The Expedition Buildup Begins

The Expedition Buildup Begins

So, I’d got approval from my school, I’d been out to the KYGN school in Tanzania and held various meetings about the various logistics involved in building a library (£8000, 1000 books to catalogue the old-fashioned way and lots of poring over blueprints). What was there left to do? Why, advertise it to my school and pick a group of lucky young ladies to join me on a trip and experience of a lifetime of course!

I’ve talked about KYGN in some detail in a previous post, so it makes sense that I talk a little about the school where I work at. Surbiton High School is an all girls’ school in the outer reaches of South West London. An independent school, it’s heavily oversubscribed, and I have a lot of time for the girls and staff alike.

Our school’s motto is Amor Nos Semper Ducat, which is Latin for “May love always lead us”, and we support many charitable causes. SHS also aims to give its girls opportunities that develop potential and facilitate personal growth.


To that end, overseas expeditions with a humanitarian bent to them are very much encouraged at our school. There have been expeditions to Mongolia, Ghana, India and Peru in the past; as of this summer, Tanzania will be added to the list.

If I’d just said ‘hey girls, fancy coming to Tanzania for a few weeks?’ I would have had been snowed under with interest. It was important to ensure the girls knew exactly what this expedition was all about, and the realities of what an expedition entails – i.e. forget five star hotels and fancy restaurants.

Oh, and they’re the ones responsible for the itinerary and us getting around the country.

Most importantly, we are going there to open up a library for the school because we want to make a positive difference to the lives of the girls (and boys) who attend the school. The best way to do this? Why, standing up in front of 1000-odd kids and leading an assembly on the subject of course…

Most people don’t like public speaking, and I’m sure I lost at least 5 kilos thinking about doing this assembly. I felt under pressure to do the great KYGN cause due justice; if I failed to sell it well enough the whole thing could so easily have fallen flat on its face.


The library we build in Tanzania might not look quite as posh as this one…

Taking the Swahili proverb ‘when you educate a young girl you are educating an entire nation’ as my starting point, I discussed the dire situation of girls’ education: according to UNESCO, 38% of all African adults are illiterate and two thirds of these are women. Given that the area where the KYGN School is located is one of the poorest areas of Tanzania, itself one of the poorest countries in the world, and you can see how they fall in to this bracket.

So having suitably fired them up to address this gender imbalance, only then did I say that they would have the chance to come to Tanzania in the summer of 2016 to open up the library. I made no bones about there being much hard work to do before, during and after our time in country. But of course the rewards would be fantastic.

And, quite pleasingly, this had the effect of sorting the wheat from the chaff so that when the lady from Wilderness Expertise – the company who specialise in facilitating overseas expeditions for young people – came in to outline how the expedition itself would work, there was a more manageable number of interested participants (about 50).


Of course, we couldn’t take 50-ish girls out with us, so it was time for a further wheat-from-the-chaff test. Yep, they had to fill in the dreaded application form! If nothing else, it’s a good way of seeing how interested they were in the project. Because, after all, it is the library we’re going to Tanzania to build; we’re not there for the fun of it…and even the non-project side of it isn’t exactly package tour stuff either!

So after sifting through the applications I had my 14 girls – Louise, Rosie, Jessica, Natalie, Annabel, Claire, Sarah, Molly, Simran, Leila, Ellie, Hannah, Mandy and Emily*. They’re a nice bunch – not perfect by any means, but all with their heart in the right place and strong personalities. You’ll be getting to know them better as this series progresses.

With the girls selected, and an awareness of what we needed to do, it was time to get on with the preparations. First things first – where are we going to get the £8000 from to build this library?!

*Names of the girls have been changed


  • Vee N Ric

    March 7, 2016 at 8:19 am Reply

    Hi Jo.
    How are you?
    Who is a form tutor?
    When did you
    Have an expedition to India?
    Did you come here
    With your school?
    You are doing
    AWWESOME work there.
    Keep it up.
    Enjoy your week.

    • Joe

      March 7, 2016 at 7:55 pm Reply

      Hi there. Sorry, should have explained – a form tutor is someone who registers a class of children every morning, and is the first point of contact for any pastoral (behavioural, emotional etc) issues they may have. I also teach them ‘life skills’ (it’s not called that, but it’s the easiest way to explain it) once a week for an hour.

      I went to India by myself, no expedition out there just yet. Maybe one day…I’m sure we can make a difference to a school somewhere in your beautiful country 🙂 Thanks for your kind words!

  • Amandas_Wanderlust

    March 9, 2016 at 7:43 pm Reply

    What an interesting project!

    • Joe

      March 9, 2016 at 8:06 pm Reply

      Thanks. Its been a heck of a lot of hard work, but will be worth it in the end 🙂

  • Edwina

    March 10, 2016 at 6:39 am Reply

    Joe, that sounds like an amazing project! Very impressed about what you’re doing and wishing you the best of luck with building a library in Tanzania.

    • Joe

      March 10, 2016 at 10:35 pm Reply

      Why, thank you very much 🙂 It is possibly the best long term project I have ever been involved with, and so many people get a lot out of it. Really looking forward to this summer!

  • Derek Cullen

    March 17, 2016 at 8:09 am Reply

    I’m glad to see the 5 kilos you lost has not affected your sanity! Very interesting insight into how much effort goes on behind the scenes and how much thought process is required for seemingly straight forward situations such as “who wants to come with me?”

    Great work all the same!!

    • Joe

      March 17, 2016 at 7:39 pm Reply

      Thanks Derek. It’s been more hard work than I thought it would be at the start, but it will be worth it in the end, of that I’m sure!

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