July 14, 2017
It’s Sam and Kienne here, touching base with you all from Ukutula Lion Park in Brits, South Africa. We hope you all are marvelous back in the states and are having an amazing summer just like the 12 of us! Since talking last, we were privileged enough to visit, serve, and meet some of the happiest kids living at the Bushveld Mission a Children’s Home in South Africa. The Bushveld Home is a non-profit organization that was created to teach and encourage orphaned, abandoned, abused, and starving children by “loving them back to life.”
On our first day of service work, we arrived early in the morning, eager to assist as the Mission director, Mrs. Terry (Mama T). Mama T welcomed us with a big smile and huge hugs before giving us a tour of the mission. Because of the South African School Winter Holiday, many of the kids were not at the mission rather, visiting family relates or homes for the break. The fewer number of kids however, did not take away our playful energy with the seven or eight kids who were stayed at the mission for the holiday. Immidatly our girls began playing tag, pushing the toddlers on the swings, and having biggest and loudest tickle fights together. Gwyn and one of the youngest boys, Thimbi, became best friends in a matter of seconds while, Abbey and Tess helped some of the other kids open up with comforting hugs and funny faces. After playing with the kids and fueling our bodies with some sandwiches and juice for lunch, we came together to paint the walls of the oldest girls’ room. Mama T let us in on the surprise, and told us that this entire renovation to the oldest girls’ room was a surprise for them when they got back to the mission. Our girls took this newfound information and made sure to make this the best that it could be. Sally, Eanes, and Mary Alston tag teamed a corner to paint quickly and in a matter of moments the entire group was singing songs and finishing the job. Excited to come back and finish what we had started, we woke up early at Monkey Camp and loaded our bags into the trailer. We were sad to say goodbye to a place that truly felt like home, but the Waterburg Cottages awaited us.
Before heading to the mission, we met Mama T’s husband, Pastor Hammish, and were given a tour through the Vaalwater township, getting a firsthand look at exactly where the children we were working with come from and the poverty that they are forced to face on a daily basis. What really resonated with the group was the smiles on every face as well as little kids in the township waving at us despite their daily hardships. We were invited into one of the homes of three children at the Mission who were home visiting their mother, who can’t regularly provide for them, for holiday. It was truly humbling, as the eldest daughter read our girls poetry, while Stuurman, the middle son, shared his beautiful music with us. Stuurman accompanied us on our drive to the mission and spent the day with us, and upon pulling in the youngsters were outside waving and jumping for joy when welcoming us back into their home. Before lunch, we picked up where we left off playing with the children, sharing laughs, smiles, and stories. After lunch, we turned our attention toward finishing the painting project we had started the day before. Mama T showed the group exactly what she envisioned the room looking like, and we got to see firsthand the progress we were making. As we got closer to finishing up, Emma, Claire, and Abby took upon themselves to hop on the ladder and touch up the last area that needed painting, taking initiative and showing their true servants hearts. After completing our work, we were faced with the tough task of saying goodbye to Mama T and the children at the Bushveld Children’s Mission. Caroline’s eyes filled with bittersweet tears as she knew she would be back one to help these kids again. These two short days of service work gave our whole group an entirely new perspective about love, family, resources, and what it means to live selflessly. We couldn’t have asked for a better time at the Mission and all came out of it better than we first arrived! We can’t believe are trip together is almost over, its gone too fast! Thank you once again for sending all of your girls on this amazing adventure with us.
All the best, Sam and Kienne
July 11, 2017
Happy Tuesday, friends and family!
All of us in South Africa hope you are doing well back in the states. We have so many stories to tell! Since our last update, we have embarked on more safari rides, travelled up the Waterburg Mountain Range, camped out in the middle of the Marataba Reserve, interacted with dangerous South African snakes, and have come face to face with precious white rhino. Everyday seems to bring more and more!
The early morning safaris and breathtaking sunset safaris are without a doubt, an invigorating activity for the girls. The sensation of driving through the South African Bush with wild animals roaming around us is such an incredible and empowering feeling. Our safari queens of the group Gwyn and Abby, have the eyes of a hawk and are always the first to spot an elephant or rhino for the groups. Within the first 24 hours of being on the reserve, the girls were fortunate enough to have spotted 4 of the Big 5, getting the opportunity to see a Rhino, Leopard, Elephant, and two Lions in their natural habitat. Truly incredible! The first afternoon we took a drive up into the Waterburg Mountains, gaining perspective on just how vast the bush really is, getting a glimpse from one of the highest points in the park. Both Sally and Mary Alston were blown away with how spectacular the view was, as they sat in awe discussing all of the wildlife that inhabited the grass land below us. It was one of those moments that will be impossible to forget. As we drove back down into the bush, our guides gave everyone in our group the chance to sit in the tracking seat at the front of the vehicles, getting an unobstructed view of the reserve as well as a rush of adrenaline. Everyone took advantage of this opportunity, even if they were not that comfortable with the idea at first. Abbey and Emma both seemed apprehensive to the idea of the tracking seat however, they loved it so much that both of them ended up riding in the front longer than anyone else! After a long day of exploring the mountains we’ve grown to adore entirely, we drove back home to Monkey Camp and enjoyed some extra cheesy lasagna and salad.
