So this Monday 18th October was a public holiday (Prayer’s day) and this whole week was actually a school holiday for most in Zambia. And this Monday was also a public holiday with the Independence Day. I used this week to be on actual holidays too: doing nothing… feels great ^^. Reading, writing, running, yoga, bike, restaurants, movie, massage, discovering a new gallery… back to Parisian life but with very nice temperatures ranging from 20 to 33°C!
And having drinks with other expats led to some other opportunities of volunteering I had to dig in. I was of course thinking of the next volunteering that I wanted to start after the holiday’s week. As Chikumbuso was found with not much reference but Le Petit Futé, a French tourism guide, I went also back to the application WorkAway on which I saw several missions I was interested in, for Vietnam and Zambia. Zambia was not the most active country on Workaway (I guess it is because this is not a free app), but there was one of the volunteering I thought interesting when I first arrived here.
So, on Tuesday, I went with the driver to the 2 potential volunteering options: Chance4all founded by Belgium expats (I think?) and Safe World Trust School founded by its present director Banda Wiseman, a local. There was not much information on the web. The first association led me to a very big complex that was hosting a computer room for the association, and nobody was there when I passed. And after too many emails where they sent me from one person to another, I let it go. It seems that most of the founders were back to Europe, and it felt rather complex to approach a physical person rapidly.
For Safe World Trust School, Google Maps led me to… a mortuary at first. Hopefully, the phone number was correct though and I had Wiseman directly connected, who provided the correct address, not available on Google Maps. It was still not easy to find him, even after exchanging explanations in local language with the driver. Indeed, all local people seem to speak Njyanja between themselves, and English is not their native language. The director himself waited for us at an obvious corner where there was still asphalt, and we went together 100m further on a dirt road, till the entrance of the school. Then we went in his small office, with the teacher of Grade 1. This time, I asked much more questions than with my 1st experience in Zambia:
- When the school was founded? 1999, he was proud to show me a picture with almost nothing in this land when he created the school.
- Is this school religious? No.
- How this school was financed? Each kid had to pay 100 kwacha per month (5€).
- Which program and disciplines are they following? He showed me various books
- Were there other volunteers before? A few. A French volunteered 6 months
- When was the last one? 2019
- How many grades? 7, but Wiseman was trying to create the Grade 8
- How many students? Around 200
- Who are the permanent employees? Secretary, Accountant and a Janitor, in addition to himself and the teachers
- What are the school hours? 8pm to 4pm
- When does the term end? 10th December 2021
Yes… I asked a lot of questions for a first meeting! But he answered all the questions with a lot of enthusiasm and seemed to be very happy that I wanted to volunteer. We agreed I would start the next week after the holidays, from 8 to 12, with the same class. I committed myself for 4 weeks. As he didn’t know which grade, I told him that it would be easier with Grade 6 or 7, essentially because of the language, as English is actually not their native language.
He then made me the tour of his school facilities, still accompanied with the Grade 1 teacher. And I was thinking “Oooouuuumph…” This school was very very poor with regards to its infrastructures. I couldn’t avoid the mental comparison with Chikumbuso… when I initially thought from the pictures on WorkAway that this school looked unneedy, it was all the contrary. The classrooms had paint falling over, and most importantly, not all of them were equipped with desks. The courtyard is much smaller than Chikumbuso and everything felt a bit cramped. Here, no masks or Covid restraints. Doing the tour, the only class with kids were the last Grade 7, which Banda was teaching himself, as they were revising during the holidays to compensate the CoVid impact. The classes were full of nearby 30 students. He introduced me quickly as a volunteer in the school starting next week. And I just said Good afternoon etc. (here, don’t dare start discussing with anyone without the proper greeting ceremony! Our “Hello” = “Good morning/Good morning, How are you? Fine and you, how are you? Fine thank you. Do not forget the smile!). We were mid-way to leave the classroom, after the director asked to the students “Do you have any question? No?” A young lady raised her hand and asked loudly: “Yes!” Then a bit more timidly: “What is your name?”. I replied “Ah… sorry I forgot! My name is Sabine. S-a-b-i-n-e. Nice to meet you all!”
I had in mind that I really wanted to try going by bicycle this time. It was certainly much easier to buy a bicycle than a scooter I believed! But on a very good advice from Caroline, I tried the trip with a “rented” bicycle first. Luckily, the gardeners and the guard were coming by bike to the house, so I borrowed the lightest one and went for my 20km back and forth on Wednesday.
I was wondering why I didn’t try cycling before… the feeling is always great to move by bike in order to discover a city you don’t know. After 2 hours back and forth, I felt exhausted but so happy. Doing it everyday will improve my stamina for sure! I retained 2 highlights: the first one when I got lost in the “musseque” and the 2nd one when my future students recognized me first. At some point, on the bike and following the directions given for a foot trip by Google Maps, I got lost in a “compound” for 15 minutes. I couldn’t differentiate any roads and really feel like out of place as a foreigner.
However, the atmosphere was not frightening at all, and the locals were very friendly. I asked then 2 teenagers if they knew where the school was. I got down from the bike, and we walked together for 10 minutes. They were 18 years old, and waiting for their graduation. However, one of them missed 2 disciplines chemistry and social sciences I understood, and he had to retake the exams but he was waiting for the dates. When they stopped, I didn’t recognize the school as we were arriving from the other side, but some kids from Grade 7 recognized me straight away: “Sabine!”. And the little group came to me to say hello. By the time I turned myself to say thank you, the 2 teenagers were already walking back. Honestly, this country is really friendly, I can tell!
Going back, still on my rented bike, I felt wonderful in fact, even with a positive slope and the wind against me… this new experience will definitely end up better!