew they were going to be up-close-and-personal to the Falls in a short while.
Participants were from England, France, Germany, Sweden and Belgium. The majority were very young (mid 20’s to mid 30’s) and a first time incentive trip for a few. The destination and activities were selected with this in mind. In addition to the main programme, a full day was allowed to explore some of the optional activities in the region, which everyone took advantage of.
There is no shortage of adrenalin excursion options such as bungi jumping off the Livingstone bridge, helicopter flips over The Falls. In addition, there are more gentle options for the non-adrenalin junkies such as walking with lions, spa treatments, a gentle canoe safari down the Zambezi River or a guided tour of the local Chief Mukuni’s cultural village – a great fit for everyone.
The inclusion of a CSR component was a first for the client. Finding the right project took a great deal of research. Once we found the Ebenezer orphanage and school with the help of our ground handler, emotions got fired up and ideas started developing. We communicated with the principle and founder of the school and requested information regarding the school, the orphanage and their needs. Due to travel dates and other logistical issues, it was decided to support both the school and the orphanage in different ways.
The client donated personal computers to the school as they had none. This was welcomed by the school as it would add immensely to the pupils’ development. A room was specially built to house the new computers and this would become one of the projects for the group once they arrived at the premises.
Information about the orphanage was emailed to all the participants and requested they each bring along relevant items in their personal luggage. The support from participants was overwhelming. Items donated ranged from educational toys to baby bottles, nappies, clothing, colouring books and crayons…and much, much more.
There were two main projects on the day. One was to paint and decorate the new computer room/library and the other was to construct an area where the kids could shoot hoops and play basketball. This was real serendipitous as one participant turned out to be a basketball coach in his spare time!
The group was relatively small but there was a huge amount of work to be done. The group was divided up into small teams and tasks were allocated strategically. The interaction with kids at all age levels turned out to be fantastic and it was a happy day for everyone.
The impact of the CSR event was far bigger on the participants than the client had expected. It was a first experience for everyone and a very big eye-opener from our sheltered lives.
Three people opted to paint and decorate the new classroom – with the help of the children! They ended up painting and getting painted along with the adults and each one had the opportunity to put his/her palm print on the wall for posterity.
Two ladies volunteered to arrange the books in the new (tiny) library while two gentlemen cleared the football pitch. The rest got stuck into levelling the ground where the new basket ball hoop was put up the week before.
It turned into a great team effort with amazing results. Once the basketball pitch was levelled as much as possible, the coach started teaching some basketball basics to some of the older kids and in no time, they were busy playing a match!
Some participants ventured into the residence for the abandoned babies – some as little as 3 weeks old. It happened to be feeding time, so they got involved in helping feed the babies.
Before and during lunch, a group of children played various instruments and performed for the group. Two young boys did a presentation to the visitors, explaining the history of Zambia along with maps and various hand-drawn visual aids.
This event had a great emotional impact on every single participant. Interacting with abandoned children in an unfamiliar African country and making a real difference to their reality, upbringing and development. Each person left fired up and motivated with a real sense of achievement as they realised what a great difference they had made in the lives of the Ebenezer Orphanage and School.
During their last dinner on the train, there were tears. Tears of sadness for the plight of the children, tears of pride for their achievement in making a significant difference to all the children’s lives – and tears of happiness, for having created new bonds with people from a world they knew very little about.