Out of Derbyshire, into Africa

Dr Steve Lloyd
Dr Steve Lloyd

Teenagers from five Derbyshire schools are to spend six days rebuilding a children’s playground in South West Africa next summer as part of a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

Thirty youngsters will be joined by six teachers plus British Expedition Society (BES) leaders to install a jungle gym, climbing frames and swings outside a school in Namibia next July.

After they have finished the playground and made other improvements in and around the school, they will spend four days trekking across wetlands, gorges and rocky terrain before enjoying a gala night and flying home.

The expedition is the brainchild of Dr Steve Lloyd, Chair of NHS Hardwick Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Chief Medical Advisor to the BES.

The CCG is helping fund the expedition alongside other members of Bolsover Local Strategic Partnership while Derbyshire County Council has contracted the BES to lead the adventure and is co-ordinating the schools’ involvement.

A fundraising target of £1,500 has been set for each of the students from The Bolsover School; Shirebrook Academy; Heritage High School, Clowne; Stubbin Wood School, Shirebrook; and Frederick Gent School, South Normanton.

Some of the young people have already hit their target with activities such as selling goods on Alfreton Indoor Market and packing shoppers’ bags in supermarkets.

Dr Lloyd said: “The expedition will benefit the health of our young people while broadening their cultural horizons and enriching the lives of the Namibian schoolchildren. They will also learn a huge amount about team work, risk management and fundraising.”

County council leader Anne Western added: “This is an exciting project that will involve our young people in activities of real worth in a challenging environment.”

Community organisations and potential backers will be invited to an official launch at Bolsover District Council on Thursday, February 20 when Councillor Western and Andy Gregory, CCG chief officer, will reveal more about the expedition.

It is hoped that major sponsors will pledge up to £5,000 each, matching the students’ contributions.

Sponsors will have their logos featured on media releases and publicity materials, in photo calls and on kit used by the explorers. Sponsors will also be offered media interview opportunities.

Any local businesses or organisations interested in discussing sponsorship packages should call Clare Talati at the county council on 01629 537869 or email clare.talati@derbyshire.gov.uk.

Items such as wide brim hats, walking boots, first aid kits, sunscreen and head torches will prove vital as the party crosses the 85-million-year old Namib Desert – the world’s oldest desert.

The playground will serve the A Gariseb Primary School, which has a hostel for around 200 pupils aged six to 14 who would otherwise have to walk vast distances to learn.

At the other end of the age spectrum, pensioners have to walk for days to visit the three villages where they stand in the sun for hours to collect their meagre payments. Only the most affluent people have a horse or donkey-drawn cart to ease the strain of travelling.

Namibia is a country of outstanding natural beauty and is home to animals including the famous desert elephant, black rhino, giraffe, zebra and hyena.