Let’s face it, when we travel, we travel for ourselves. A lot of us, (including us), are guilty of this habit. We travel to relax, to celebrate a special occasion, to find ourselves, to visit family…the list goes on. But how many times do we travel to make a difference in someone else’s life? For the first time during a trip, we did something to give back to the community and it will remain as the most rewarding travel experience we will cherish forever. After this fulfilling experience, we are eager to continue to travel more in order to help communities, such as a Caribbean cruise to make a social impact. Traveling with a purpose is the “sweetest adventure” we could have ever asked for.
We chose to stay at Tongabezi in Zambia to celebrate our two year wedding anniversary because of their five-star service AND community work. It is not every day where you see one of the best resorts in the world give back to the community. Tongabezi has a trust school next to their resort called the Tujatane School. Guests of Tongabezi are able to visit the Tujatane School and see the children in their classrooms.
While at home, we learned that we could donate school supplies to the children and Tujatane. So, we put our two brains together and came up with an idea! We wanted to be able to fill two backpacks with school supplies. The backpacks would be our carry-on for our flights and act as a way to pack all the supplies. Then we would also be able to deliver the school supplies and the backpacks! When we told our family members our goal, they were quick to jump in. Before we knew it, we started a campaign to help raise money or donate school supplies for the children at Tujatane School. Then another idea came to our minds….
Christina receives monthly inspirational necklaces from Mariamor Designs (click here to read more about Mariamor Designs jewelry) and decided that the necklaces would be a perfect gift for the young girls at Tujatane School. So we started another campaign where we partnered with Mariamor Designs to collect necklaces that can inspire the girls to be strong, bright women and fulfill their dreams.
So many of our friends and family were generous to help in many ways. Some donated school supplies, some donated money and some purchased necklaces. We were so grateful for everyone’s contributions and so excited to be able to bring smiles to all the children.
Tujatane – “Let us hold hands together”.
The Tujatane school was established in 1996 by Vanessa Parker. Vanessa is the wife of Ben, the owner of the Tongabezi resort, and she quickly realized how much a school with good education and availability to the local community was needed. It first opened to provide an education for the Tongabezi’s staff member’s children, but with its quick success, the school started accepting children from low-income communities and disadvantaged backgrounds. Since 1996, the Tujatane school has surpassed all expectations and is an award winning school. Tujatane went from 15 students (Tongabezi staff’s children) to at least 275 students, ranging from 2 to 16 years old and from many local communities.
The mission Vanessa Parker and the staff of Tujatane strives to meet is giving underprivileged children in the local communities a great education by offering small class sizes with quality teachers. In addition to the primary school subjects, the children also get to participate in extra-curricular activities such as, computer science, sports, music, drama, cultural dance, chess and art. Tujatane follows the same curriculum that the government mandates for the schools that accept privileged children. Not only that, but Tujatane excels at the same level as the other schools and are champions in some of their extra-curricular activities against other schools. There are plenty of children, now young adults, who we saw on the alumni wall that have gone on to succeed in great career fields, such as a pilot and accountant.
We cannot speak for everyone, but children in the United States go to school and complain until the day they graduate from their respected university. Their parents either pack them a lunch or give them money to buy lunch at school. As children grow older, they complain about having to take the bus to school or if they are fortunate, they get to drive to school in their own car. Essentially, school is something everyone “must” attend. This does not apply to the communities in Zambia. The children at Tongabezi LOVE going to school. They are excited to learn and grow into a young adult. School gives the children an opportunity to have a better life. They also love going to school because they get to eat a meal. It is heartbreaking, but a lot of the children do not get fed at home because there is no food provided. Some children walk as far as one and a half hours away!!!! A total of three hours every day just to attend school and they walk by themselves – no adult supervision. Needless to say, the children that attend Tujatane do not take their education for granted, they work to their best abilities to be able to have a better future.
Our Experience at Tujatane
During our tour of the school, we were very impressed with the classrooms, materials and quality lessons. When we would walk into a classroom, the children’s faces would light up with pure joy. They loved telling us their favorite subject, what project they were working on and taking group photos. Tujatane has several classrooms for each grade, an art room, a library, a computer science room, a science lab, an auditorium and more.
