Recently, the Elvins family went on the Untouched Lodge Safari in Zimbabwe and Botswana and stopped off at the local school we support to say hi to the kids. Dingani Primary School, situated just outside of the small town of Dete, is close to our eco-friendly lodge Elephant’s Eye. We support the school with donations; and allow guests to also bring thing along in their suitcase through the wonderful initiative Pack for a Purpose.
We interviewed Todd Elvins’ children Siena and Keaton to find out more about their experience.
Keaton, what was your first impression of Zimbabwe?
After stepping out of the airport in Zimbabwe, we were immediately greeted by a group of tribal singers who invited us to come and dance with them. We took a taxi to our first campsite and our driver spoke English very well and we shared many interesting conversations. After arriving at our campsite, we got to see the raw beauty of the African wilderness. Everyone in Zimbabwe seemed very friendly and welcoming to tourists, and it felt like a wonderful place.
Where did you find out about Pack for a Purpose?
My dad found it on the Jenman website.
What was your experience of handing over your presents at Dingani?
Handing over the presents was a fantastic experience that I will never forget. The children all showed genuine delight at something we take for granted like school supplies. You could really tell that it meant something to them, and they all expressed their gratitude by welcoming us into their school.
How did they make you feel welcome?
The students all made us feel welcome in different ways. As we journeyed throughout each classroom, the students would first stand up and greet us in English. They would smile and make us all feel at home with them. Afterwards they sang us songs that they have been practicing, and took time to interact with us. It was a very thoughtful gesture that was greatly appreciated.
What was the best experience on your safari?
My favorite experience on the trip was seeing lions up close in the wild. Our guide, Matts, spotted two females lounging in the shade of the bush. They were just on the side of the road, and we got incredibly close. It was a fantastic moment, and one I am not likely to forget.
Would you like to return to Africa again?
I would definitely love to return to Africa. I thoroughly enjoyed everything about it. The food was delicious, the people were friendly, it is a magical place.
Siena, what was your first impression of Zimbabwe?
As soon as we stepped out of the airport at Victoria Falls, we were greeted with the warm smiles and beautiful voices of a singing group of men. I immediately felt welcomed into the country when these men invited us to dance with them and take a photo with them, because back in the United States, an encounter like this one would be fairly unusual. Our Jenman driver, Roye, also welcomed us into Zimbabwe with a warm smile and friendly handshakes. Due to these first encounters, my immediate impression of Zimbabwe was so wonderful because of the openness and kindness that we were treated with right off the bat.
What was your experience of handing over your presents to the school kids at Dingani?
While holding the box of school supplies, and handing them over to the kids, flashbacks of purchasing the supplies back in the United States raced through my head because where we live, there is such easy access to these kinds of materials, so handing over something that was so easily accessible to me but that is so meaningful and special to someone else is so eye opening. Just knowing how important the materials are to the kids makes the experience so worthwhile.
Did the school children make you feel welcome?
Each of the classrooms full of kids cheerfully welcomed us by asking how we were and by singing for us. It was an immense amount of fun, and we felt so grateful for their smiles, songs, and words. Each of the teachers and the principal also welcomed us with smiles and kind words.
What was your best experience on safari?
Visiting the Dingani School was definitely a major highlight of the trip and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Besides visiting the school, we also loved getting to know our awesome guides and enjoying the beautiful wildlife.
Would you like to return to Africa again?
I would personally be thrilled to visit Africa again in the future because of the lasting impact that it has left on my heart.