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Love endlessly wherever you go

I FEEL so grateful to have had the opportunity to be able to witness different cultures and surround myself with men, women and children who are so dedicated to their faith. I feel privileged to have gone on the Get Involved Globally Zambian trip with Missio Scotland, as it opened my eyes to a world that did not discriminate against race, colour or religion. Meeting the Zambian people was a very humbling experience. I was able to immerse myself in the language they spoke and their culture, and witness, at first hand, their well-mannered, courteous and truly welcoming personalities. I will never forget them and will always have the greatest respect for them.

During the trip, I had the opportunity not only to form relationships with the amazing people I went with, but also with the girls I stayed with in the City of Hope complex. Noria—a girl I had the privilege of meeting while staying there—welcomed me into her life with open arms as did all of the girls. During the girls' study time from 7pm to 8pm at night, I would help her with her maths. This was a really nice thing to experience without the world of iPhones, laptops, cameras and the media around me. To be able to simply interact with her and speak to her about her life, my life and our interests was perfect.

It’s difficult to pick out one memorable moment in Zambia because it was all memorable—there isn’t one thing I would change about it. That said, I would like to share one of the truly happy moments that I experienced while there. I spent time with a Grade 2 class—comprised of six and seven-year-olds—and it was a truly joyous experience. They get a break at 10am every morning and during that time I was able to talk to these little girls and boys who surrounded me everywhere I went. They were fascinated by my hair, skin and freckles. I played a game of tag with them and there were so many kids running after me, not tagging each other, just me, while they cheered and laughed. While playing with children might seem to be little more than a common, everyday occurrence, that short period spent playing with them was unforgettable. It’s strange and totally wonderful that something that happened in such a short space of time can impact my life forever.

While in Zambia, I visited various schools and orphanages, spending time with the kids and giving them as much attention and love as they gave me. Zambia was not only a truly joyful, positive and happy experience, but also a very emotional, shocking and eye-opening one. On Wednesday, June 20, I visited Providence Home, a home for disabled children. I spent time with many kids at the home, but there was one in particular who stayed in my mind. Maggie is a four-year-old girl who is paralysed from the waist down, she can’t talk and can only communicate with little noises. While at Providence Home I was able to hold her. As her legs hung by my side, she couldn’t feel me touching her tiny little feet. This was a very emotional experience as I have two sisters of my own and to see a little girl of their age having to contend with paralysis was truly heartbreaking. This day was a very difficult one, but one I feel people should hear about. It was an experience that opened my eyes, made me feel humble and truly enabled me to see how incredibly lucky I am. We rarely stop and think just how privileged our lives are.

I would like to personally thank Sister Stacey Cameron, Gerard Gough and Father Bernard Zulu who work at Missio Scotland helping to transform the lives of so many children. I'd also like to thank the teachers Siobhan O’Brien, Martin Mann and Chris Gallagher and the students: Natalie McLeod, Georgia Duffy, Rebecca McCall, Lewis O’Neill, Jude Curran, Caitlin Mullen, Dionne Neilson, Erin Toolan and Niamh Provan. Without the laughs, fun and endless support you all gave me, this trip would not have been the same. I formed friendships with you all that cannot be explained with mere words, only by happiness, joy and love.

I cannot ably write down on a piece of paper just how much this experience meant to me and how much it has impacted my life—I don't have the words. I would simply just encourage everyone to appreciate what you have, care for and respect others and love always and endlessly everywhere you go.

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