At the end of our tour, we went to the auditorium to a performance by some of the children. The children were so proud and happy – not a single one was shy with stage fright. One group described what competition meant to them, another group were drummers and the last group were cultural dancers. The children did a wonderful job in their performances, we were so thankful we were able to be a part of this. Check out their full performance below.
As we mentioned before, thanks to our family and friends, we were able to collect enough school supplies to fit in two backpacks, as well as, money to be used for any purpose the school saw fit. The staff were so appreciative of our donation, they could not say thank you enough and yet we felt like we didn’t give them enough. Though the school succeeds in many ways, they cannot keep their doors open without donations. Being able to donate was such a rewarding experience for us that we swear our hearts grew bigger for everyone at Tujatane.
Another big part of this experience was speaking to the children about never giving up, to work hard, stay in school and dream big. These are all words inscribed on Mariamor Designs coin jewelry that were donated to Tujatane. The staff of Tujatane explained to us that they have a Girl Empowerment group to help their young females and the necklaces would be the perfect gift to some of these girls. We received an email from Tujatane that every half term, one necklace is given to a girl in her group who has either made a valuable contribution to the group, asked a difficult question or has come out of her shell. We could not be more delighted to hear that the necklaces of Mariamor Designs is making a difference in these girl’s lives at Tujatane. Go show the world what you are made out of girls! Check out Christina’s speech to the children in the video below.
How To Help
Tujatane School is a trust school that is funded entirely by charitable donations from around the world. Luckily, there are countless ways to help Tujatane School and many can be accomplished while at home.
Keep in mind, a little to you is A LOT to them. The children who attend Tujatane typically live with their families in mud huts. The mud huts are mostly comprised of one or two rooms, which are used as a bedroom for the parents and children and a living room. These mud huts have no running water and limited access to electricity. Outside of their mud huts are the kitchen, which is an outside charcoal burner, a grass hut for the bathroom and a grass wall for the shower, which the family must bring a bucket of water to wash themselves. We were able to tour these villages to look for ourselves – everyone we saw were hard working and happy. Those who were able to send their children to Tujatane were more than thankful. So after seeing the villages and school first hand, we promise, a little goes a long way.
Their primary source of donations come from the United Kingdom with a charitable trust fund. Through the UK charitable trust fund, a majority of donations are raised through charity events and the “sponsor a child” program. Donations from the United States are through Charities Aid Foundation of America.
Sponsoring a child is the biggest way you can help, this assures a child gets to go to school and receive a quality education. When you sponsor a child, you are not just writing a check every month, you are getting to know the child by receiving regular school reports, pieces of work, pictures of them and more. Tujatane School will email you everything during each term and more if asked. We even heard stories how a family sponsored a child all the way through college – we could not think of a more rewarding and generous experience than this. Sponsoring a child is $75 or €50 a month. Click here for more information on how you can sponsor a child at Tujatane.
How many of us purchase items on Amazon? How many times do you purchase an item? Once a month? Once a week? Through Give As You Live (click here to visit the site), you can shop online while donating to Tujatane – it cost no extra charge! This program has hundreds of online stores to choose from that donate a percentage of your purchases. You are also able to keep track of the amount you have donated through purchases on your Give As You Live account. Talk about a win-win for everybody! Here is a list of our favorite stores and the amount they donate to Tujatane.
More ways to help donate:
- Art materials, books, school supplies, clothes – click here to see the wish list
- Feed a child – $8/£6 per month, per child: $100/£72 per child, per year
- Children’s medical cover – estimated cost of $25/£18 per doctor or hospital trip
- School field trips – estimated cost of $209/£150 per trip
- Sewing equipment
- Secondary education – estimated cost of $625/£450 to $1180/£850 per pupil, per year, depending on where they go
- Teacher course sponsorship – estimated cost of $2,777/£2,000 per year, per course
To see more ways of how you can donate, click here.
A SPECIAL THANK YOU to our family and friends who helped donate school supplies and money to the children at Tujatane School.
Debra and Frank G.
Bob and Trish D.
Richard and Anita G.
Melissa and Kyle C.
The Grasso Family
The Schmidt Family
Christina + Adam