Replying to an advert on Escape the City, little did I know that it would lead to a new job in one of the most stunning places I’ve seen in the world. Guludo Beach Lodge’s charity arm The Nema Foundation was advertising for a General Manager, though I much prefer my local moniker: Directora!
Interviews with founder Amy Carter-James and head of the board of trustees, Laura Tenison were not easy from the bush camp I was working in in Angola, but we made it happen, eventually, and 3 months later I arrived at Guludo. Of course no journey in this part of the world goes easy and my bags did not get on the plane in Nairobi so I spent my first few nights wrapped in some local cloth (capulana) for dinner whilst my underwear dried under the southern African night skies. Added to this the rains had wiped away a serious of bridges part way into my journey, where me and the car load of supplies had to traverse the “foot diversion” and reload onto a local car on the other side of the bridge. Not that the local car goes to the beach lodge of course, the last 2km were on the back of a motorbike on a lovely sandy road with some puddles added for fun. TIA. (Even my mum knows knows what that means!)
I’m now 6 weeks into the job (or 4 weeks of work and 2 weeks of malaria sufferage into the job) and it’s pretty awesome. The Foundation works with some of the most deprived communities in one of the poorest countries in the world and so there’s years of worthwhile stuff to do here, and the people are so welcoming, though I’m pretty sure they think the crazy mzungu on the bike is a bit mad, there’s def lots of laughs.
There are some horror stories and it’s hard not to give my paycheck to everyone everyday – the old lady with no family who is blind and had not eaten for 2 days, the newborn whose mum could not breastfeed and the hospital, 6 hours away, had sent her home with one tin of formula make me want to cry or hit someone a daily basis.
But there are some amazing stories too: the families that stick together and take in orphans despite barely having enough for their own kids, the strength of the Nema workers to do amazing work helping others and the communities that stick together. On my first week here I met a teacher from the Crimize school. He told us that the school had been washed away in the rains and that there was nowhere for the kids to go to school. Promising to visit to better understand the situation, I went with my local team leader to Crimize. It’s a 5 mile walk down the beach to Crimize and it’s hot but when we arrived we found the village leader, the head teacher, the teacher I met the week previous and some of the local men were constructing a school. The community had clubbed together, bought some material and the men were building a 3 room school for the children. Reporting this to Amy she replied that she was “welling up”, I knew the feeling. Local residents build the school at Crimize.
So, lots to do, lots to understand, lots of culturally sensitive issues to get my head around, and of course the madness of Kimwani, the local language, which does not have as many consonants following on from each other as Ngangela did in Angola (who starts a word with mbw??) but is difficult right now! But this is where I live, it’s hard to not be optimistic……