June 2nd, 2010
I am very excited to be traveling to Zambia this summer from June 3rd-July 4th. I feel that the experience of working with children in Africa will really open my eyes to a world I have never seen before. I think the most exciting parts of my trip will be getting an in depth look into the lives of the children that I will be interacting with and learning more about the culture of Zambia. It has been hard to prepare myself for a trip like this because I have never been so far from home before. I hope that my trip will give me a better understanding of education of at-risk children and youth.
I will be leaving on June 3rd at 6:30pm and flying out of the Philadelphia International Airport. After leaving Philadelphia, I will be flying to Frankfurt, Germany and then board a connecting flight there that will take me to the London Heathrow Airport. I will spend seven hours in London and board a flight at 7:30pm that will take me to Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia. I will be staying with missionaries, Charles and Sarah West, that live a few miles outside of the city in Kalundu. My first few days in Zambia will be spent with the West family getting accustomed to the country. On Monday, June 7, I will be going to the Well Spring of Faith and Hope Community School on the Kalikiliki compound for the first time to meet the children I will be working with for the next month.
I chose to travel to Africa this summer for many reasons. The main reason I am traveling there is to do research for my honors independent study project. I chose to research at-risk children and youth for my independent study, which I will be working to complete over the next year before I graduate in 2011. The idea for traveling abroad to do research was developed while meeting with my honors advisor, Dr. Starkey, Chairperson of the Department of Early Childhood and Elementary Education. We thought that it would be beneficial to work with a diverse group of children and get a real life experience of what life is like for children in another part of the world. After contacting International Ministries in King of Prussia, PA, I applied to be a short term volunteer missionary and was granted the position. The time came to choose where I was going to volunteer and my options were Zambia or Thailand. Both countries had missionaries stationed within them that focused specifically on working with children and youth.
Zambia was the most appealing choice to me for many reasons. Ever since my high school youth group did events like 30 Hour Famine and worked with the Invisible Children campaign, I have wanted to visit Africa. I was also online months ago looking at the International Ministries website that showed pictures of the children in Zambia and I fell in love with the children at the Well Spring Community School. I knew right away that Zambia was where I should go and all I could do was hope that all of the planning and organization could make the trip a reality. Sure enough, after much planning and the help of many people at BU and IM, I am leaving for Zambia in a few days and it has been a dream come true.
My goal for my independent study project is to complete a research project that will not only allow me to enhance my knowledge and understanding of diversity, but make a difference in lives of children. I know going into this project that the children I am going to be working with live in complete abject poverty. For the month of June, I will be spending five days a week at the Kalikiliki compound volunteering in a school with children ages five through sixteen. I think I will learn a lot through this experience and hopefully I will be able encourage other students at BU to go abroad in the process.
Today was my first visit to the Well Spring of Faith and Hope Community School, and it was an incredible experience. I got to the Kalikiliki compound around 10:30am and stayed there until around 1pm. I met the headmaster and the three teachers that work at the school. The first group of children that I met was the seventh grade class followed by the first/third grade class and then finally fifth grade. Different grades come to school at different times throughout the day and the school runs year round. The school has three classrooms and the first and third graders share a classroom. Each room has a chalkboard and small benches that the children sit on while being instructed. Two of the classrooms are connected and there is no door to separate the noise between the two. The third classroom stands by itself and has two chalkboards in it. In the grade1/3 room, the nursery school kids sit on a mat in the back corner of the room and learn the alphabet. The teachers circulate themselves among the three rooms and many times one teacher is in charge of two classes. The school itself is made of cement bricks and the roof is a sheet of metal. There is no electricity or running water available at the school and the bathroom is a small hut out back covered with African mats.
I went to each class when I arrived and met all of the morning children. When I wrote my name on the board they told me that my name was Soli, which is a language used mainly in Lusaka, Zambia. They said that my name was Soli because the “i’s” in my first and last name are pronounced as if they were “e’s”. The first teacher I met handed over his chalk and asked me to teach the minute I walked into his classroom. This was really overwhelming at first and I had to tell him that the first day I was really just there to observe the classes. However, I did end up teaching English later on in the morning. The students that come to school in the morning are in school from 7:30am-12:30pm and then they are done for the day. The seventh grade class is in school from 7:30am-4:30pm and they have a break from 12:00pm-2:00pm.
The school is very small and I was told that many children on the compound want to go to school there but there is just no room left which is really sad. The children here know that the one way out of the poverty they live in is to get an education and I just wish that education was possible for all of the children on the compound. The kids here just need the opportunity for a better life. Every child I have met so far at the school is so eager and willing to learn. These kids walk to school each day, sometimes very far distances, because they honestly love going to school. Many of the students told me today that they want to be a student at a university one day. Even the teachers were telling me how badly they want the chance at a better life and would like to move to the US in the future. Children are children, no matter where you are in the world, and they all have hopes, dreams, and goals for a bright future. I wish it was less of a struggle for the children I have met on the Kalikiliki compound because they cannot help the environment that they were born into. All they need is love and support from people around the world to continue their education and make a better life for themselves. I found out that it only costs $200 a year to support a child’s educational, nutritional, and medical needs for an entire year.
My first day at the school in Kalikiliki was an eye opening experience to me because seeing the poverty up close was like nothing I had ever experienced before in my entire life. The living conditions that are apparent on the compound really do take your breath away. I keep thinking back to the commercials we see on TV in the United States to sponsor a child in Africa and after witnessing it, the effects of poverty on this population truly are just as bad, if not worse than the commercials make them out to be.
I went to a graduation ceremony here the other night at the American International School of Lusaka where my host family’s children go to school. The director of the school gave a really remarkable speech. He was talking about how there are so many injustices in our world and there are problems that need to be solved everywhere you turn, but instead of constantly fighting the injustices and problems alike, you just need to put as much love into them as you can. And after you put as much love as you can into the injustices you see in the world around you, just keeping putting more and more of your heart out there until you make a change. There are thousands of children in the world that are poverty stricken but by helping all of them get the education they need, we can make a positive change in our world. Well Spring may only be capable of educating 100 children right now, but for the time being, that’s making a difference in 100 lives, and when the resources are there to educate more children, more lives will be changed for the better.