In late March, we travelled to Lesotho as pilgrims, servants and students.
During our pilgrimage to Lesotho, we had the opportunity to work closely with the local community on different development projects as part of our immersion programme. This involved water accessibility projects, road maintenance and tree planting initiatives. We built many meaningful relationships with the local community despite the language barrier. The work was physically challenging and demanding at times, especially because we were not used to the intense heat, but everyone gave their best effort. We were all taken aback by the work ethic of the locals.
Back at the lodge we had the privilege of watching the local youth choir and band perform. Their singing was amazing and we always enjoyed getting up with the band and joining in with the dancing. They were able to make so much out of so little. The instruments the band used were made out of old pieces of metal and wood, they made music out of materials that others could disregard as rubbish.
Not only did we immerse ourselves in the community projects, but we also had the opportunity to explore the natural beauty of Lesotho, including its stunning Maloti mountain range. One of the highlights of our trip was travelling to the waterfall on horseback, for many of us this was our first time on a horse and was a very memorable and enjoyable experience. The scenery was breathtaking and the swim at the waterfall was very refreshing and rewarding after a long trek on horseback.
On Sunday we travelled to Mass for Palm Sunday, the ceremony was different to what we were used to back in Ireland. There was a big choir at the mass which really made it the celebration that it was. There were no instruments but the harmony of the choir was incredibly powerful. Everyone in the church joined in with the singing and swaying with the music. Africans sing with their bodies as well as their voices. It was a novel occasion and we really enjoyed it. At the end of the Mass we got up to sing a few of our hymns and we thank the community for welcoming us into their church.
The homestays are one of the most important parts of the immersion programme. It was the highlight of the trip for many of us. We stayed in pairs with a host family for a night and we got to experience how they lived on a day to day basis. It was a very eye opening experience, we gained a newfound appreciation for our lives back home. What struck us the most was the generosity and hospitality of the families we stayed with. They welcomed us into their homes and we shared a home-cooked meal kindly prepared by the family and shared stories as we got to know each other.
The day before our return to Dublin we travelled to Johannesburg and stayed a night in a hotel. We stopped off to visit the Father Declan Collins centre. It was very interesting to see the place where he had worked and helped so many people. On our last day in Africa we travelled around Johannesburg on a bus guided by Snowy, our tour guide for Johannesburg. She was very knowledgeable and informative. We stopped at a market to try some local cuisine, maggots. Some of us weren’t brave enough to try them. On the tour we learned a lot about the history of South Africa and visited the Hector Peterson museum. It was a very eye opening experience.
Our African Immersion Experience in Lesotho is unforgettable. We have made so many lifelong memories from the work we did and the fun we had together. It was a chance to see the world from a different perspective and encourage us to be more outward looking, the generosity of the local people and the relationships we built with them will stay with us forever. We strongly encourage anyone in next year’s Poetry to avail of the opportunity available to them.
Luke Fitzgerald, Poetry Student.