A team of twenty cadets and staff embarked on two week expedition to Tanzania during February 2012 with the intention of delivering a worthwhile community support project and an enjoyable trek through the Ngorongoro region to the west of Kilimanjaro in the North of the country. All made possible with the grants provided by Ulysses Trust, the RAF Charitable Trust and the Singleton Trust.
The team were based in Moshi, a town to the south of Kilimanjaro – not only was this close to the start of the trek it is also the base of Mkombosi, a streetkids youth project which aims to bring homeless children off the streets and into the safety and protection of the project. Children as young as 6 years of age are encouraged into the project which aims to educate and reintegrate the children back into society as young adults to lead worthwhile lives.
The trek itself included the game safari through the Ngorongoro crater and up onto the rim (2500m), transversing and then travelling past Empaki, another dormant volcano and past El Donolengi, an active volcano and then onto the final campsite next to Lake Natron.
The team split into two during the two weeks, whilst one team was engaging with the community project, the other were undertaking the trek. This ensure that the project in particular was sustained for two weeks.
Prior to the expedition itself, the team had undertaken the usual training and preparation leading to the trek itself, from the initial Crowborough shakedown weekend through to the final Sennybridge training weekend in the Brecon Beacons. Additionally, the team had trained hard to ensure the support offered to the project was worthwhile and meaningful. To do this it had been recognised early on that football is massively popular in Tanzania – with some skillful negotiation, Arsenal football club agreed to train the cadets to deliver football coaching. This training was imparted over two weekend training sessions in Hyde Park, London. In addition, Arsenal donated football kit which the team took and distributed to members of Mkombosi. The football coaching delivered by the cadets became a huge draw for kids within Moshi and word soon got around.
The trek itself was led by a local Masai guide named Makamaro or Wilfred. Over five days the team were taken through an ever changing landscape, from lush green to a barren volcanic landscape. All the campsites were uniquely beautiful and all were overlooked by Oldonyo Lengai, an active volcano which the teams were able to summit (2800m). This meant an 11pm start to avoid the heat of the day – the terrain was challenging as all previous footpaths had been obliterated by a recent eruption (2007).
Generally the days entailed 10-15k legs with the team walking in 35 – 40 degree heat.
“I’ve got to say Tanzania was a once in a life time experience and I absolutely loved it. As cliché as it is, the expedition changed my view on things. It showed me a side of the world that I’d only seen on TV or on the news. I met inspirational people who have lived on the streets and have been helped by the great cause Mkombozi and are now running their own businesses.” Billie Lorentson, 50F (Lambeth) Sqn
The team were fortunate to have been accompanied by two ex-members of Mkombozi, Morgan and Charles. It should be noted that the team actually raised additional funding to pay for both these young men’s fees to participate in the trek. For them a unique opportunity to see a part of their country they had not previously been able to experience.
This expedition was not entirely typical – the over-all experience was rich and fulfilling for all the team members, not just for the landscape and challenging trek but also the impact of spending time with young people from Mkombozi and Moshi. This alone has left a much longer lasting impression on all those that took part than simply painting walls.