Reflecting on Camp NexGen™ Zimbabwe

Idara Otu
5 min readSep 5, 2022

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A portion of our Day 1 Campers, Partners, & Volunteers / LGRRG

I cannot believe almost a month has passed since Camp NexGen™ Zimbabwe! I’ve tried many times over the last few weeks to pen a short reflection on the experience we had, finding it hard to put it all into words how incredible and transformative our time in Zimbabwe truly was.

This trip marked my first journey to Zimbabwe and LGRRG’s first project and camp in southern Africa. Excited by the expansion away from the familiar terrain of West Africa, Zimbabwe presented an opportunity to expand my own working definition of African culture all while providing opportunity and hope for vulnerable children in Zimbabwe in a fun, and exciting way.

Over three days (August 4–6, 2022), we welcomed 150 kids aged 11 to 15 from the Snake Park, Mabvuku, and Hatcliffe communities of Harare, Zimbabwe to take part in Camp NexGen™ — the ultimate SPORT x STEAM experience. Powered by the support and partnership of Global Air Drone Academy, Miracle Missions, ACES Academy, and Eaglesvale School, all 150 campers were able to take part in athletic training (soccer/football, netball, & cricket), and learn how to build and fly drones!

Campers watching the scrimmage at play! (Day 1) / LGRRG

On the surface, a day playing soccer and flying drones would sound fun to anyone, but what made the experience so impactful, was that for many of the campers, the first time ever hearing about a drone was at our camp! (Note: The first time I flew a drone was at our Camp in Lagos, Nigeria in 2019). Seeing the difference from breakfast where all I saw were blank stares looking back at me when the word “drone” was uttered (not all the campers spoke English and there is no equivalent word in Shona, the local language spoken by the campers), having to describe the drone as a “camera bird”, to the end of our program when our campers confidently pitched the name, purpose, and type of drone business they would one day start, we were able to see learning in real-time. As Leon presented to the group that he was the CEO of an Drone Delivery Medicine Company (DDMC) that would specialize in delivering medicine to remote communities, I believed him. There is no doubt in my mind that Leon will one day start his drone company.

Leon / LGRRG

Also moving, was the visit we had from Zimbabwe’s Minister of Youth, Sport & Recreation, Kirsty Coventry, the most decorated African Olympian (5x Olympian and multiple-time Olympic gold medalist). Here was a member of parliament and a worldwide ambassador for both Zimbabwe and Sport showing up to greet and hangout with children of little means. The kids were ecstatic to meet and hear her speak. A note a validation for me, and what LGRRG was hoping to accomplish, it was an honor to have the Minister come encourage and instill hope in our campers — many who would never have the means to take sport seriously. Knowing that their very own countrywoman could be such an accomplished sportsperson gave them the right to start to dream their own sport dreams.

Zimbabwe Minister of Youth, Recreation, & Sport - Kirsty Coventry talking to the campers / LGRRG

Over the course of our three-day camp, I saw what seemed like timid children, skeptical about who and what these foreigners coming to see them were all about, to a rambunctious bunch of animated children who just experienced the best day of their life (probably mine too). Nervous smiles in the morning, became bellied laughter, hugs, and high-fives when it was time to call it quits on the day.

Fun on the football (soccer) pitch! / LGRRG

The adage says it takes a village to raise a child, but I would posit for Camp NexGen, it truly took a village. Fully deserving of a forthcoming longer post, this camp would not have been possible without our volunteers, on-ground partners, and donors. From the gift bag packing party held the night before the start of camp, to playing soccer with the campers, and teaching a camper how to fly a drone (while sometimes, learning themselves), it was a blessing to see how our volunteers came alive over the course of the day.

Volunteer Ritesh alongside the campers during the Build-A-Drone Workshop / LGRRG

Though we were technically the ones giving back to the students through our time and resources, the campers gave us so much more in their joyous spirits, inquisitive exploration, and creativity. Many asked us to come back again soon, and I know many of our volunteers will not hesitate to fulfill their request.

Idara’s Camp NexGen™ — Zimbabwe Top 5:

  1. Watching students take their first drone flight
Helping Juliana take her first flight / LGRRG

2. Seeing the excitement of the campers opening their giftbags and reading their personalized welcome cards

Mageni reading his welcome card from Helen / LGRRG

3. Playing netball (a little too competitively, haha) with many of the girls

Idara, caught in the act on the netball court / LGRRG

4. Being greeted by the Eaglesvale Marimba Band on Day 1 of camp

Eaglesvale School Marimba Band / LGRRG

5. Getting to know all our camp partners and volunteers who are now like family

A portion of the Camp NexGen — Zimbabwe Dream Team / LGRRG

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Idara Otu

Founder & Board Chair — Let Girls Read, Run, Grow