The majority of the next day was spent traveling on foot through the wilderness of the bush. After another amazing morning safari, we devoured lots of toast, eggs, sauce, cereal, and yogurt before an afternoon walk outside of camp. Stepping outside of the fenced in area naturally created some anxiety for some in the group; no longer having the protection of a moving vehicle we mended our worries together and stalked wildebeest, kudu, and fresh animal scat! This short walk gave us the extra energy we needed to head back to camp and pack up for our highly anticipated sleep-out in the Maratha reserve. As we unloaded our bodies and equipment from the safari cars, our campsite slowly turned into a cozy home. At the center of camp was a set fireplace that we made a rule around with our cots and sleeping bags to keep warm throughout the night. Our two guides for the evening, Ryan and Arun had a number of activities planned for the group upon our arrival, as the girls unpacked their things and set up camp in the golden hour.
First up, our guides tasked our girls with an obstacle course in which they paired up and were blind folded, only relying on the communication of their partner to help them reach the finish line. After many laughs, all of us completed the challenge, some quicker than others. Then, the guides suggested a 30 minute reflection period for each and everyone one of us. So, we dispersed around the camp ground and used those 30 minutes to think, reflect and decompress. The group then rounded back up to watch the sunset together and to prepare for an unforgettable night under the South African stars, a true spectacle to behold. As our steaks cooked, Arun gave everyone a lesson about the stars up above us and taught us about the direct nightly moons. After we filled our bellies with delicious steak, corn-on-the-comb, and rusks, it was obviously time for dessert!! In order to make this camp out experience complete, the group crowded around the fire to roast almost three bags of messy marshmallows. Our marshmallow extraordinaire, Eanes, perfectly roasted a number of marshmallows for our guide Arun to the group’s amusement. All sugared up, our guides then briefed us on the most exhilarating part of the evening, our night watch shifts. The group was broken into pairs and was informed that every hour and a pair would keep watch of camp, given a spotlight and very necessary cups of coffee or tea. Tess was a bit apprehensive going into her night watch shift, but conquered her fears and even spotted an adorable rabbit during her shift! The group awoke to the sunrise peaking over the Waterburg Mountains and we broke down camp and loaded up the vehicles to head back to camp. On our way back the bush was relatively quiet, but Claire kept the group entertained by using her newly acquired birding skills, and letting us know which of our flying friends were around us throughout the drive. We were all impressed to say the least!
Following a scrumptious and well-deserved breakfast, we took a drive down to the Save the Waterburg Rhino organization. We began our afternoon with an interactive snake experience with our dare devil of a guide, Craig. Craig captivated the group’s attention immediately, as the girls could not keep their eyes off of these reptiles. After initially expressing that she did not want to handle any of the snakes, Caroline ended up handling every snake that our guide would allow her to, stepping outside of her comfort zone and immediately reaping the rewards. It was special to watch. The interaction concluded with Craig pulling out the most dangerous of any of the African snakes, the Black Mamba. We watched from a distance in disbelief of his composure and ability to handle these snakes, as well as his seemingly exponential knowledge of these mesmerizing creatures. After that, we gathered inside for a presentation on the poaching crisis in South Africa and beyond, and specifically the horrifying targeting of the Rhino population. Jessica, the representative that spoke with us, immediately captured the group’s attention with her natural ability to control a room as well as her contagious passion overflowing with every sentence. By the end of the presentation, the group felt compelled to become involved and make a difference. To top it all off, we then got the opportunity to come face to face with around 10 wild White Rhino during feeding time. The girls asked questions, met some of the Rhino’s 24/7 guards, and some even got to touch the Rhino horn, an incredible experience to say the least.
We are getting ready for our service component of the trip, and could not be more excited to share this experience with all of your daughters. This trip has meant the world to us, and we cannot wait for them to share their love with the children at the Bushveld Children’s Mission and to understand just how much of a difference every single one of them can make by just sharing their smiles, time, and attention. Until next time!
July 8, 2017
Howdy Family and Friends!
It’s hard to believe that it’s already day 7 of our wonderful South Africa adventure and can’t wait to tell you all about everything we’ve done and seen since saying our goodbyes at the airport! It all truly began outside of the Johannesburg baggage claim, where we all officially met each other with big warm hugs, excited smiles, and tired bodies. One by one we packed ourselves into the shuttle bus and headed to the hotel to meet our South African guru, Angela, and devour some scrumptious cheese pizza. Angela began her introduction to South Africa by saying “welcome home” and that immediately set the tone for the rest of the trip to come. After stuffing our bellies with many pizza slices, we had our very first Moonup together and then got to bed for some much needed rest.
We lifted our sleepy heads and retreated back to the Johannesburg Airport for our full day of traveling to Mozambique. After making all of our connecting flights we arrived in Inhambane, Mozambique and drove to our beautiful accommodations in Mozambique right on the beach that faced the breathtaking Indian Ocean. Once we all placed our bags in our assigned rooms we couldn’t wait any longer before running into the late afternoon waves for our first ocean swim together. The groups splashing around came to an end for the day when Jenny, the director of Tofo Scuba, gave a quick briefing for our time in Mozambique before delivering our groceries for the week and some yummy spaghetti bolognaise.
