An intrepid group of students and staff from Highfields spent two weeks of their summer holidays on a life-changing trip to Swaziland.
The 13-strong group spent months preparing for the intensive expedition in July, which challenged their mental and physical strength.
Adventurous Highfields students chose the small African kingdom as the destination for the mission and were involved with all elements of planning and decision-making for the trip. The adventure aimed to improve their teamwork and leadership skills, help them to become more globally aware, boost their confidence and self-esteem, all of which would also enhance their employment prospects.
As well as an acclimatisation period, which saw students introduced to the local produce available and tasked with funding, planning and preparing a menu to feed the whole team during their time away, a huge focus of the trip was a four-day community project.
This important phase of the trip gave them the unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the community and involved working with a local builder to build a kitchen facility in the community camp site in order to attract more tourism to the village. They also learnt more about the conservation of precious water resources and basic sanitation at the same time as developing global citizenship skills through facing the challenges of living and working in the developing world.
The team then embarked on a four-day expedition through Malolotja National Park, trekking up to 11 km per day to give them a chance to experience Swaziland’s stunning natural beauty before a two-day rest and relaxation period at the Hlane National Park surrounded by lions, hippos, zebras, giraffe, elephants, antelope, and birds.
Students hosted a number of fundraising events to go towards the thousands of pounds it cost to make the trip possible, including hosting raffles, cake sales, quiz nights, car washes and discos.
Highfields’ Community Engagement Officer Lisa Corbett, who accompanied students on the trip along with two other staff members - Wayne Harrison and Aman Beesla - said that the trip had been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the team.
“The students were in charge of the planning of all elements of the trip,” she said. “They chose the destination based on a number of factors, including the fact that it is somewhere they would not normally have access to, providing a number of challenges and a real opportunity for them to make a difference to a local community in Swaziland.
“We spent months preparing for the trip, including working on our fitness levels as we had to reach a certain standard for us to be allowed to travel.
“It was certainly not just a holiday, and it really challenged us physically and mentally but we all enjoyed every single moment and it was an experience none of us will ever forget. It really was life-changing for us all.”
The trip was organised in conjunction with World Challenge, a leading organisation behind life-changing school expeditions, which provides 24-hour support and expertise for educational trips abroad.