Friday 27 March 2009

Sarah Charlton - Tanzania Team South Africa Update

I guess we must all be pretty intense as we have officially emerged on the other side of Sabie, South Africa (the "adrenaline phase" of the trip) in one piece. That isn’t to say that we didn’t have some close calls – Lily falling off a log with a river tube around her waist about a mile from the water, Lily drifting helplessly downstream (her cries for help getting steadily quieter) and Lily struggling to follow the instructions of the guide and “just DO something”. We tubed, we caved, we jumped off cliffs into pools of water and we threw ourselves off bridges (for the latter, extra special mention goes to Dixon ‘vanity’ Knox, James ‘Danger’ Belcher, Tom ‘Blondie’ Wills and, representing the female contingent, Nicola ‘Stunner’ Stokes for their impressive forward bridge jumps, or, reassuringly ‘suicide dives’. The final day saw a dramatic paintballing session in which the ‘Savage Beast’ team, led by the courageous Sophie, prevailed with a last-gasp flag capture. We drove to Pretoria battered, bruised and buzzing with adrenaline.
In Pretoria we indulged in a few days of shopping and experiencing South African ‘culture’. We spent the first day in the huge Menlyn shopping centre, the biggest in South Africa, where we proceeded to replenish our clothes supplies. We finished our day with a game of bowling, in which pros Lily and Sarah showed where their true expertise lay with a string of strikes. That evening we went out to a reggae bar in celebration of Victoria’s birthday and, shock of shocks, Kate even dressed as a girl for the occasion (in heels and a top which Dixon had forced upon her!). A few cocktails later, we found ourselves in one of the classy establishments in the neighboughhood dancing the night away!
Day two in Pretoria was a time for our brains to be fed, so the next stop was the Apartheid Museum. Everybody left around lunchtime except for Victoria whose Birthday antics had rendered her bed bound. Perhaps it was something she ate… After a short drive, we arrived to be divided into Whites and Non-Whites, entering the museum through different doors. Three hours later, we saw sunlight again and headed back to Pretoria with a much greater understanding of how the system of apartheid affected every sphere of life in South Africa. Most of us headed to bed for a rare early night in anticipation of an 8 hour Northward journey in our overland monster truck. Next stop, Botswana!

Join the Africa Expedition this summer!

Monday 23 March 2009

Malawi GAP Team Preparations!

Everything is in full swing for the Malawi team’s arrival on 9th April. The foundations have been laid for the building work and materials have been bought and moved by human chain onto site. The team will be building staff housing for the new clinic that was built last year. Without this good quality housing it is very difficult to attract good doctors and nurses to the clinic. Before the clinic was built pregnant mothers had to walk up to 8 miles to receive medical care.

The team will spend the next 6 weeks on site, mixing cement, laying bricks, plastering, liming, putting together A-frames, painting, floor laying and much much more with the help from local volunteers and builders.

The team will also spend time with the orphaned children by helping out at feeding centres, local youth groups and schools.

To volunteer in Malawi this summer click here!

Watch this space for more updates

Wednesday 18 March 2009

Peru Team Update - Charlie Leechman reports

So it was carnival in South America, but we didn’t want to ignore the British tradition of pancake day! Sophie’s cooking group stepped up and made us pancakes for breakfast (with the help of Alejandro and Danilo) on what we think was pancake day but there is still debate around that topic! Jon arrived just in time for the pancakes and the day carried on in the normal fashion of playing with the kids, but a few of us got to go to the nursery for some ´mummy´ time! However, we were slightly put off when we had to serve the kids rice and fried chicken blood!

That night the Peruvians plus Fred, Sophs, Bart, Jon and Emily had a bit of a late night and a few of us woke up with either giant puppet heads by our beds or drawings on our faces........ The weekend was approaching and for family Sunday we were doing a ´save the planet´ play and song, and after a mammoth rehearsal with Lucho the group shot off to Camilla´s first birthday party. We were greeted with plush leather sofas and fantastic food, the night continued with a series of videos such as ABBA´s greatest hits which led us on to make the decision that Mamma Mia was the choice of musical for the last family Sunday, which made Lucho extremely happy!

