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Differences dissipate in Zambia

I'M NOT quite sure what I expected from my trip to Zambia with Missio Scotland as part of the Get Involved Globally initiative. I’d always been told that things like this are life-changing and while I didn’t doubt that was true, I never really knew what that meant. I think this is because people don’t expand on what that means. A life-changing experience is different for each person. Although there were nine other young people on my trip to Zambia, I can guarantee each of us were affected differently. While some of our points overlap—for example I think we all now value our education so much more and realised just how much we rely on family and friends—we each have taken different things away from our trip. All of our lives were changed. All differently.

The main thing I brought away from our trip is how similar we are to the people we met. Despite having very different lives, in very different places, we are one human race. If you look past the differences, you find that there are more similarities than you first thought. I found this to be especially true during study sessions where, if an adult was in the room, the girls I was helping to study would be completing homework or attempting maths sums, but as soon as they were left alone, we were discussing music and boys. Education is perhaps taken for granted in Scotland and while children in Zambia are so dedicated to their work and very driven—often knowing from a young age what their ambitions are—it’s still easy to find girls passing notes in class and boys sharpening their pencils so they could have a chat at the bin. Teenagers are teenagers, whether they live in Glasgow or Lusaka.

Another aspect of my trip that I particularly enjoyed was learning about my faith and how Catholicism is celebrated in Zambia. This was another point which really brought us together, allowed us to connect and showed us we are more alike than different. Whilst their Sunday Mass lasted considerably longer than ours and there was much more singing and dancing, it was reassuring to see that no matter where I was in the world, my faith allowed me to connect and feel at home.

Although my trip to Zambia was a largely positive one, it was not without its testing moments. It was difficult to hear some of the stories that such young children had to tell, often about what they had suffered through or what they feared would happen to them had they not been in a position to get an education. This was particularly intense when visiting projects such as Providence Home, where disabled children were cared for and Lubasi Home, which looked after children who often survived horrible circumstances. However, I found it important to look past the sadness and the hardships and focus on the fact these children were now being loved, cared for and will thrive. We must always remember that there are people there working prevent these situations and I must be conscious of the fact that I can help to make a difference, even if it is only small.

Overall, I found the trip to be very inspiring and I would love to take part in something similar in the future. I cannot express enough how much I would urge anyone given the opportunity to take part in something like this to do so, because while I can’t tell you how your life will change, I can promise because of my experience I am a better person.

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