“When I saw that poster, I was sure it was for me. I never did something like this before, but I really wanted to try and help people and experience new things”, she smiled as we sat at St. Thomas monastery in Morogoro, where the Raleigh journey was coming to an end, a time to reflect on the experience. Ten weeks ago, I had picked Natalia up from the airport in Dar Es Salaam, she was polite and self-effacing, qualities she retained with a notable air of newfound confidence added, “Trek was so hard for me, but I was so proud of myself on that last day. After trek I have the feeling I can do anything in my life,” she agreed adding, “I think the highlight was the last day, when we arrived at the last camp – at the farm – it was beautiful and we all started hugging and crying from happiness.”
Natalia’s first phase was the 19-day trek through Iringa Rural – 235km of hard work including having the responsibility to lead fellow trekkers on nominated leader days, something Natalia looked back on appreciatively, as she had never had the chance to experience it before, “Definitely developed leadership and also started opening up more to people – I’m not afraid now because normally I’m shy and I don’t like speaking in front of people – it was okay with the support of the group – they listened and respected the day leader. I woke them up at 5.30 and they hated me for that.”
Phase two brought Natalia to the WASH project in Nyamwezi, with construction under of new hygiene facilities at Nanenane primary school as well as lessons for the students. On top of the work, the integration with the community and the learning that brought, was something Natalia highlighted, “It was awesome, all the people in the homestays treated us like we were part of the family, it was so nice. The people – they are so welcoming, so amazing here. I think we should learn a lot from them, because they are so kind and happy all the time – never complaining. It’s amazing.” She expressed great hope for the sustainability of the project; that the toilet blocks will be looked after by the school management committee as well as the school WASH club members will continue to broadcast the values of hygiene, even to their families, something evidenced at the action days.
Phase 3 brought the NRM project in Iyegeya and for Natalia, “It was amazing, beautiful views – I’ve never been so close to nature and the work was so great – we wanted to hit the target and worked really hard filling the tubes and transplanting trees.” The phase also involved teaching children at Iyegeya primary school about the environment and the importance of conserving it. According to Natalia, the last lessons consisted of reflecting of the topics learned, where students showed encouraging knowledge and enthusiasm for the future.
With an impending return to work back in UK, Natalia reflected on what she would take back into the workplace, “Leadership, organisation and adaptability. In our department it is busy all the time, new orders coming last minute – I think this will be helpful, because now I’m more open to the situation”, and finished with a message to colleagues, “Definitely recommend Raleigh – amazing experience and so many memories for the rest of your life. You become more confident, stronger mentally and physically. Meet a lot of people from around the world which is awesome and while learning new skills.”
Words by Miguel. Images by Paul, Cat & Alpha 1.