THIS was the first time I had ever been to Africa and I wasn’t sure what to expect. A lot of the time African countries are depicted as being dry, poverty-stricken and completely reliant on donations from the western world. While this might be true in some cases, it was inspiring to see that Zambia was a beautiful green country. I also learned that while, in many cases, the people do rely on donations to help build new property, it is mostly the local community and local companies that come in to lay foundations and build the schools, houses and so on.
When we arrived at City of Hope I have to admit that I was quite nervous to meet the girls who live there, however, after joining them for the Rosary and listening to them sing, I immediately became more comfortable. The girls ended the Rosary by singing for us and presenting us with Zambian scarves. It was the most touching and beautiful presentation.
The next morning we were given the opportunity to visit the school. Lewis and I were left to our own devices in a group of Grade 8 girls in the City of Hope High School. The class had one textbook between them and no teacher. We later learned that there aren’t enough teachers in City of Hope for each class. The teachers that are there are on rotation and cover classes where they can. The unsupervised girls are trusted with one textbook to copy their own notes until they can get a new teacher for their next lesson. While we were in the class of girls between the ages of 14 and 18 we taught them simple Scottish words like 'aye,' 'naw,' 'wheesht' and the song Auld Lang Syne, which was a particular favourite of theirs. In turn, they taught us a couple of phrases in their local language and a playground game that I managed to do quite well in! After break we were invited to join some of the girls in the nursery, which was great fun! The children at 3 and 4 are exactly the same as children of the same age here in Scotland. It was one of the finer lessons to learn, that no matter where you are in the world everyone is fundamentally the same.
One of the highlights of the trip for me was visiting Providence Home, a home for children with physical and mental disabilities run by five Indian nuns from the Little Servants of the Divine Providence. This was simultaneously one of the hardest and one of the most incredible experiences of the trip. When we walked in there were rows and rows of cots for all the children. You could tell by the smiles on their faces and their eagerness to greet us that the children all thought they were the luckiest kids in the world, and they are. However, the conditions and the equipment was so much less than what we have in our own country and part of me couldn’t let go of how unfair it all was. Georgia, Niamh and I were asked by one of the sisters if we knew any songs with actions. This doesn’t seem like a difficult question but it took us a fair amount of time to come up with some. The group favourites quickly became Wind the Bobbin Up, If You’re Happy and You Know It and The Wheels on the Bus. Watching the young children light up and join in, even those who couldn’t physically join in like the others, was the most heart-warming and uplifting event, I think, of the entire trip.
The Get Involved Globally trip is one that has changed my life completely for the better. I knew I was privileged, I just didn’t realise how much privilege I actually had. Something like having a pair of socks doesn’t seem like a big deal in Scotland, but the children in all of the places we visited had holes in theirs, or had socks that didn’t fit them and a lot of the homes we visited the one thing they asked for was socks.
The trip to Zambia was the experience of a lifetime and one that I would hope to repeat again in the future. It has changed my life for the better. Having the opportunity to witness faith in action was a privilege and a humbling experience. Witnessing the strength of the Zambian people’s faith has strengthened my own and has made my desire to be an active member of the Church’s mission, grow stronger.