Aspen to Africa

McBride Interns take a walk through Lewa at sunset.

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This summer Aspen High School Students traveled to Kenya and Uganda for service work, safari, and learning opportunities through The McBride Africa Internship, and Action in Africa Club.

The McBride Internship: AHS students with a commitment to culture curiosity and a passion for wildlife were sent to Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya for two weeks as part of The McBride Internship. This experience is generously sponsored by John and Laurie McBride, a local Roaring Fork Valley family, who have both spent many years traveling on Lewa. As a result of the curiosity and wonderment that Lewa provokes, they wanted to further share this with a younger generation of The Roaring Fork Valley. I was fortunate enough to participate in this experience, along with five other AHS students.

“The internship was such a rare and unique experience, we are the only school trip in the world that gets to do this,” says AHS junior and Mcbride Intern, Emily Driscoll.  

The Conservancy’s core mission is to protect the indigenous wildlife and ecosystems of northern Kenya. But the work that takes place in Lewa also goes above and beyond this core mission of helping the neighboring communities by supporting clinDSCN9849DSCN9849ics, schools, water projects, a women’s cooperative and offering security through the conservancies 200 rangers. Through this partnership, they hope to empower the local communities and, encourage them to aid the team at Lewa in its efforts to put an end to poaching of rhinos, elephants, and Grevy’s zebra, just a few of the many animals that finds sanctuary on Lewa.

My personal highlight of the trip was during a presentation about the conservancy, to hear someone say, “We do the [conservation] work that we do, because if we don’t, who will?” It was a humbling experience to see so many people putting so much hard work and effort into conservation simply because they believe they want their grandchildren to witness the elegance and simplicity found in places like Lewa.

The McBride Internship is open to high school students that attend any school in the Roaring Fork Valley, and the request for applications is announced in December.

Action In Africa: Another group of AHS students committed to supporting the continent of Africa are members of a club called Action in Africa whose members recently spent time volunteering in Uganda. Action in Africa is a very popular AHS club that supports a community development program in Nakuwadde, Uganda, at a community center called The Center. Action in Africa was started at AHS nine years ago by a student named Sarah Nininger, who is still running the entire operation. The Club is also overseen by AHS teacher Sarah Beson and last year had about 30 participants,  several of which traveled to Uganda this summer to volunteer at The Center. During the school year The Club raises money for The Center to help sustain and improve it.

The Center offers a safe place for the Ugandan locals to express themselves. AHS students Jane Marolt and Caroline Moriarty are two of the seven club members who made the trip this year. Moriarty says she joined the club as a freshman and this year was her second trip back.

“The connections you make with the kids there is one of the most important things, it’s just so special, and it’s the reason I went back,” she said.

While in Uganda, she and Marolt helped run The Center, which entailed helping feed kids snacks, running the women to women support group, helping tutor kids in English classes, and spent time at several schools around the village, sitting in on classes and even helping teach. Marolt said her favorite part of the trip was also the relationships she made with the kids. “There are about 15 kids that are at The Center everyday, usually because their parents are involved in some way, and we spend a better part of the trip just hanging out with them, and the best part is that they are so focused on spending time with you. They don’t care if you bring them anything, they don’t care so much about material goods, because they just want your attention and friendship,” said Marolt.

Both the McBride Internship to Lewa and the Action in Africa Club at AHS offer students the opportunity to learn about the history, culture and important work that needs to take place to conserve the ecosystems in Africa, as well as unique cultures of Africa and offer a glimpse into the challenges they face in their everyday lives. Marolt and Moriarty summed things up pretty well by saying that even if kids aren’t in Action in Africa Club, this school has so many incredible opportunities [like the McBride Internship], and they hope to see AHS students taking advantage of these opportunities to leave the “Aspen Bubble” and see a very different world.

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