The next day we were greeted by lots of children for the fair and then to the much loved piscina. That evening we went to Camilla´s SECOND birthday party where they had blocked the road in order to fit in the DIY Disney castle. The place was drenched in disney and not only did she have one cake, she had 3!!!! We then got treated to a disney show which the children loved. I then found Emily holding the 21 day old baby that I had been dying to hold all evening, so Emily, Laura and I spent time holding and cooing over the baby. When we returned to our lovely home, we discovered that Ana Mariela´s family were having a fundraising party next day where the majority of us headed for some drinking and dancing with the locals.

Family Sunday started with us dressing up as the usual Disney characters, then Fred took to the stage as Harry Potter with his glamorous assistants, however, the magic tricks were not met with much applause from the audience! The ´El Planeta Hay Que Salvar´ play got much the same reaction but we carried on with a super size Hokey Pokey which was so well received we had to do it twice!

We then began construction of the first house and painting of the school. This is when “Jesshope and Leechman Construction Company” was created due to Emily and I being so speedy with our frames. By the next day house number 1 was finished and so was the painting at the school. The next day school began so we have screaming children not wanting to leave their mothers every morning arriving at 8am! We also began the second house but Lucho found us to get revenge as earlier we removed the ladder while he was on the roof.

That night we began rehearsal for the family Sunday in which the boys were dressing up as girls and dancing to Shania Twain ´Man I Feel Like A Woman!´ Us girls were feeling a bit left out and wanted to dress up as boys and dance to 5ive (Debster was especially keen), however Lucho was not keen on this idea so we ended up doing the clown dance. The group illness also began with everyone feeling really ill apart from Fred! It was a struggle to find a free toliet for that week! That evening, a discovery of maggots and other things were discovered in the box/fridge and the mystery of the group illness became resolved. Nice!

After that discovery group hygiene was stepped up several notches, with copious amounts of bleach, hand sanitizer and the permanent removal of the box/fridge thingy! The fair had to be cancelled on Saturday as the majority of the group was ill and we had only had one rehearsal for family Sunday! However, rehearsals were short and sweet due to the power cut. After pool time and lunch we packed our bags for Miraflores. The hostel in Miraflores was very nice and a far cry from our accommodation in Villa Maria. We all headed off our separate ways but later all congregating in Starbucks! Lucy, Alex, Fred and Sophie all got piercings.

We then headed back to the hostel to get ready for our night out and more importantly for the HOT SHOWERS!!! The girls, especially those in the long line for Zoe´s hair straighteners took a very long time to get ready. We then went to a restaurant but the majority of us were still recovering from the illness or still ill had to chose stomach friendly meals! The meal was clearly too much as Anya, Sophie, Emma and Alex had to make a quick exit back to the hostel as were feeling too ill. The rest of us headed over to Barranco, however some more of us weren't feeling too well so Bart, Tom and I headed back to the hostel. The others then headed onto a very sweaty club where Shania Twain Í feel Like A Woman´ came on, so much to Fred’s excitement he grabbed the DJs stool and gave the club a sneak preview of the boys dance for family Sunday!

Tom woke up the next morning at 8.30am so he could watch the football, but he discovered that it wasn’t actually showing on the TV so he proceeded to spend the rest of his time in Miraflores watching it on the computer! The rest of us went out for breakfast. We headed back to Villa Maria to prepare for family Sunday and dress the boys up in the girls’ clothing. The girls did their clown dance first which was actually just a build up until the boys hit the stage. The boys lost all dignity as they walked on stage dressed up in dresses and make up, Fred’s dress was ridiculously short but we decided he looked very pretty as a girl. The dance went down a storm and they were called on for an encore!

