OUR trip to Zambia with Missio Scotland as part of the Get Involved Globally initiative cannot be summed up by a single day or moment. Each day was special in its own way, allowing us to experience a range of emotions and to learn and grow from the activities that we took part in day-to-day.
I was impacted greatly during the trip by the people, especially the girls we stayed with at City of Hope complex, who we spent time with every day. It was refreshing for me to be around young people who were so positive, vibrant and hopeful and it created a wonderful atmosphere for us to come into and live in during our trip. Although most of these children came from less fortunate backgrounds, they never once used it as an excuse to be snappy or intolerant to one another or us. Instead they used this as fuel for their optimism and drive to do well in school and in their lives.
When we spent time in the schools there, it was intriguing for me to see the pupil-teacher relationships and the work ethic of the pupils, and to compare them to how education functions here in Scotland. I noticed that their teachers worried less about having a very formal relationship with the pupils and took a much more nurturing approach, which seemed to engage the pupils and allowed them to enjoy their classwork a lot more. The overall happiness of the pupils when they were at school was a lovely sight and really made me look at my own attitude towards education and the time I spend in school.
The dedication and love that the people and children had for their religion was something that really stood out to me throughout the trip too. There was a nightly Rosary prayed and it was a good way to bring everyone together and allow time for daily reflection. In Scotland, I don't think enough children see their religion as a key aspect of their lives, but in Zambia this was common and I felt it was an amazing thing to be in the midst of. I found myself looking forward to the nightly Rosary as it helped me to realise the goodness and happiness religion can bring to people's lives.
When we went to Livingstone we spent a day at a Safari Park and at the Victoria Falls. This allowed us to see Zambia in a different light and was a great way to unwind from the more emotional days we had visiting homes and schools. It was when visiting the falls I noticed that it was not ironic at all that a country with such beautiful attractions was filled with people who mirrored this beauty.
We visited many places, but one of the most memorable—purely because of the wave of emotion I experienced—was Providence Home. This was a home for mentally and physically disabled children. It was hard for me to easily describe how I felt about this visit, because although I was devastated and upset for the children and the troublesome lives they had led before coming to the home, I found it difficult to be upset when they were so joyful and well taken care of there. The home was run by nuns and I was really in awe of the hard work and dedication they put in to taking care of these children without complaint or asking for anything in return. While reflecting on the trip, I realised that the schools, homes and hospices we visited were all run by nuns and set up by the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is doing a great deal of good in countries like Zambia and is managing to make a real difference to the lives of many children and young adults. In countries like Zambia, without the Catholic Church setting up schools—such as City of Hope—young people in those areas would not have a place to go to learn that is local and would be burdened by fees, so I am glad and thankful that the Church continues to provide places like these.
I have an immeasurable amount of gratitude to Mr Mann, Mr Gallagher and Missio Scotland for the experience to visit such a beautiful country filled with wonderful people who helped me to look inward and reassess my values and what I find important in life to allow me to be my best self.