An account of a volunteer in Base Camp in Namibia

A recent Kaya volunteer tells an account of their fantastic experience volunteering on the Elephant and Community Water Access project in Namibia:

We survived build week! The group of excited travellers who hopped around camp on Monday evening hobbled back on Friday like a group of pensioners who had just attempted a marathon – tired, sore BUT very happy and satisfied.  For all of our talk and reflection you would think we had just reconstructed the Great Wall of China but, in reality we had put the finishing touches to one walls, built a platform to elevate a water tank and laid the foundations for its protective wall.

The week started following lunch on Tuesday after we had set up the camp.  We kicked off with a quick demo on how to make cement by Kabwata (ed. young Matheus) – it really couldn’t be easier: 6 shovels of sand, 3 of cement a bucket of water a couple of stirs and there you have it!  A barrow of cement in under 2 minutes – it couldn’t be too much bother to knock up a couple of walls this week!!!  We learnt pretty quickly that we aren’t all Kabwata and that this whole business needs a fair bit more skill and strength than I had on day 1! Luckily we had a few strong team members and the expertise and patience of Kavari and Martha to show the rest of us the ropes and soon enough we had a great little production line on the go.

We finished up the wall on Tuesday and moved to our next farm where we built the other structures.  The next days passed in a blur of hard work, sweat, camaraderie and learning.  Multiple sand and rock runs, loads of rocks and enough cement mixes to give us a few blisters and an impetus to establish a cult to worship at the genius of the man who invented the cement mixer, we headed back to base camp with some new skills and a feeling that we had contributed to something.

Challenging though the building week was it was made manageable – there was something we could each do and we learn to complement each other quickly.  By the last day the separation of ‘you do dry mix, I’ll do wet’ rotated clearly, and no sooner had wheelbarrows been returned to its spot, then it was refilled with the cement ingredients and a fresh water bucket was lined up.

On top of the rewarding days were the nights.  We were all impressed with the camps that materialised on a thorny piece of ground as if from no where and the food that we conjured up on the campfire was better than much of what I cook at home.  Lying under the tarpaulin, looking out on landscape lit by the nearly full moon and admiring the (occasionally shooting) stars, it was hard to feel anything other than enormously privileged.

We arrived back to Base Camp on Friday in the spirit of those arriving at a 5* luxury lodge.  After a short stop at Khorixas for a much needed coke, it became clear that we were the grubbiest people in Namibia and the showers we enjoyed on our return to camp were blissful. We have been treated to a very relaxing weekend and we are all looking forward to patrol week and all the new adventures it promises.

Thank you to Kabwata, Kavari, Martha and Chris they have looked after us brilliantly, trained us patiently and kept the
‘craic’ going as we got tired. It has been an unforgettable experience.

If you would like to have a similar experience volunteering abroad then read more about our elephant relations project in Namibia here: https://www.kayavolunteer.com/project/volunteer-elephant-community-water-access-project-namibia/