The next day we put up our first house! All went well and the family were very grateful and happy with their new house. That night we had a surprise birthday party for Danilo (which was actually on Thursday but we forgot!) The majority headed off to bed after the cake though as the illness was still rife. House 2 was put up and we got fed a lovely lunch as a thank you from the family. That night was the first rehearsal for Mamma Mia. House number 3 was put up the following day which didn’t go completely smoothly due to a bit of wood cracking and the door not being able to fit but it all ended up ok. This family had 12 children and only 3 beds so being able to give them extra living space was really lovely and they appreciated it a lot which was shown by the mammoth lunch they gave to the group who put it up. They had to literally roll down the hill back to the school where they were all looking a bit worse for wear especially Emily who gained much respect as she finished everything she was given!

Rehearsals went on late into the evening with Lucho playing many pranks on us such as cellotape across the bathroom door, butter on the door handles and a stink bomb in the girls room! The fourth house went up the next day and we made a record of putting it up under 2 hours (a possible Quest record????). We then had the first of our TWO lunches as we had also been invited to Ana Mariela’s house for a thank you lunch (we raised well over our target- so thank you to everyone, she is going for her first scans etc on Wednesday and Anya and Debbie are going with her). After two lovely lunches we rolled down the hill again and then went off the play with the kids and also start construction for the final house.

Saturday was predicted as the day from hell as we had the fair, followed by a sports day, however both were extremely successful especially the sports day with a gringo in charge of a team, so there was a lot of competition between who’s team would win. Anya´s team won and all the ninos we rewarded with sweets and prizes. That night the group slaved away at rehearsal for Mamma Mia, which was looking good. The next day Rob returned to Villa Maria. Family Sunday began with a can can dance in the munecas and then we did Mamma Mia, however I managed to fall through one of the missing planks in the stage and get what I thought was quite a severe injury but Rob later told me it was only a minor scratch.

Mamma Mia went really well and was definitely our best performance to date. The next day we started our mural at the school which is space themed and is being finished as I speak. Some of the group finished off the construction of the 5th and final house, however they ran into quite a few technical difficulties and they are a bit nervous about putting it up! Last night we went out to dinner at this really nice pizza/burger place as it is one of our last evenings!

Rob then gave us half of our trek talk, which started off a little scary but we are all looking forward to it now and it sounds good fun. Today is our last full day in Villa Maria, which is actually quite sad! Tonight is the leaving party so we are having a BBQ which Lucho is cooking for us and then tomorrow we clean up and pack up and head off to Miraflores for 2 nights.

Off on the expedition Friday!

Friday 13 March 2009

Peru Group doing the Ballroom Blitz

Talent from these guys like you never knew existed!

Wednesday 11 March 2009

Hannah Bick - Tanzania Team update from Tofo, Mozambique

Don't touch! Pictured the camouflaged scorpian fish.
After a cramped, hot and very long journey on Fatima’s bus we finally reached beautiful Tofo. Not wanting to waste time we raced straight for the sea, which was somewhat rougher than first thought and some bikinis were nearly lost! The next day everyone enthusiastically began their dive course at Diversity Scuba, at least those who had Gretha as an instructor did, while Alice´s students were filled with trepidation. All the pool skills and open water dives were successfully completed despite the team being a little worse for wear and Freddie landing on Vic´s head while completing his first backwards roll entry from the boat. However half the group; Dixon, Sophie, Michael and Hannah managed to fail the scuba exam, which according to Alice had only previously been failed by an eight year old German boy. Despite the setback everyone eventually managed to pass, Hannah with 100%, which wasn´t down to cheating at all, and amazing dives were had.

In the fauna rich seas the team saw sea turtles, mantas, dolphins and a 5m Whale Shark! As well as diving we all took advantage of what Tofo had to offer, mainly Dino´s (very) Happy Hours and the gorgeous beach. During our stay the group celebrated Tom and Micheal´s fake birthdays, with a pirate party. Our final night in Tofo coincided with the full moon party so everyone had a merry evening celebrating with all the diversity dive staff. Each of us wore our lovely patterned trousers from the local market, and bought Alice (pictured above) many thank you drinks! Sadly we had to end the fun to catch the 4am bus back to Maputo, but already we´re planning our return back to Tofo!

