Ilfracombe Arts College were our first team to stay in Kidia, up in the rich, green slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro. It gets pretty chilly up there but well worth the stay in order to enjoy the most wonderful cultural exposure and interaction and be of real help to local people that very rarely receive visitors, let alone help from volunteers. The Ilfracombe Team have given an account of their experience at Camp Kidia…. We‰Ûªve had a great time here in Kidia, 1400 metres up in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro. The camp is very basic and reminds you how to appreciate luxuries at home. Everyone was worried at first about the bucket showers‰Û_ at the beginning we were like ‰ÛÏurgh we cant shower like that‰Û and now we prefer them! When you have a bucket shower you appreciate it more. Everyone at camp is really cheery and welcoming, and the food is fantastic, we are always so full and popcorn and tea after project work is a tasty treat. We have five vegetarians in our group and all were very happy with their yummy food, especially the locally grown avocados which are HUGE! You are surrounded by trees, trees and more trees, all growing bananas, coffee, avocados and lots more!

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We have really enjoyed the project work and everyone in the village is really appreciative which makes you want to do more, they find everything we do fantastic. Its been really interesting seeing how they do things so differently and so much is done by hand which is hard work, its like going back 200 years! The mamas especially work so hard on the ‰Û÷shambas‰Ûª, which means farms. They grow bananas and coffee amongst other things so we learnt how to pick the coffee, grind it, roast it, pound it and eventually make a nice cuppa. It makes you think twice about how easy it is to just open a jar of instant coffee! The taste was so much better than any coffee though, I guess because we made it and the mamas sang during the whole process!

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We learnt how to cook, from picking the bananas from the trees to peeling them, making the fire, pounding the stew and using the peelings to feed the cows. The stew was a strange taste, a bit gloopy and like salty bananas with a nutty hint! It‰Ûªs a local favourite and as the bananas grown in abundance, a daily dish for most. The foam from the bananas and husks from the coffee beans were used to feed animals so nothing is wasted. We helped the mamas on their farms by digging and planting and they were extremely greatful, it was hard work but well worth it. We also knocked down the broken chicken pens of two mamas so that we could start building some new, more spacious ones. This is to be continued by the next group. We made a very good start and know the chickens will be very happy once they are finished!

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Meeting the local craftsman, who we called Spoon Guy or Mzee Kijiko (Old Mr Spoon), was an enlightening experience! He was a legend and showed us how to craft spoons and bowls from wood then mark them with a hot rod that had been sitting in the fire. He was very talented and a master of his skill so it was brilliant to watch him at work and learn too. He sharpened his tools on an adapted bicycle that had a sharpening stone attached to rope and a wheel so when he pedaled, the sparks flew off sharpening the knives and other tools… genius!

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We also helped Mr Njaow, patch up his traditional house that needed some TLC.åÊ We got friendly with the mud and mixed mud and water to make ‰Û÷local cement‰Ûª then ‰Û÷plastered‰Ûª it onto the outside of his house to fill in the gaps and make it warmer. He was not very well and it was really rewarding, he said thank you so much‰Û_ I wish you and your families well which nearly made us cry.

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We had our hair braided by the lady who lives at the camp and Benson and John (project guys) have been amazing. The tents were clean and comfy and the toilets were always clean, the food just got better and better. Local children have joined us to play games and football and also teach us Swahili and when we gave warm fleeces to some children and mamas they were so appreciative. We also gave a pack of goodies including soap, toothpaste, flour, sugar, tea and a warm fleece to some local elderly people, some of them were crying they were so greatful. Those moments just make you think about what you have and what we take for granted.

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An evening highlight has been sitting around the camp fire whereby we‰Ûªve had quite a few wildlife join us such as a chamelion, preying mantis, ghekos, dung beetles and a very cute hedgehog. Not sure why they come to the fire but we‰Ûªve been very accommodating to them!

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The community are amazing, everyone is so happy, the mamas in general are so welcoming and they want to show us what they do, they are really happy for us to be there. One of them said we are like her children which was really sweet. All in all it has been a great time in Kidia, it was our first camp in Tanzania and we were felt like home away from home, we are now off to Ndarakwai where we know we are going to have a completely different experience, it all adds to the expedition! Bring it on! Ilfracombe Arts College, Tanzania Team of 2013