WHEN the opportunity to visit Zambia with Missio Scotland opened up, I had to jump at it, because I knew it would be a life-changing experience and so it proved. The time we spent there—as part of the Get Involved Globally initiative—challenged me in several different ways and made me into someone who is able to see things from a number of different perspectives.
As soon as we arrived at the City of Hope complex, we were warmly welcomed by the sisters, staff and students and I greatly appreciated being in their presence. Visiting the schools there was an unforgettable experience. The students there invited us to fall into their daily routine, which was to attend school from the early hours in the morning until the afternoon, before they were afforded free time. We were then invited to pray the Rosary with them. The positive atmosphere the girls brought to everything they did and every moment they spent with us was just magical to be involved with. The first time praying the Rosary we attended was the best welcome I’ve ever experienced. They sang songs for us, gave us gifts—including a beautiful Zambian scarf—and gave us a beautiful insight into their lives. The students at City of Hope allowed me to realise just how important education is. They also made me realise that I have to grasp every opportunity that comes my way, because I'm so lucky to avail of even a little bit of what my school has to offer to me when I compare it to City of Hope.
We were inadvertently lucky during the trip too. We were supposed to be going to the Kasisi Children's Home, but an outbreak of chicken pox put paid to that and we had to change plans. So, instead, we travelled to a place known as Providence Home, in which the Little Servants of the Divine Providence look after children with various mental and physical disabilities. It's also where I met the most amazing little girl named Maggie. She was no older than three and was paralysed from the waist down. She was left with no-one, but she was one of the many children that was cared for by the sisters. Despite having to cope with her disability, she still had the most beautiful smile—a smile that actually brought me and a few others to tears. She was so tiny, but she had the biggest heart. Meeting her helped to focus my mind on how I interact with other people and how I should be grateful for everything that I have.
When I was playing football with some of the kids at different schools, it let me see that true talent will shine through if you are truly passionate about something. Some of the boys were playing football with their school shoes on, no shoes and even with only one shoe on. Despite being hampered by things like this, they played a small-sided kickabout as if it were a World Cup Final. The thing that really touched me about these games were watching those take part who didn't have shoes. During a game at City of Hope, there were boys running barefoot over scrap metal and rocks. I even had to throw a block of wood that had a nail sticking through it off of the pitch they were playing on. It was a reality check—these boys were playing football because they loved it and they didn't care if they had the worst resources or even if they didn't have a proper ball to play with. We took sports activities one afternoon and, at one point, I turned around to see two boys were playing with a 'ball,' which was actually just a sphere made out of several plastic bags. As a lover of the sport myself, it was a really touching sight. That experience merely served to increase my love for football as it showed that it is a universal language.
In Livingstone, we were able to take in some of the tourist attractions and it was sublime to see one of the wonders of the world, the Victoria Falls. It was an incredible moment. I love seeing new things and love travelling, because I know there’s an endless world out there with plenty of hidden gems in the cracks of its modern day sheet of glass that has become so foggy due to the increase in demand for power. Once you see something as stunning as the Victoria Falls, you can no longer look at the world from behind the glass as it shows the true beauty of the world.
Back in Lusaka, we visited St Columba’s Secondary School. This school was founded by Missio Scotland and another Scottish charity called ZamScotEd. While we were there, the pupils put on a show for us, which included singing and drama, as well as getting us involved in their dances. As visitors, we decided to show them some traditional Scottish dances and we got some of the pupils there involved too. The reaction we received after that just went to show the joy that we brought to these pupils and also the fact that anyone can interact with anyone else and create special memories that will stay with you forever. They may start off as strangers but that quickly dissipates.
It's hard to describe just how heart-breaking it was to come home, because the people there who welcomed me, who I met with and created friendships with welcomed me were just so special. It was eye-opening. They have made me realise that there is no point in trying to chase after certain things and that we have to realise, every day, that life is a gift, as are all the friends and family you surround yourself with. I can't thank the people I spent this time away with enough as they all made it so special. The maturity and confidence I have gained through this experience has benefited me greatly. I now want to go and meet new people and share new memories with new friends as well as existing ones. Since returning to Scotland, I haven't stopped telling people about my experiences in Zambia. I don't want the passion that I have for sharing my experience to diminish because the people there brought so much joy into my life, as well as a lot of appreciation for even the little things that I have.