Many thanks to Diversity who always make Quest groups feel welcome in Mozambique!

Join our Summer Africa Expedition right here!

Video from Villa Maria, Peru

Some images of the work going on so far in Villa Maria, giving a great summer holiday to the kids.

Monday 9 March 2009

Ambue Ari first team update

Meeting everyone for the first time in the airport was pretty daunting but within no time we all got to know each other really well, maybe even too well! One of the most exciting things that happened in the first few days was the arrival of two more quest memebers, Josh and Emma! As expected it didnt take them long to settle in.
Having arrived during the carnival we were thrown straight in at the deep end and got fully involved in any available water fights. Some of us are still carrying the bruises.

Our first few days in sucre revolved around spanish lessons which have been pretty intense and we have now completed 56 hours. We've all learnt a lot from our teachers not only spanish language but also about the Bolivian culture.
With Harry as our team leader we made our first hairy bus journey to Potosi where we had the chance to visit the mines. Ladden with gifts of coca, fizzy drinks, cigarettes and 96% alcohol we descended into the mine where we met miners that spent 18 hours a day 500m underground. Because the miners work so close to 'hell' it was forbidden to say the word 'diablo' and ther were quite few spooky staues of the devil.

We spent that afternoon in some volcanic pools where we swam in amazingly warm water covering ourselves with mud before we realised it made us seem like we had a bad fake tan!!

The next day we made our way over to Uyuni where we met our 3 truck drivers for the next couple of days. Hundereds of cheesy songs later, from Fred's i pod, and we had made it to the salt flats where we spent out time trying to make perspective photos, one of the favoutirtes being orlando coming out of fred's arse. We also had a chance to do some rock climbing and at one particular site, on one of the highest rocks the boys reached, there was a lot of static electricity that created some pretty funky hair styles.

Nights on the slat flats were stunning and we spent them star gazing or playing lobos, a game that tim taught us involving multiple murders and a lot of accusations.

After a tiring but exhilerating week we got back to sucre for more lessons interspersed with other activities such as salsa lessons. Some of the girls were lucky enough to be flung around the dance floor by our teacher roberto who in Matt's words is a 'salsa legend'!

Our treking as a team was put to the test for the first time when we spent the weekend at a country retreat. Although Orlando can play football for hours walking up a slight hill proved to be a big challenge. Overflowing waterfalls on our walk meant that Josh had to use his spiderman skills to hoist all the girls up as our 70 year old guide wasn't up to the job!

We have spent the last week preparing for our teacher vs. student football match. We even had an evening studying the local professionals, athough we ended up spending our time fending off the hoards of kids that surrounded us.

We are off to La Paz on monday before starting our project phase, so wish us good luck!

Wednesday 4 March 2009

Tanzania Project Completed. Job Done!

Tom, Simon, Sophie and Hannah start work on the new classroom. The first skill to learn is the art of brick laying and cement mixing.

Working hard alongside the local fundis the walls go up quickly.

The team soon settle into the community and quickly adopt the local dress. Freddie is sporting a magnificent shirt, tie, cashmere jumper and flipflop combo!

Seeds from the school farm are being turned into oil to provide a valuable income for the school and community. The school children are also learning invaluable skills.

The group also built a Tilapia pond which doubled as a swimming pool, just what's needed after a day on site working under the African sun.

There was plenty of time to play with the children while on the project, I'm not quite sure what game Michael is teaching them here?

With the walls up, work started on the A frames for the roof. James and Freddie take careful note of the measurements needed.

Victoria and Kate get a helping hand from these budding young engineers.

With the cement layer completed the smooth lime goes on top. Charlotte demonstrates how it should be done.
6 weeks of hard work and the building is finished. The red oxide paint means that it will be here for many years to come. The classroom will be put into immediate use and with such a good finish it is the perfect demonstration of what can be done.

The local local regional commisioner was so impressed that he donated 500,000 shillings to the community towards future building materials.

