As our three months come to a close at Simukai, we have gotten to know all the children the organisation helps extremely well. Every day the boys living on the street come to the centre for food, cleaning facilities and games/sessions with us. The more time we have spent here the more boys we have seen regularly coming to Simukai, and in celebration of friendships made, we decided to take a two-night camping trip to the bush!
The reasoning of the trip was not just to have more fun with the boys; the excursion provided an opportunity for the boys to mix with other children their age. Oh yes, I forgot to add that we joined the Manicaland Scouts Group; that is around 200 children in Cubs, Scout and Rovers, aged eight to 20-odd years! The boys got to experience an environment off the streets and be part of a club that provides rules and structures, so different from their day-to-day lives. We hoped to bring them a positive sense of belonging, albeit just for the weekend, that showed that there was life beyond the streets.
On Thursday afternoon we piled into two Kombis, packed full to the brim of luggage, tents, food and most importantly biscuits, and made our way into the mountains of Vumba. Of course music was blasting and the dancing began (note began - dancing never stops when you camp in Zimbabwe).
Being the first to arrive, we were able to spend much needed time assembling tents and preparing dinner. Though sceptical at first, our camping gear managed to materialise into enough fully functioning tents to house us all, and we had some expert sadza-stirrers to get the food ready quickly. After some quality chill-time with the boys, buses of scouts began to arrive and hundreds of children’s voices and laughter resonated throughout the trees. Godfrey (15) and Terorai (12) were particularly excited and dragged us round, hand-in-hand to all the other campfires making us introduce ourselves. Although shy at first, their confidence quickly grew as they asked other children their names and joined in with the campfire chants. Being novelty volunteers, it was no surprise that the party ended up around our camp, and campfire chants were sung over and over, getting even the quietest of children belting out tunes. And, of course, we danced!
Friday Morning, a 5am wake-up call, children assembled promptly at the scout base and we were sent off for a jog. It was a surreal moment joining 200 children belting down a road, flip-flops flying, and older team members keeping us motivated with chanting. Next volunteers Veronica and Rachel continued the work-out with a group Yoga and Tai-chi session. And the exercise didn’t stop there. Oh no, a morning Mountain Trek followed, which I personally class more as rock-climbing due to the gradient! The afternoon allowed for some down-time before ICS led game sessions for the whole group. By this time, the boys were nicely integrated with the Scouts and there was little prompting to get them to mix; before we served dinner we realised Jon (16) was still down with the Scouts dancing to music (apparently he’d found his future wife…). The night ended with a talent show where two of our boys represented the team well in their solo dance acts that got the crowds roaring, i.e. me whooping their name like a proud/embarrassing mum.
Overall, the camping trip will be one of my most memorable experiences of ICS, and not only because I will never get the Scout chants out of my head! Volunteers, Scouts and the Simukai boys were all able to have a pleasant and truly entertaining two-day holiday!
Written by ICS Team Simukai Urban