The Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) COVID-Relief food drive is the hardest drive of all our Botswana outreaches – not in terms of the volume of food parcels that need to be delivered, but the sheer expanse of kilometres that need to be covered, and the extremely rough terrain to get to these remote villages. There are also no camp sites, and no facilities, and as we drove deeper into the CKGR, so we cooked over fires and camped on the fringes of the villages, which often comprised just five grass huts in the middle of the open semi-desert.
That was the business end of things; now let us tell you about the magic of this trip, the joy and unbridled gratitude from Botswana’s First People.
Not only did we deliver bulked-up Christmas hampers this time, but also clothes that the volunteers collected from colleagues after seeing the need during the first trip.
As we arrived in these villages, with our four-vehicle and one ten-tonne-truck fleet, we were often met with song and dance, little children laughing and clapping and old ladies beaming up at us from the shade of a lone tree. There was so much gratitude, and so much need, yet so much peace in the eyes of these people.
After a really hard stretch, with a vehicle getting stuck and the heat getting to all of us, we arrived at the last village on our route. It is called Mothomelo, and we arrived just as the colours in the sky were starting to hint at a heart-achingly beautiful sunset. Before we saw the first hut, we saw people running. The entire village was waiting for us, and as the last vehicle stopped and the dust finally settled, they broke into song and dance. From the smallest child to the oldest lady, we were treated to a show of unbridled joy, and untouched culture. It brought a tear to even the weariest traveller’s eye.
It is safe to say that these families do not often see people from the outside; they live remotely and with the bare minimum just get by. We started offloading the truck and packing the parcels, a system we have worked out and refined over many kilometres, and from hand to hand to hand, every single butternut and bag of maize meal was safely delivered.
Everyone sat quietly, watching us, patiently waiting for their turn. We open with an introduction about where we are from, explaining the intention of the great company we represent, and how the values it embodies change lives. With a smile of gratitude in their eyes, every weathered old hand accepted their gifts, giving thanks in the knowledge that for a period of time at least, there would be no concern for food.
That night, as we started the process of building fires to cook, and boil bath water, with the last colours fading in the sky, and the night’s twinkling stars taking over, people came from their homes once more. They gathered young and old, they told stories and laughed and danced, and clapped with their hands songs that sounded like thunder. We all danced that night, we danced in the dust and clapped to the skies, as all along we had thought we were giving, only to be given the biggest gift of all: the gift of humanity, the gift of sharing, the gift of being allowed a glimpse into the lives of ancient people.
Early the next morning we started breaking camp. We said our goodbyes with a promise to visit again. We took the long road back home, and on the way, after the heavens opened, we found lilies and flowers lining the roads, and little birds drinking their fill from puddles of water. A farewell and a promise that with a small gesture of kindness comes a large reward of beauty. In this harsh land of very little, we brought joy and relief – as the raindrops brought theirs to the veld – and we were rewarded with renewed faith and spirits filled with hope.
Written by Rauve Vasco, Wilderness Safaris Botswana Procurement and Standards Manager
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