Charlotte shows off the groups achievement.

If you want to get involved just take a look at some of the amazing projects we have on offer.

Remember whatever you do, JUST DO SOMETHING!

Learn more about the Livingstone Tanzania Trust's work.

Find out more about joining the Summer Team right here!

Tuesday 3 March 2009

Rio Carnival Project - Nicky Waters' Update

Never have I seen so much Pink and Green before coming to Mangueira. The colours of the district cover every square inch of the Vila Olimpica Complex, where we have been working for the last week. The main focus of our time here so far has been with the boys at Casa Lar, which, as the week has progressed, has proved to be very rewarding.

To start with, we were all a bit apprehensive; the language barrier, mixed with our initial lack of knowledge of the boy´s problems, made communication with them a bit of a challenge. However, the constant proximity to the boys, our domestic duties of getting them up, taking them to and from school, helping with the washing ...has made sure we´ve got to get to know them very quickly. They´ve each got their own distinct, quirky and uncompromising character.

There is certainly a lot to keep you busy here. When you are not on domestic duties, you´ll be preparing activities and outings. So far we´ve had treasure hunts, trips to the beach and park, jewellery making and preparations for the carnival. The language barrier is soon to fade; I have never felt such a constant figure of attention. Be prepared for lots of hugging and hand shaking, plenty of obscure questions and a LOT of singing! You´ll find it impossible not to communicate with these boys!. This is also the case of the Tia Neuma´s 5 to 7 year old children. These are children who go to a mainstream primary school also at the Vila Olimpica Complex. This week we have been preparing and teaching lessons to them. We have found practical, hands on lessons of butterfly and flag painting and snowflake making the most hectic, yet enormous fun!

Next week we begin making costumes with them for their very own carnival party at school.
After a day´s work, the team is generally pretty wiped out. As rewarding as the work is, it can be exhausting. However, there is a great balance of work and time to chill out here. The complex has a swimming pool which we are free to use most nights, and we have also had the opportunity of being taught by the most impressive Capoeira teachers I have ever seen- expect some gravity defying moves!

In addition to all of this, it´s a very exciting time to be in Rio and we´ve already had plenty of chances to get a taste for the much anticipated Carnival. Already we´ve attended to parade rehearsals, street blocos, and several other carnival preparations around Rio.

By the end of a Day at the Vila Olimpica, you have certainly earned your Caipirinha!!!!!!!

By Nicky Waters

Latest Update from Villa Maria Team

Villa Maria 2009 - Late Feb, Ecuador and Peru

The end of Quito was quite an experience...

After 2 big weeks of intensive lessons, there has been quite a relaxation in the Spanish efforts of the group. One of the lessons turned into the traditional football tournament of Quest vs. Cristobal Colon School, thankfully, Quest did manage to win the matches. Following the tournament boys and girls did split up for the night, going with there teachers to discover a new part of the Ecuadorian capital nightlife.

On the Friday morning we left for Atacames at 6 AM.. being woken up by two outrageous and highly offensive American girls at the beginning of the 8 hours bus journey. Atacames revealed to possess a highly agressive sun which did massive bad effects on our European skin and most particularly on Sophie's legs. However dance tournament on bars and massive banana tours in the water were also part of the weekend. The journey back from Atacames became for many people of the group a near death experience considering that the normal road was blocked and the bus had to cross the Amazonian forest for to hours on unsafe dirtroad.
The highlight of the end of the Quito session was the theatre. the group was split into different groups: One doing Blanca Nieve (Snow White) another Harry Potter a third a play involving a coz and finally the Oscars well, the Cristobal Colon oscars. The plays were followed by a goodbye party were the group did wear offensive outfits, and even lend them to certain teachers...

Moving onto Villa Maria

Finally the project. Arriving in Villa Maria has been associated with half of the group becoming ill, some even on the plane.

