The students from Callywith, Truro and Penwith Colleges visited the country as part of an annual field trip which sees them learning about African culture as well as helping an orphans’ charity and visiting local schools.
Among the first overseas students to travel to the newly named country, the students spent their first night at Badplass relaxing in the geothermal pool. The next day they set off for their first destination in Shewula, where they stayed at a mountain camp. At the camp the students cooked for themselves and prepared for their visits to the local schools.
Students from the three Colleges have supported the children and community of Shewula since 2001 by raising money for the Shewula Orphans Charity.
During the course of their time within the Shewula region, the students made visits to five schools. Here they were able to experience the setting of a typical primary school and took part in activities ranging from sports and art, through to more sensory play for those children who were very young or less able.
In addition to the school visits, some of the school children visited the camp where the students were able to interact with them further. As a part of this visit, the students distributed clothes to the children and also to key members of the community, who could ensure that the wider homesteads in Shewula also benefited. These clothes had all been donated to the college by the students and friends and families.
On the final evening in Shewula the students had the opportunity to visit the local spiritual healer, known as the Sangoma. Here they were given an insight into more traditional aspects of the culture and how people still seek advice regarding a wide range of ailments and concerns. The group then enjoyed a traditional meal laid on by the Shewula staff and all ate together.
The trip came to a close with a final adventure as the students explored the Mlilwane Game Reserve by bicycle and foot, getting close to the natural wildlife as they spotted rhinos, giraffes, crocodiles and hippos. This was followed by a trip through the woodland canopy via a series of zip-wire rides.
Student Zoe Brooks, who is studying A Level Geography at Callywith, said the trip was a life changing experience.
"Visiting Eswatini is an experience I could never forget. The memories I have made will be carried and cherished forever in my heart. I will never be able to forget the laughter of the children as they played with all the toys we managed to bring, and the smiles on their faces as we handed them a set of clothes. Being able to impact so many young children's life was truly amazing and I definitely want to visit again to see their progress. And if the sweet pre-schoolers weren't enough to make the trip worthwhile, meeting the older children whom we raised money for throughout the year was incredible. Reading letters of their appreciation and listening to them tell us about their dream jobs was so very moving indeed. Everyone in the community of Shewula was friendly and the appreciation of the work we were doing was felt right throughout the area.
“Seeing first-hand how the charity has helped the community and its battle against HIV is inspiring and really puts into perspective how lucky we truly are. As well as this the landscape and culture of Eswatini is nothing short of extraordinary. The country is beautiful, its wildlife is so diverse, and its culture is unique and blooming everywhere you go. Being immersed in the SiSwati language and the tribal culture, filled with sangomas and dancing and many amazing traditions is a feeling that is indescribable until you are there. Every moment of my time in Eswatini was worth it and every day I spent there gave me another reason to want to come back."
Callywith Geography Lecturer Matt Andrews who joined the students on the trip was proud of all the students’ hard work:
He said: “This year's Callywith students have done a fantastic job in supporting our Shewula Orphans Fund charity. They have helped raise enough donations to support 150 students with their school fees in the Shewula region of Eswatini. The college-wide support from students studying A Levels and Diploma programmes was overwhelming in helping us fundraise again for Shewula. It is an incredibly rewarding experience to have the chance to help students visit the community and see the impact that their support has.
“For the first time, we are now supporting students across three different secondary schools and we got to meet some of the students supported in 2019. It is always a very humbling trip and fantastic for our students to see what an impact education can have on life chances for children in the developing world. Our students did an amazing job to show their enthusiasm in bringing joy to the local nurseries in Shewula, there were so many engaging games and activities going on and so many smiles. Great work Callywith and thank-you for your continued support."