I-CCO is an educational project for orphans, aged five to 22, supported by INTO Giving. It was a first for the whole team and Ed, at 14 the youngest of the group, threw himself into the camp activities, from craftwork to relay races and his own magic tricks. Here is his personal account of this unforgettable experience.
We set off on our expedition to Lusaka, Zambia on the 11th August and after a 13-hour flight, an hour in customs and another bumpy hour unable to find our accommodation, finally arrived at the Dream Valley Lodge.
We had just one day to prepare before the camp started, and spent it wondering what our role would be. After an evening talk with Reverend Alfred and Camp Chief Charles, we had a slightly clearer picture in our heads as to what we would be doing. So we used that evening productively, and discussed how we would spend the two hours of crafts in the morning so that the pre-teens (aged 4 to 13) could enjoy themselves doing something practical.
We agreed to meet for breakfast at 8.30 the next morning, as the first crafts session began at 11. We eagerly discussed how to go about getting the pre-teen orphans to make material hands and decorate them. Having said that, it was mainly Tina, Nicola and Eloise who were the masterminds behind the first day’s success, whilst Oscar, Hugh and myself debated what we would do for the sports activities.
Despite the passion and love for football all around the camp, the greatest success in the sports seemed to be the relays. When Oscar and Hugh and I went out to set up half an hour before the game, we were met by a massed charge of screams, shouts, cartwheels and even flips from the kids. We were then surrounded by the pre-teens, who tried to break the footballs out of our hands. If it wasn’t for Charles, one of the camp staff, calling them in, I’m sure they would have never given up until they had achieved their goal of stealing the balls from us. Nonetheless, as soon as the games began, they were as obedient as anything.
The friendships soon became clear, as did which children had their favourites. I don’t know about the others, but three of the children have stayed in my mind since we left and I doubt that they will ever leave my thoughts.
Teemo was one of the older pre teens, with just one year left until he moved up. I will always remember his personality and his incredible skill with anything he put his mind to. You could throw a ball to him and, with the touch of a genius, he could do as many keepy-uppies as he wanted. Also when it came to crafts, his care and attention to detail were easily visible by the results. On the second day he and I had discovered that we shared a great interest in football. He was considerably better, but we both loved the game. So when we gave them plates with numbers on for them to decorate I had decided to make one myself for Teemo and put his favourite player on the back, and the following day he did the same for me.
Another brilliant friend, Jackson, was slightly younger, eight, and he had more energy than anyone else. When working on the crafts I had tried to make conversation with him, but he seemed shy and nervous. But when I took a button from the table, put it behind my back and asked him to choose which hand it was in, from that moment on he would never stop doing the same to me and always following me. I loved it.
We got to know many of the children’s names, but when 50 of them arrived the next day, we decided to give them all name badges. However, I couldn’t fail to recognise Jackson among the crowd, and when I held out my hands to him the following day, it was lovely to see the smile grow on his face. And as we said goodbye on the final day when he was in the truck about to be taken home, and he just held out his hands and asked for me to choose, it felt brilliant.
The other friendship, and the one that was probably the most special to me, was with Joseph who was one of the youngest on the camp, at only six years old.
Joseph had worn the same bright orange trousers each day. On the first day you couldn’t keep him still, he would be running around with his friends and in the relays, even if his team had lost, he would still celebrate. But on the second day Joseph seemed sad and cut-off from the others. The previous day when we were playing football his shoe had come off, but he had picked it up and hadn’t put it on again until the end as he didn’t want to miss out on a second of the activities.
But this day he was walking around with his friend holding his hand and his friend appeared to be ill. So it was such a great feeling when just a high five from me would make him smile. At the awards, when I saw him sitting far away from everyone else, I went and picked him up and sat him on my lap and he smiled throughout the rest of the awards.
The most tiring part of the trip was the crafts, constantly being in demand to help the children – it was brilliant fun, but at the end all I wanted to do was sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep was also tricky as I struggled with the tangled mosquito net wrapping itself around me and keeping me awake.
It was hard work, but such a brilliant experience. I can’t think how hard it would be, being one of the teachers constantly helping the children who get very little support at home. But I loved it more than anything, and would love to do it again next year.
Best Moment in the trip: The day after the camp had finished we went to the school that the charity had built the previous year and visited some of the orphans’ houses, and from the group of small kids following the car into their township, out came Joseph wearing his orange trousers and dungarees. He ran up and hugged me. This was the most special moment to me in the whole trip to Zambia – knowing you had made a difference and made people happy.
Find out more about INTO Giving’s global educational projects here.
Author: Ed Colin
Ed Colin, 14, is a student at Hurstpierpoint College, where his favourite subjects are drama, Religious Studies and English. In his spare time he is a keen cyclist, skier, golfer and football fan. He lives in East Sussex, UK with his parents and three siblings.