Ellie and Iwan in Lesotho

Young Explorers' Trust

The first 2023 expedition to receive YET support was by brother and sister Ellie and Iwan members of a community project in Lesotho. Both suffer from ASD, a form of autism, but hope that their report will encourage others to undertake adventurous expeditions.

We would like to tell you about our adventure in Africa that we wouldn’t have been able to do without the support of the YET grant. Knowing that we were out there, in memory of Mike Cross, the chairman, meant a lot to us and we hope we would have made him proud.

We have decided to do a joint report and there was just so many amazing experiences. We went over with different remits within the orphanage. One of us, Iwan, was building and playing cricket, the other, Ellie, to work with children who had special needs.

To begin with the experience of a ‘long drop’ (toilet) was very alien to us. The metal shack, flush. It is amazing though how quickly you adapt, and you could see the stars through the gap in the top!

That said we so appreciate running hot water and electricity now. There was a thunder storm whilst we were there and we lost electricity for 2 days. Best bit about it – although don’t tell our mum we said this, but we didn’t miss going on our phones at all.

Once the electricity went off – we couldn’t charge our phones, but actually we were so happy just talking, playing, listening and watching with the orphans and other adults – that everyone just didn’t bother.

We had lots of highlights, we went horse riding in the mountains, on a mini safari, met the village chief, who fortunately gave us permission to be in her village, and went to see some old cave drawings. We went into the main town, it was full of so many different noises, smells and stalls selling things we wouldn’t see.

People lived in shacks, they were considered well off if they had a brick house, instead of a metal shack, but they still only had 1 room. Iwan: “I had never built with cement and bricks before. It was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be.” But we are so lucky and take for granted what we have at home. We went around delivering food on the back of a truck, which was a really fun experience And we saw that families of 5 all living in one room, on mattresses on the floor. It made feel so grateful for what we had and that we could do something that made a difference. There was a woman sleeping on the floor who was 100 years old.

Everyone loved to play games and cricket was a hit. Everyone joined in, adults and children regardless of age, and it was nice to include the young boy with severe learning difficulties, as normally he wouldn’t be allowed to join in. Even the little children enjoyed sitting in the bag!

We had a culture day as we are from Wales, and the other group members were from Ireland. We did African dance, irish dance, Welsh singing, ate each others foods. It was so much fun.

The lack of care for the animals really bothered everyone. As I want to work with animals I spent a lot of time trying to fix what I could.

As for our work with the children with special needs, we set up programmes and managed to toilet train him. It was so interesting to see how language doesn’t have to be a barrier. Both of us have grown up with children with severe learning difficulties and challenging behaviours, as our mum is a special needs teacher, and so we genuinely didn’t panic when he hit out at us. We think that made a big difference as he was able to trust us.

We worked with a little boy in the village with cerebral palsy. He was so lovely, and we left our mobile phone charger so he could activate the lights in the sensory corner we made for him, as his house didn’t have electricity. So his nan will charge it when she is in the orphanage and then drop it down to him. The pure joy on his face.

Thank you so much for the award that helped to make this possible for us to go. We hope Mike would be proud of what we did. For us, it has given us a confidence to try, and a true appreciation for what we have. We are already saving to go back!!!

Ellie and Iwan