If I had known what a wonderful experience volunteering in Africa with this organization was going to be, I would have stayed longer. I also wouldn’t have been so afraid to get on the plane in the first place! Even after travelling to various other countries in the past, I was nervous about leaving my teaching job and my friends and family in Scotland. However, it turned out to be the best decision of my life; Three weeks and three countries later, I still desperately miss Zambia.
After doing some research, I decided Livingstone was where I wanted to go and I loved the fact that the organization was all about sustainable change, not just helping out for a while than deserting the communities.
I moved into the hostel three days before I was due to start the program and straight away I knew I was going to love it. I met another volunteer by chance beside the pool and she introduced me to everyone from the house. They couldn’t have been friendlier and more welcoming, so by the time I started volunteering on Monday I had already settled in and felt like part of the group.
I spent my first week volunteering at Zambezi School, where I helped teach a grade 6 class. We worked on English, Maths and Science and what amazed me was the children’s desire to learn and read books, a good reminder that the simplest of resources can help a child learn and progress. I loved that they greeted us everyday with smiling faces and helped us carry our things into the school. Their appreciation for us being there was evident and it reminded me of why I got into teaching in the first place.
Another school I volunteered with once the summer holidays had started was Livingstone School. Through this, the organization was able to make a link and began to provide holiday tutoring for many children. I taught an advanced grade 6/7 group (who were an absolute pleasure!)/ They also loved teaching us how to play their games out in the yard and it took me back to when I was in school myself.
A highlight of my experience was the Holiday Club at the local community center. We spent each morning playing games and teaching the children a variety of subjects using fun activities. There was an older group – ‘The Champions’ – and the younger group – ‘The Rockstars’ – and there even became a group of babies and toddlers which were a lot of fun but definitely kept us on our toes!
I soon began to learn the names and faces of the children who would turn up day after day and it made me realize how important it was for them to come and how much joy it gave them. One little boy Eric was there every morning to greet me with a huge smile on his face and he couldn’t wait to play frisbee or throw and catch with whatever ball was available. It was amazing working with the same group of volunteers at the holiday club, as we worked so well together and with the children. We all agreed that our last Friday was the saddest, yet the most fun day we had there.
Spending time with these children really has been a life changing experience and if it has impacted them half as much as it has me, it will have been the most worthwhile thing I’ve ever done. I hope to continue to communicate with Zambezi school in order to share information and resources which can help improve learning for the children and sustain the impact we had as volunteers while we were there.
On a personal note, I never imagined how this experience would impact me and my life. I was able to spend time in the most beautiful country, work with wonderful people like Josiah and Mr. Mulopa (thanks for teaching me how to mix cement and plaster a wall!), and I have made some lifelong friends who made my time there so special.
Thank you Africa, I have left a piece of my heart with you. Thanks again to the local staff and its coordinators for the experience of a lifetime. I hope to see you again soon!