A group of 23 Bedales Sixth Form students spent their half term break working on a 10-day project in Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) to install running water at a rural primary school.
The students raised a total of £10,000 in advance of the trip to fund the project work – fundraising activities included sponsored walks, bike rides, bake sales, and writing original poetry.
In consultation with the Eswatini Government, Mhlabubovu Primary School was chosen for the project as it did not have a permanent water supply serving the 500+ pupils and staff. Working with local water bore hole specialist, Derek Braithwaite, and alongside staff and pupils from the school, Bedales students and staff installed a bore hole with a solar powered water pump, and the associated pipework for three fresh water taps. This involved significant digging of trenches and holes to provide the infrastructure. In addition, the students repainted three school blocks and toilets, and repaired perimeter fencing. They also donated footballs and sports kit.
The final morning saw a netball game between the visitors and hosts. The primary school then held a thank you ceremony of dancing and poetry readings, presented the Bedales students with necklaces and sarongs, and served a traditional meal. The ceremony included a speech from the Headteacher Ncamsile Nkambule who described the project as a “dream come true” and said she found it “difficult to find sufficient words to say thank you”. A representative of the local chiefdom also expressed the gratitude of the local community. Bedales Deputy Head Academic, Ed Mason, replied on behalf of the Bedales visitors. He commented:
"It has been a great privilege to work in partnership with the pupils and staff at Mhalbubovu Primary School. The opportunity for our students to experience a different culture and to deepen their global awareness is invaluable. Watching the young people from Bedales and Mhalbubovu work, play and learn together, offers a shared promise for a better future for us all. I am very grateful for the welcome and hospitality of Principal Nkambule and her teachers, and the chance given to me to learn from and share ideas with other educators."
Bedales Sixth Form students commented: “I will forever be grateful to Bedales for providing the opportunity to go on this trip which felt rewarding and having a genuine sense of achievement from knowing the impact that we had on the local school. Connecting with the children and making friendships that have been imprinted in my heart was one of my favourite memories. Looking back at the joy and the gratitude that the staff and students showed at the ceremony on the last day was unforgettable and will be part of me forever.” Jacqueline Cavagnari
“Swaziland was an eye-opening experience that gave me a unique opportunity to help those less fortunate than me. From this trip, I made memories that will stay with me for life, whether it was getting all of the kids involved in a big football game or coming back after lunch to a group of primary school kids wielding pickaxes and digging holes.” Lok Radcliffe
Sixth Form students from Bedales have been visiting Swaziland annually for 13 years to assist schools with water installation, repairs and refurbishment. Since starting this initiative 300 Bedales students have fundraised an impressive £170,000 and carried out project work with nine schools.