Why Zambia? A trip that opens your eyes, mind and heart
The common response from most people who first learnt of my impending visit to Zambia is: "Why Zambia?" That is when I’d share about World Vision (with the little that I knew).
In all honesty, I would not have set foot in Zambia if not for my sponsored child. And boy, am I glad I did!
This is a trip like no other; insightful with first-hand experience in a gamut of development projects that range from water sanitation and healthcare to education and a glimpse of local life.
LOCAL LIFE AND LIVELIHOOD
For a taste of local life, we had the opportunity to cook Nshima - the local equivalent of rice that is made with cornmeal and water over a fire. Meat is a luxury for most. Locals grow vegetables and rear livestock of chickens, goats and cows for sustenance and as a means of livelihood. Cabbage, maize, okra, tomatoes, pumpkin, pumpkin leaves and peanuts are some of their diet staples. Visits to the bee and local produce farms, and fishery also gave insights into some of the local occupations.
Farmer Mike and a few of his family members
We met a farmer who has been earmarked for aid. Currently, he uses hand hoes on a small plot of land to chop trees to make charcoal for sale. These trees come from his surroundings and are limited. None of his five children attends school as his irregular income does not provide enough finances.
We also visited another family that used to be in a similar situation. However, with the years of support from World Vision, life has changed. With a treadle pump, Farmer Mike’s negligible crops increased greatly and he was able to afford piped water. His brother now uses the treadle pump for his own farm too.
HEALTHCARE AND WATER SANITATION
At another village, a new water system has improved accessibility to clean water for the health centre and school. Gone are the days of long walks to a far-away water source and drinking water that turns stale due to how it is stored.
The maternity ward in this health centre was built with funds from World Vision Singapore, and is a partnership with the Zambia government. Facilities and services provided by this maternity ward have encouraged more women to travel from their villages and give birth at the clinic, thus lowering infant mortality rate and providing better pre- and post-natal delivery care to mothers. This health centre also provides treatment to alleviate common ailments from malaria and skin infections.
A classroom block made of mud and stone with a thatched roof
Upon arriving at the nearby school, we were warmly welcomed with a song by students. I was pleasantly surprised, almost overwhelmed - it seems like the whole school cohort has turned up to welcome us. From its humble beginnings when a young teacher was teaching under a tree on the compound, the school’s infrastructure has expanded from its thatched roof and cement floor classroom to a concrete 2-classroom building. With more funds, basic furnishings of tables and chairs could become a reality for the children who now sit on the floor during lessons.
An oral hygiene demonstration was given by a fellow tripper, with 2 student volunteers who gamely be models. Prior to this, each student was given a set of toothbrush and tooth paste.
At Mpunde School, a literacy programme that encourages fun learning for young students unites teachers from surrounding schools to create interesting ways of learning despite the limited resources available. Through fun and engaging games, children were able to better absorb and expand their vocabulary.
Education is close to my heart and so it was an eye opener to visit a few schools that range from only a thatched mud house to a sprawling campus with multi purpose hall and classroom blocks with well-maintained landscaping.
Seeing all these students increased my anticipation to meet Marvin, my sponsored child - the next stop!
“For it is in giving that we receive.”
St. Francis of Assisi
Have you experienced those moments of happiness where you are lost for words and can only keep grinning from ear to ear? That was how I felt upon meeting 5-year-old Marvin.
Marvin (in grey tee) and his four brothers were fascinated with the changing lights on the little gimmick
He has grown into a happy and healthy boy in these 3 years of sponsorship (and counting). His family rears chickens, pigeons, and also does a little farming. With six children to take care of, it is commendable that Marvin’s dad is able to provide an education for all 4 children (of school-going age). The sight of Marvin standing at the start of the footpath as I left is etched in my memory. I wish I could have hugged him more.
Lucia with the sugar cane she plucked with her bare hands
I was also glad for the opportunity to visit a fellow tripper's sponsored child, Lucia. Her dad has 3 wives, 22 children and 2 grand children - all at the young age of 45! He rears chickens, cows, goats and has a field where sugar cane and maize are grown. With financial assistance, he has purchased a maize grinder to not only grind maize for sale, but also charge a fee for maize grinding jobs from other farmers. At one point during the stroll, Lucia bounced happily into the field and returned with sugar cane for us!
Lucia started tearing before we departed, as she did too upon seeing her sponsor when we first arrived. A simple sponsorship has not only moved this child deeply to tears, but also improved the lives of her family and community. Though a 13-hour flight separates Singapore and Zambia, distance is no deterrent to improving lives and impacting the Zambian community through child sponsorships.
Moved by what we saw, a few more children were sponsored by some of us during the trip. Regardless of whether you have a sponsored child or have yet to start your sponsorship journey, come and experience Zambia for yourself! See the development projects that has progressed and improved lives over the years. As the saying goes:
We make a living by what we get.
We make a life by what we give.
- Winston S. Churchill