My name is Lucy Cole and I left Uppingham in 2007. I have a special relationship with Uppingham’s main school charity - The Mango Tree. This is my story. I was 17 years old when I first visited the Mango Tree Tanzania in 2006 and despite 7 years having passed, I find myself back there. My first visit to Tanzania was while I was in school as a member of the second Uppingham organised trip to Mango Tree. We visited many of the villages and schools that we had raised money for back at Uppingham.

This experience gave me a taste for Africa and during my gap year I spent a whole year in Kenya working for similar organisations working closely with young people. While there I decided to pay a visit to the Kenyan Mango Tree which I was aware had recently been established. Packing a bag with one or two days worth of provisions, I managed to navigate my way from Mombassa on the coast to Consolata and Peters Mango Tree project in a remote area near Lake Victoria – I stayed there for two months!!!

The next stage in my increasingly African orientated life was university. Having chosen to study International Development studies; I then went one step further and transferred my second year to study in Ghana. During my time in university I was still in regular contact with Consolata and had become very close to the whole Kenyan Mango Tree family. Every year during the long summer holidays I returned to Kenya to volunteer in the Mango Tree, finding it very beneficial for my studies and also succumbing to a growing bond with the country and the people.

After graduating from university I secured an internship in a Government office in Nakuru, a town not far from the Kenyan Mango Tree in Kenya. Inevitably I found myself gravitating back to Consolata and the Mango Tree during short breaks from work and eventually on completing my internship I jumped towns and moved to the Mango Tree. I was quickly put to work on research activities and staff training, and developing schemes for monitoring and evaluation of the work of Mango Tree.

During this time, the Mango Tree team from Tanzania were due to come up to Kenya for a staff training week, I was asked to be present to assist the UK representative who was attending the training. Meeting the Tanzanian staff, some for the second time, I became involved helping them with the training to such an extent that I found myself being asked to travel back down to Tanzania with them to follow up the training and relay it to the other staff. So after completing a research task at Mango Tree in Kenya, I went down to the Tanzanian Mango Tree where I had been some 7 years earlier and being reunited with people and places I had seen in a one off experience all those years ago as a school girl. Reflecting on how my life has unfolded and how I have come to be back to Tanzania after so long, I have a surreal feeling that everything has moved full circle and my first trip with Uppingham to Tanzania was part of a series of events which ultimately brought me back.

I am now based in Tanzania and have been working there for over a year. The organisation has evolved so much from my first visit in 2006 and I am incredibly proud to be a part of its past as well as helping with its future. I would like to say that both directors of the Mango Tree, Consolata and Andilile, are people who are incredibly dear to me and they truly dedicate themselves to helping the less fortunate people and children in very poor parts of their respective countries.