We discovered Villa Maria on the first day and started to work with the kids, we also met Jose, a small kid who just had a tumour removed thanks to fundraising from previous Quest volunteers. We finished the day with Bart's birthday. On Saturday the 21st we had the first fair for the kids and discovered that water baloons were a highly important weapon in the shanty town. Sunday was a day where group dignity was finally and definitively lost, after a catwalk in bin bags we managed a choreography which would make the back street boys quite poor dancers.

The following week became quite a routine of working with kids, but we also met Ana Mariela, a small girl with a face tumour and for whom we decided to raise money... a succesful project for the moment.

Hasta Luego.. might have more news soon.

Monday 2 March 2009

Lily Higgin's Tanzania Expedition Update - Swaziland!

A lot has occurred since the start on expedition. One of the more prominent moments was when we met Nicola Stokes for the first time in Johannesburg airport. We all had planned to greet her with different accents. Dixon had planned to do his superb British accent, the more and more I hear it the less I can match it to anyone who actually lives in England. However this idea didn't go to plan as everyone chickened out when it came to the actual greeting. However we were all pleased to have a new member to our group.

We stayed in Johannesburg for one night while Freddie had a quick check up on his strained back that continued to play up. To everyone's great delight Fred was cleared as fit to carry on with Expedition and the next morning we set off.

The Journey from South Africa to Swaziland was our longest by bus so far totalling 6 hours. The swimming pool at Sondzelas was greatly appreciated when we arrived! We all spent the evening relaxing, playing pool and drinking cold beers. Nicola and I excelled at pool potting at least 1 ball every 15 minutes!! The next day was spent by the pool, horse riding and mountain biking. The horse riding was a leisurely trek through some of the stunning countryside that Swaziland has to offer. The mountain biking was more stimulating and four of us took up the challenge! By the next morning the weather had changed for the worse and due to heavy rain it was unsafe to wild camp for the start of the trek. Before heading out of Sondzelas me (Lily), James and Saz (team chuck it in) made pancakes to mark the start of lent.

With everyone packed and ready for the trek we headed over to the campsite and then proceeded on a four hour ramble. Sophie, Chaz, Han, Vic and I thought it would be adventurous to make our way to the top of the rock through a thicket of bushes...while the boys and Nic proceeded to go the easy way round. Half way up the slope Chaz slipped and fell in the bushes and all we could see was her legs flailing around in the was hilarious I laughed for at least half an hour. Other eventful times of the trek included Dixon and his magic wand (part of a tent pole) which he used to guide the way. Back at camp we made supper and then as the others went to bed a few of us sat around to have our first cup of hot chocolate in 40 days. The next day the weather was much improved and we were able to wild camp and so headed off deep into Malalotja nature Reserve. Fred needed to rest his back and so together with Kate and Han they waited for our return.

That day we walked for 5 hours on tough terrain. When we reached our Camp site we enjoyed a Refreshing dip in the river. As night time fell we star gazed and introduced Nicola to the game of Mafia. The next day we got up bright and early ready for a long day ahead in comparison to the torrential rain the day before we awoke to boiling heat....we all started off with high spirits, however after making our way through bushes after failing to find a direct path for five hours some of us were less happy than others! Our guide was good at finding the direction but very slow. We all felt a relief as we found the road and it started to cool down. However, despite the complaints I felt that the satisfaction of finally reaching our goal and looking back on what we had done far outweighed the difficulties we had had on the trek.

We were all rewarded for our hard work by a burger from Sarah which was very well received. The next day was spent lounging be the the afternoon we prepared for Kate's fake birthday by making her a Happy Birthday banner and a cake. Celebrations continued into the evening and Dixon presented Kate with a tiara, fake jewels and an elephant mask. The boys all wore orange for the occasion?! The next day we all headed for our next stop Sherwula Mountain Camp where Quest have previously worked. With continued heavy rain we took the opportunity to play poker. Hannah was pleased yet a little surprised to have won...not knowing what a flush had been half way through the game! The next day in torrential rain we packed up our tents and headed out of Swaziland and onto to Maputo the capital of Mozambique in search of drier weather, sea, sand and whale sharks!