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Trekking in Namibia with Year 11 and the Elephant Human Relations Aid (EHRA)

18th September 17

Each summer, a team of KAS students visits Namibia to work with Elephant Human Relations Aid (EHRA). Year 11 students fundraise to earn places on the expedition, volunteer on the ground to help a local school, and undertake a student led desert trek. The trip has been a KAS highlight for many staff and students over the years.

Before going on the Namibia trip I asked staff who had been on the trip in the past what they thought of it. The common response was to see eyes widen, a broad smile and the words ‘It’s amazing’….’go’, sometimes not much more than that, and having now been, I can understand why.

I think everyone who has taken part on this trip has come back with profound and life-long impressions of the many wonderful people met and of the awe inspiring landscape, which are a little hard to put into words. I think what stays with me most of all is the colour of the place, the cream and orange skies in the morning, the reds and purples of shadows on the mountains as the sun set – very early and very quickly! My most vivid memory is of a long drive back to camp at twilight after a day of tracking elephants. We went out to work with EHRA, Elephant Human Relations Aid, their primary role is to reduce conflict between humans and elephants in the Damaraland region of Namibia and to work with staff and students at Abraham Gariseb Primary school in the region.

We spent the first week camped close to the school where we spent mornings redecorating the dormitories and painting murals for classrooms and the outside of buildings. We were adding to a long history of KAS students who had done the same and it was nice to see the names of students I have taught in the past signed on the artwork decorating the walls. Afternoons were spent with the students at the school – running workshops in a variety of things from hairdressing to letter writing, face painting to making hats or simply playing outside as the sun went down.

We had to get used to a different routine to the day. Up before 6am and in bed after dark at 8pm. Our students were excellent at helping run the camp, making breakfast in the early mornings and clear up after the campfire in the evenings. They also worked with the choirmaster at Abraham Gariseb and learned a Namibian song around the fire, which they sang to the school on our last day and we had the pleasure of hearing the students at the school sing back to us.

Week 2 was all about hiking, navigating, learning how to recognise animal tracks and star gazing. We moved camp every couple of days following the river developing our map reading skills as we went. For the last hike challenge, our students had to plot a course and navigate through 20+ kilometres of desert, hills and scrubland to a meeting point, a task they completed in near record time. This was made all the more challenging having spent the previous night huddled in tents as two young male lions had been spotted just on the edge of camp. Although mildly terrifying at the time, I imagine this will be one of the strongest and best souvenirs of the trip for many.

Throughout the long trip our students maintained a really superb spirit and team ethos, they never complained about the early starts and the chores, the blisters and the heat of the sun, a fabulous bunch of whom we should be collectively proud!

Cliff, Head of Photography

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