Namibia was real eye-opener

FOR the Exmouth and Budleigh Explorer Scouts, their trip to Namibia last month was more than a case of painting and plastering a local school and building a play area.

FOR the Exmouth and Budleigh Explorer Scouts, their trip to Namibia last month was more than a case of painting and plastering a local school and building a play area.

It was a chance for the 17 teenagers to get to know more about the people, their way of life and the culture of the world's second most sparsely populated country.

In a society like Britain's, where the drive and attainment of wealth, possessions and status is all encompassing, to meet people with a happy disposition, despite having little of their own and even less to give, was a revelation for many.

Scout leader Bob Day said the Namibians were genuinely very friendly and grateful for the work they did, and he found the time to chat to some of the locals about life in Namibia: "Unless you live in the city there are very few jobs and, as a result, a lot of people in the local towns live off government subsidies.


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"One of the higher paid jobs in town is security where, with overtime, they can earn approximately �100 a month.

"One of the Explorers mentioned to me about corporal punishment, as they had witnessed one of the school kids receiving the cane. He seemed quite shocked that it still happened in parts of the world."

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Katie Lock, 18 said: "It was very rewarding. They are lovely people. A small gesture, like a hug, things we take for granted, really made their day."

April Snow, 18, said: "They were very generous, welcoming people, despite having very little."

Like many African countries, the differences in society are stark; poverty can be seen everywhere, but existing cheek-by-jowl with reminders of a western life. An example was the proliferation of bill boards advertising mobile phones that were everywhere: "It was strange," said James Kelly, 18 "You knew most of the people didn't even earn enough in a year to buy one."

After spending the first week at the school, just outside the capital Windhoek, they journeyed to the Etosha National Park and went on a safari.

Asked if they would go back, Scout leader Esther Workman said: "We couldn't have achieved any more. In one sense there is no point going back, it's about new challenges."

She admits another trip on the same scale may be a few years away - it cost �1,900 for each scout - the money was raised thanks to a donation from the Pain Trust and years of fundraising through things like street collections, mobile phone recycling and car boot sales. "I think we have to set sights a little lower next year," she said. "Perhaps the Lake District!" You can view pictures and information about the trip at: http://www.exbudscouts.org.uk/

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