Tears of joy after 20-day trip

2014-09-05 00:00

EMOTIONS ran high this week when St John’s Diocesan School pupils returned from a 20-day trek from Bushman’s Nek in the Drakensberg to Lesotho.

A total of 67 pupils undertook the annual trip for Grade 9 pupils known as “uHambo”.

The final group is due to return today.

Organising committee member Chantel Beattie said the aim of the trip is to make the girls aware that they have the ability to endure and be resilient.

“It’s about being out of the classrooms. They walk a lot. The experience is life-changing. They learn more than at school. The trip builds huge self-esteem,” she said.

The trip proved to be a real test for those attached to their cellphones, as no electronic devices were allowed. Communication with loved ones back home was by traditional handwritten letters. Replies from home were delivered to them on the course.

Beattie said people don’t take the time to write letters any more. “It was extraordinary how exciting it was for the girls to receive letters from their parents,” she said.

Yesterday, the joyful scenes of reunion made it evident that the pupils and their parents had missed each other. Waiting in anticipation at the school gate to welcome their kids home, some parents had brought flowers and gifts, while others held the letters their children had written to them while they were away.

The girls’ journey had taken them from Bushman’s Nek in the Berg, to an Ezemvelo Wildlife resort, and on to Lesotho.

They spent their time walking, riding horses and cycling, carrying their tents, mattresses, food and clothing, weighing 12 to 14 kg, in their backpacks.

The shortest trip was three kilometres in a day, and the longest 16 km.

Each day, they had a specific theme, such as “The Right Attitude and Choice, Attitude and Self-worth”.

Julie Hay, mother of Kirsty, said she wrote her daughter several letters to remind her that she loves her. “This is one of the toughest things she has ever experienced,” she said.

Kirsty said the trip had been “tough but unbelievable”.

“I was happy when I received my mother’s letters. It made me realise how much she means to me. I read her letter and burst into tears,” she said.

Kirsty said she did not think she would cry on reuniting with her parents, but was unable to stop the tears from flowing.

Another parent, Belinda Haines, said her daughter had been homesick, but she wrote her “uplifting” letters to “let her know she can do this”.

Emotional pupil Amanda Khumalo (15) said it had been a life-changing experience.

Crying tears of joy at being back home, Amanda said she had missed her parents.

“I cried a lot after reading the first letter my mother sent to me,” she said.

• khanyisani.dlomo@witness.co.za

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