The unbelievable sunrise awoke our resting eyes and pulled us out of bed for breakfast to begin our three day beach excursion. The group split into two smaller groups comprised 5 girls and 1 leader. One of the groups headed off to do their pool dive, while the other took a long stroll down the beach, familiarizing ourselves with the beautiful coast of Mozambique. After acclimating to breathing through their respirators in the pool, the groups met back up for our first ocean safari, where we encountered our first marine life of the trip: a Whale Shark! Everyone was in awe of these spectacular creatures, and on our second ocean safari we were lucky enough to see two more! Abby and Claire could not get enough, as our boat followed closely behind them convincing the group they were part fish, swimming along with the whale sharks for as long as the guides allowed. After lunch, the groups split back up to gear up for either surfing or their very first open ocean dive. Our surfing guides, Dave and Henry, immediately captured the group’s attention with not only their ability, but also both their humor and encouraging nature. Mary Alston was absolutely crushing every wave that came her way, while Emma took it upon herself to not use the push of the guides, and caught the very last wave of the day on her own and rode it all the way in! It was so awesome watching the girls take so much pride in something they were skeptical about only hours before. Meanwhile, the other group dove deep down to clownfish reef for an afternoon scuba adventure! During both groups scuba swims we saw eels, various colored starfish, fish eating other fish, lobster, etc. Although Sally was worried about not being able to equalize during her dive, she returned to land with a raving smile and eager to get scuba certified in the future. After our final breakfast on the Indian Ocean, we took a long walk back to our casa before loading up the vans to head to the Inhambane airport. Everyone had a bittersweet smile, sad to leave this amazing escape but happy to have experienced the wonders that the coast of Mozambique has to offer.
After three connecting flights, we arrived in Johannesburg eager to begin the Safari component of our trip. The day began with a wonderfully assorted buffet breakfast (to the liking of all the girls) before meeting our hilarious bus driver, Doctor, and driving to the Elephant sanctuary to interact with some gentle giants for the afternoon. At the sanctuary, we had the privilege of meeting the seven mammals, sharing sweet kisses with them, and learning unique facts about each elephant on the land. Abby and Gwyn especially fell in love with the kind hearts and intelligent brains of these creatures and were excited to learn that there would be more elephants waiting for us at our next stop inside the Marakele national Park at NJ Moore Monkey Camp. Our three wonderful safari guides, Stephanie, Ryan, and Andrew all greeted us as we entered camp with happy smiles, tea, and coffee. After meeting the rest of the staff and settle in in to our cozy tents on stilts, we met back up again to experience our first night safari! On the safari everyone saw elephants, leopards, bushbabys, warthogs, wildebeests, impala, and so much more! Caroline’s curiosity influenced the entire group to ask out of the box questions while, Tess and Eanes encouraged more members of the group to reflect on the natural beauty of the mesmerizing South African sunset. Although we have only had one night at Monkey Camp, the entire group is more than excited for all of our animal sightings and adventures! Everyone is having an amazing time and we can’t wait to tell you guys about so much more soon!
Sam and Kienne
Eases: Hey Fam, having a blast! Can’t wait to show you all my dope pics! Love you lots!
Mary Alston: Hey y’all I’m having the best time! I swam with a Whale Shark, it was crazy! See y’all soon, stay safe
Sally: Hello family! Hope your cruise was eventful. Africa is insanely amazing. Dad we are going scuba diving ASAP. Love ya, mean it!
Tess: Hi family! Having so much fun in Africa! I’ve made and am still making so many great memories, can’t wait to tell you about them when I come back. Love you all!
Claire: Hey guys, I’m having a really awesome time here! I have found so many dogs and will definitely be bringing some home! Having a blast, love you guys. Patata!
Abby Fort: OMG! Hey family, this has already been the most amazing experience. Mom, I’m sorry I freaked out about all girls, it’s great. I swam with a Whale Shark; scuba dived, and am on the way to safari now. Thank you and I miss y’all so much! Xoxo <3
Abbey: Heyo! Africa is very fun! Love Y’all!
Gwen: Hello family! This trip has been one of the best experiences of my life. Don’t worry I got you all presents. Tell Shoop I love him the most, love y’all!
Caroline: Hey! Mom and Dad Africa is amazing, we are headed to go see elephants right now!! I’m having a blast! Miss and love y’all, oh and tell Andrew I say hi and the dogs. Hope all is well!
Emma: Hey family and Jessica! Africa is more amazing than I could have imaged! We swam alongside Whale Sharks and now are going to elephants! Give Georgia and Quinn love from me! Jessica I love the letters too! Xoxo see ya soon!
July 1, 2017
Hi South Africa Families!
We’ve heard from all leaders and the group has arrived safely in Johannesburg. They’re settling in for a good night’s sleep and will hit the ground running in the morning! Stay tuned for more updates!
-The Moondance Team