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What is Cikoko

It’s a small UK registered charity set-up in 2010 primarily to support a single school The Mukambi Community School in the Kafue National Park, Zambia. The charity has 4 trustees (Nick Truyens, Graham Smith, Hazel Nicholls and Janet Lauder) and we sponsor the teacher salaries and all admin fees for the charity personally. We want to ensure that every single penny raised and donated goes directly to enhancing the education of the children in the local community.

The History

In 2006, during a 6-month drive through Southern and Eastern Africa, Nick visited the stunning Mukambi Safari Lodge on the edge of the Kafue National Park in Zambia. The lodge, owned and managed by Ed-Jan and Robyn van der Heide, is so remote that the lodge staff and their families live on the property as there is no local village.

The nearest school is a half day walk away so Robyn and Ed-Jan decided to start a small primary school with a volunteer teacher from Canada to ensure the kids could receive an education and to keep their families together. After a number of visits we have become good friends and in 2010 agreed to take on responsibility for sponsorship as the school had outgrown the Lodge’s capacity to support it.  We set-up the CIKOKO charity in the UK to benefit from Gift Aid as well as corporate matched giving schemes.

The school started with two classroom, and less than 30 pupils.  This grew to 100 pupils; 5 teachers and 7 grades being taught in shifts in the limited space available.  The school had outgrown their two permanent and two temporary classrooms so in 2017 Nick undertook the Thames Path Walk challenge (100 painful kilometres non-stop) to start fund raising efforts to enable an additional two classrooms and store room to be built and replace the existing temporary outdoor teaching facilities. Thanks to the generous donations of our colleagues, friends and Schroders Investment Management matched giving charity scheme we managed to raise £14 000 towards the overall building costs of the new school block.

In 2017 we also helped sponsor the addition of a well, pump and water storage facility so that the School and local community could have clean and safe water. Safe because up until then the community had to fetch water from the Kafue River, famous for its huge Hippo and Croc populations! In addition, we installed solar panels and battery banks to light the classrooms and to enable the use of laptops and tablets. Now the teachers and other volunteers can run evening classes for the adult population, for whom literacy is only at 70%.

Over the past 8 years the school has produced some of the top performing students in the region and a number of them have gone on to attend local colleges. Some ex-students are now members of the local management team at the lodge and are contributing back into the community.

The New School!

In 2018 we decided to ramp up fundraising and also to do something more hands-on at the school. We approached our regular donors and within minutes we had 13 volunteers committed to not only raising £1000 each for the build project but also join a Cikoko Charity trip and get themselves to the Lodge at their own costs to help with the building works.

With a target of £16 000 set the volunteer team started fundraising and the generosity and support from colleagues, family and friends was overwhelming. The volunteers and trustees managed to raise over £45 000 with the generous support of Schroders Investment Management who matched all donations for us!

The Volunteer Trip!

The trip was a great success. Everyone was made to feel very welcome by Robyn, Ed-Jan, the Mukambi staff and the teachers and pupils at the school.

The volunteers worked so hard to help finish off the newly built school block we even managed to have time to refurbish the existing classrooms. The team had a chance to meet the pupils and teachers at the school and even learn a few new playground games. It is safe to say that the kids found our efforts at their games less impressive than all the hard work done by the team on the school! 

For many on the trip it was their first-time volunteering on a project like this and also the first time in Africa at a safari lodge.  They had the opportunity to sample game drives in and around the Kafue National Park during downtime from the school build.  Zambia and Kafue are a special place to visit and experience African wildlife for the first time.  There were some excellent animal sightings on game drives and cruising on the Kafue river including the often elusive and always magical leopard.  

As a result of the team’s hard work the new school block was ready at the end of the build week.  The opening ceremony was attended by the volunteers, pupils, teachers, community, Mukambi Lodge staff and local officials.  The whole trip was a fantastic experience for all the volunteers many of who will no doubt be back to enjoy more of Africa, safari and volunteer work. 

The Future

The Cikoko Charity trustees are committed to the continued support of the Mukambi Community School.  We have recently expanded our funding to include additional teacher training and the financial support of two ambitious ex-pupils who are keen to further their education by attending Lusaka University.