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The strength of universality

CATHOLIC with a capital 'C' means the Catholic Faith but 'catholic' with a small 'c' means universal and that is exactly what the Catholic Church is—it is universal—and that was proven to me by the young children I met with in Zambia.

These young girls in the City of Hope complex—and in other Catholic homes and schools—share their faith with everyone they meet, even complete strangers. As they welcomed us into their home and into their faith community, we participated in their daily Rosary in the afternoon, where we were encouraged to pray and sing with them.

We took part in their study sessions and got to know the girls in City of Hope and learned more about them on a personal level. We discovered the tough time these girls had experienced at such a young age and how they came from different parts of the country, but it was their faith that brought them together. This showed me just how privileged I am to have all the opportunities I have and how I feel privileged to have been raised a Catholic. My experience of City of Hope opened my eyes to the challenges faced by the young girls in less fortunate circumstances than myself, but it was also heartening to see how they persevered through it all and came together to create a positive community and support each other mentally and spiritually.

We also visited a special needs establishment called Providence Home, which houses young disabled children who had all but been abandoned because of their disabilities, which—as in other countries in Africa—are often viewed a a curse. Providence House is run by nuns that have left behind their lives in India to work and care for the children there—staying there as they do 24/7. We helped to clean and to teach some of the girls some nursery songs that involved actions. We also got them involved in traditional Scottish dances.

These happy young girls showed such love and care for each other— looking after one other as if they were family—and welcomed us into their family as they played with us, let us feed them and be a part of their life for a short time. They were so happy even though they had little to nothing. The young girls touched us all personally as we connected with each girl, especially four-year-old Maggie who smiled when you complimented her, picked her up or tickled her. Maggie was left there because she had no use of her legs, but that didn’t stop her from being a happy, playful, little girl who simply wanted to be cared for and showed attention just like every other girl there.

This visit made me appreciate how fortunate I am to be loved and cared for by my family and friends and how grateful we should be for having support and the facilities to help people with disabilities.

Throughout the trip, we also visited the City of Hope Primary, Secondary and Nursery Schools. We were afforded the chance to go into the secondary school classrooms and sit through their lessons as they learned subjects like English, Home Economics, Biology and their own language—all taught by the same teacher. Their classrooms were very bare with a few posters they had created themselves and the children were packed in with very little resources.

We are really blessed to have the resources, equipment, staff and funds that they so desperately need to help improve their school, because every child attending did really love school and were happy and eager to learn.

After visiting the secondary school we went to the nursery, where I made a friend called Favour who was no older than four. We were allowed into their classes, which were a circular and very cramped with the teacher having little to no room to move from her desk to the board as she climbed over students to reach the front of the class. Children were almost sitting on top of each other, but despite that, they were still happy and keen to learn. I went to the front of the class and read out loud a book of their choice and also counted with them up to 100. Visiting the schools highlighted to me that education is everything to the children in City of Hope and it s importance shouldn't be underestimated.

Throughout the trip, I visited schools and homes for different types of people. I have taught and made friendships with people I would otherwise never have known. It has brought me closer to my faith as I realised how much the Catholic Church does for so many people and how religion is a community that can bring everyone together no matter the place, race or person. You can build connections with all different people through your faith.

Visiting Zambia as part of the Get Involved Globally initiative has not only allowed me to make new connections with people, but also to form stronger bonds with my existing friends. I have grown in confidence as a result of this trip, having had to deal with seeing and experiencing difficult things. I loved every moment of it though and would love to go back again it has shown me that I should never take my education for granted and I should take every opportunity that is offered to me.

Zambia and the continent of Africa is beautiful with gorgeous sights like Victoria Falls and the elephant sanctuary. However, it is the memory of the children, teachers and schools of the country that will stay with me and that should be everyone's main focus, because they are in need of resources to help to improve education and enjoy better conditions.

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