Ellis realises her dream at OkaepeBy: Shinovene Immanuel
Spending eleven days in the Land of the Brave were enough sunrises for England-based Ellis Riles to realise her love for Namibia and cementing her passion for children.
Ellis, from Nottingham, was part of a group who were here recently.
Through a schools world- wide project, 20 pupils from Britain were selected to com- plete a refurbishing of a rural school.
And the school that benefited was Okaepe Project School situated at Okaepe, 54 km east of Okakarara.
The opportunity to visit Namibia came in the third year of her secondary education at Friesland School.
According to the Leeds- born teenager, it took about two years for her and 19 other pupils to plan their journey to Africa, which was her first ever visit to the continent.
There is a perception by people out of the continent that Africa is mostly a jungle, war-torn, desert and cities full of animals.
Ellis admitted that she had no idea about Namibia. “Before the trip I can honestly say I knew nothing about Namibia. This makes me quite sad to admit, as I have only now experienced or realised what a fantastic place it is,” she said.
Ellis however did her research before she made her way here.
“I researched online. Most of the things I read about were to do with the history, how beautiful the environment and animals were but not much on the people. I watched a Youtube video of what Namibian people like best about their country and most said how friendly Namibians are. I totally agree,” she said.
The youngster said she felt “totally excited and yet nervous at the same time” adding that, unfortunately back home they don’t hear enough of the posi- tive wonderful Africa that she experienced.
She said the trip has changed her to an extend that it has changed her perception about so many things.
At first, she wanted to be a journalist, but now, she aims to be a teacher.
“It made me realise I don’t want to spend my life being ignorant, living in a western bubble. Now I want to spend my life teaching and helping people who will really benefit”. Memorable moments
The focus of her trip was to decorate the dormitories, classroom and dining hall and spend time with pupils. Part of the trip was a visit to Etosha National Park.
“We went on early sunrise safari around the park and had the opportunity to see lions, zebras, giraffes and many other fantastic game”.
“The first came on the third night of our stay at the school,” Ellis said.
She added that the teachers at Okaepe invited them for a night of entertainment provided by the pupil at the school.
They sat in an empty classroom, on camp chairs and waited for the children to come in.
“If at a home in Britain, a night of entertainment would have to involve an expensive ticket, an over-decorated room and some sort of over-priced unneeded technology but not in his little classroom”. “Its plain walls and empti-
ness were filled with the beauty of these young people’s voices, smiles and stories. And just like the classroom, to the eye it had nothing but its atmosphere and soul was full and happy”.
She felt a connection to their hearts.
“The sound is so strong and bold, the most beautiful choir of voices I’ve ever heard. I couldn’t help but cry yet smile too at this deeply poignant mo- ment,” she said.
Ellis described her other mo- ment as a bittersweet one.
Over two years they man- aged to fundraise £3000 (N$45 000).
One night at the school, they got a chance to see where the children slept. “I felt overcome with emotion to see their bodies layed on freezing concrete, sharing a tiny blanket between a group of them”.
As a result, their group decided to use the money they raised to buy them 100 mattress and 150 blankets for the pupils.
She also learned that being materialistic is not good. “Spending my time surrounded by caring young people with big dreams does, and there for I want to pursue a career teaching in Africa”.
Ellis was optimistic that she will come back. “Their is nothing I am more sure of in my life right now, than me returning to Namibia. I'm already planning my return for next year”.
According to her, its going to be hard work raising money to come back and that means she will sacrifice things many of her friends will be doing in the coming months.