After my time at the IVHQ volunteer program in Victoria Falls, I crossed over the border into to the IVHQ volunteer program in Zambia, and was brought to Sunbird Guest House where I stayed with the other volunteers. They were all very into their projects, and giving it their all to fully experience their time there and make sure their work was making an impact.
I visited 3 schools during my time there, and they were all full with children as excitable as the ones I met in Victoria Falls. All of the schools were charming in their own way, and all were clearly appreciative of the volunteer help they were receiving.
Another project I visited was an orphanage. It was a very informal environment which was strong on passion and low on structure. The lack of structure wasn’t a bad thing though – Lisa, the volunteer at that project, simply spent time with these children and showed them the attention they needed. They had built a fort out of the scraps of rubbish that surrounded their community, played on the playground, coloured pictures, and danced and sang Zambian equivalents of ‘Duck Duck Goose’. The kids were happy and loved spending time with each other and with Lisa. The bond they had was beautiful to be a part of.
The other project I visited was a group meet-up for women with HIV. They worked with the volunteers to create crafts and goods to sell in order to support themselves and their children – jars of peanut butter, bags woven from coloured plastic sheets, and doormats from strips of cloth. They sang as they worked – traditional songs which I could not understand the meaning of, but through their harmonies and ease of participation, resonated a sense of community and mutual support. It was enchanting.
I met a great local guy named Martine, who took me on a couple long walks around the town and showed me a side of the country I wouldn’t have otherwise known how to get around – through the compounds and the markets. The compounds were compiled of tiny houses – often consisting of two or three rooms made from whatever materials were handy and inexpensive – corrugated metal, canvas bags, different forms of concrete, etc. This was one of the poorest areas I have traveled to, and it was really interesting to get to see. So many people that live with such simplicity in such a confined environment.
I also had a chance to go do a walking tour of Victoria Falls and Devil’s Pool. They were really gorgeous sites to visit, and were quite remarkable to see up close. This country certainly has no lack of natural beauty. Along with those trips, I was able to go hang out and interact with lions, cheetahs, and elephants. It’s not every day you get to touch these beautiful creatures – it was surreal. I was hesitant at first when I heard about it, knowing some animals are used as a business tool, and not treated properly. I was pleasantly surprised though – the animals were all part of a conservation project, and treated well.
I really enjoyed spending time seeing this part of the country – a little peek into the real side of Zambia. No sugar-coated tourist zones here, which was fantastic. I really enjoyed the people there too, and I would certainly embrace the opportunity to visit here again.