My Treevolution Volunteer Experience
When searching for a project to sink my teeth into, surprisingly, the idea of going to Africa had never really crossed my mind. I pictured myself in New Zealand, surrounded by lush green landscapes, deep blue waters and abundant wildlife. Or hanging in the warm Australian waters, yes there is a pattern here of stereotypically ‘heaven on earth’ type destinations, don’t we all picture ourselves being able to surf a couple of waves in between helping turtles back to the ocean and surveying marine life? Maybe that’s just me. But Africa wasn’t really a destination that I thought suited me. I didn’t want to travel for the sake of simply travelling, I wanted to have a purpose and make a slight difference along the way.I don’t even recall how or when I stumbled upon Smaller Earths ‘Trees For Zambia’ project. I was cruising around the Smaller Earth website and I remember watching the promotional video for the project and falling in love with it all right there and then. As you can imagine, telling my mum of my plans to go off to Africa to plant a load of trees with, what she probably assumed were crazy, hippy types, didn’t go down a treat. But I found myself applying for the project and convincing my parents that it was the best idea ever and somehow they believed me. As I only have one blog post to express my passion for this project I have chosen to focus on two of my personal highlights of this trip. I experienced so much throughout my three weeks in Zambia so it was a struggle to narrow it down to two, but these two experiences were personally above the rest for me.
On my last week in Zambia I found myself in the truck once again headed to a small women’s farm to plant some trees. As we trundled down the bumpy Zambian roads, the deep Zambian bush swallowed us whole. We found ourselves at a small farm in the middle of nowhere. As about 10 of us and 7 local volunteers piled out of the truck we were met by a beautiful little farm and some wonderfully friendly faces to accompany it. After introductions etc. we began planting. I found myself in a group with two local guys called Paul and Aldrick. After our first few trees we had built a firm friendship as they attempted to teach me their tribal language, Lozi. My favourite word was ‘Ujama’, meaning ‘teamwork’. We were cooked lunch by the local women, a plate of the village chicken with a side of ‘Sheema’, if you ever go to Zambia you will definitely come across Sheema. Sheema is the locals’ favourite and is a blander version of mash potato made from maize. After lunch we gave each of the locals at the farm a seed to plant for themselves, to cherish into the future. As we said our goodbyes, Aldrick and Paul made me give them English names, I called them Richard and Jonathan, my brothers names. They were thrilled with their new English identities and told all their friends to call them by their new names. I have slightly rushed the telling of this tale but I just wanted to express something that I felt Smaller Earth really got right. Throughout my time in Zambia I found myself continually immersed in the local culture and having such a unique opportunity to really understand and experience the place and the people of Zambia. This particular day was really special for me as these local guys really welcomed me into their community and were so excited by the idea of teaching me about their culture, it was a truly humbling experience.
My second highlight came in the middle weekend of my stay in Zambia. Greenpop ran an event called ‘The Earth Fest’ which involved a party to Victoria Falls on an old steam train on the friday night. I found myself surrounded by people that I had only met two weeks before yet felt like I had known forever. We all piled into Livingstone Town Railway station and then onto the coolest train I’ve ever been in. It felt like we had gone back to the 1920s, I could picture all the women in their white safari dresses and pith helmets, trailing their rich husbands into the African bush. After travelling through Livingstone and the Zambian bush we came to the Zimbabwe border where we were scheduled to stop. It’s hard to describe the view that arose through the dusty air as we chugged along the bridge to a halt. On one side we saw the view down into a place called ‘The Boiling Pot’, which is a spot below the bridge that we walked down to on our first day. The other side revealed a part of the falls in the distance and a beautiful valley of green abundance below. This view has to be the most breathtaking I have ever encountered, I don’t think my explanation here even begins to put it to justice, you really have to experience it for yourself.Joining Greenpop in Zambia was one of the greatest things I have ever done. Learning about trees and their importance for our future, teaching others about them and being able to share this passion with like-minded people from around the world has been an amazing experience. If you are passionate about the future of our planet, looking for a crazy adventure and wanting to meet people that will inspire and ignite you then this project is definitely for you.