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Volunteering in Zambia
A unique insight into life in rural Zambia
If you are interested in self-funded volunteer opportunities in Zambia for two months or more please contact us for any opportunities.
See the video and read about volunteers' experiences in Zambia below.
Three volunteers share their thoughts
My experience of volunteering in Luansobe
I arrived in Luansobe in April 2008 prepared for a lengthy stay. With my partner Nick and good friend Rob, we were welcomed into the community by what seemed like a never-ending flow of smiling faces and hand shakes! I was immediately struck by the beauty of the surrounding Miombo woodland and felt as though I’d been hidden deep within a magical forest. We lived our lives, for the next few months, next to the villagers of Luansobe. This meant daily visits from children, friends and well-wishers that stopped by regularly not to mention the chickens, pigs, donkeys, dogs and cows!
Norris, Medan and Saffie, ladies employed by the Trust in a variety of roles, took it upon themselves to make sure we kept ourselves fed and cleaned! When Nick fell ill with malaria they also became a nursing team, and kept vigil by his bedside until his full recovery. Shortly after arriving in the community a celebration was organised for the first International Day for Preventing Malaria. This was a fantastic opportunity to witness traditional dancing and the wonderful sense of humour that characterises Zambia. A group of talented young people from LUBS performed some short sketches highlighting the need for mosquito netting and demonstrating the avoidable consequences of using it for fishing, instead of malaria prevention.
The volunteer organisation Orphan Medical set up shop at the clinic for a day at the beginning of May. News of their coming had reached some of the more remote communities around Luansobe, and the queue was more than one hundred people long for most of the day. I went to say hello to the incredible team, and chat with some of the people waiting for treatment. It was a real reminder of the poverty and lack of basic treatment available to a lot of people in Zambia. The team spent the day treating injuries and diseases, carrying out HIV and AIDS tests and advising people on issues such as epilepsy.
I built up a friendship with the wonderful staff at the clinic (instigated by a bout of parasites!) Their work is tireless and extremely professional. From the Orphan Medical team I heard that the Luansobe Clinic is the best of its kind for miles around, with most communities reliant upon their out-reach projects for all medical care.
Before we left the community Rob, Nick, Rebecca (a new and dear friend and fellow volunteer) and I couldn’t resist throwing a party. After days of preparation and negotiation, and more than a few hours cooking over an open fire, we hosted the gathering with singing, dancing, a lot of eating, and a fair few laughs! Our friends from the community made flattering speeches about the work we’d been involved with, and we responded with gratitude for their hospitality and kindness.
To say that I was sad to leave Luansobe is an understatement. Spending three months living and working with the residents of Luansobe was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I hope it will develop as long friendships do, over the years. I am certain I’ll be going back (if they’ll have me!)
Emma worked at Luansobe helping to develop food security, as well as giving IT training to Kaloko staff, helping Crèche teachers plan and measure pupil progress and running a teachers’ workshop at LUBS.
Emma has returned to Kaloko several times in the years since, with groups of sixth form students. This has been a popular trip for students at the college in Brighton where Emma teaches. The students gain first hand experience of supporting a practical development project with Kaloko.
A day in the life of a volunteer
Early rays of sun glance off the mud rondavel walls but the air is icy as I step outside. I wave to Michelo singing outside her house and scamper to the mess, neighbourhood dogs crowding around demanding affection. Rob has made porridge with Medan’s pounded ground nuts and, glad of the warmth, I huddle by the braai with a bowl of the creamy meal and mug of coffee. My day begins.
Smiles and a jumble of “Murishani”s greet me as I head past chickens pecking in the dust, past babies being bathed and toddlers pottering to the Crèche, past white-washed buildings, across the dusty field into school. ‘Good morning Miss Zausmer!’ my Grade 8 class choruses. The 40 pupils sit three to a desk; they’re already restless and a little fed up. English homework hasn’t been done but it’s no great surprise; life is not easy for them with chores at home and work in the fields. And there is no electricity for lighting after dark. I start the lesson regardless – ‘Adjectives’. They’re finding them confusing and I struggle to illustrate the concepts. I sigh. We must take a different tack; they can teach me adjectives in Bemba. They love my ridiculous mimes of “fat” and “thin” and my feeble efforts at Bemba, and their laughter resounds loudly around the school.
Lunch, spent sharing the morning’s quirks and discussing how to get to Ndola to buy in supplies, is cut short with the approaching drone of Martin’s motorbike. This afternoon I am to investigate why dams aren’t being used to full effect. We weave our way through the bush and, as Martin navigates us through scrub, I wave happily at the people who dot the footpaths. Progress around the households is slow. Martin greets and offers introductions and I smile, trying to gauge the conversations. But they are all welcoming and, as I teeter on rough benches outside their homes, they patiently answer my questions in the hope that I signal the coming of something good. Three houses are all we manage this afternoon before the sun starts to sink. On our journey back through the long shadows we hit rush hour traffic; at least three bikes!
Food by head torch is our usual ritual but tonight, after showering off the day’s dust, we’re in the imbalasa around a handsome fire. The spicy boerewors sausage spits over the embers. Emma stirs the inevitable tomato relish and shoos away a dog who is eyeing the meat, crooked tail quivering in delight. As we carry plates and pans back and forth, Nick points out how black the sky is. The moon is just a slice; dense sprays of stars are our ceiling tonight.
Under warm thatch, we chatter long into the night talking of Kaloko and the people here, about ourselves, our past, present and future. Sometimes we’re quiet, thoughtful, yet utterly content with new friends and our bush existence which has so quickly come to be home. People and place are inextricably linked in any environment – Kaloko is no exception. Yes, I had moments of uncertainty, even of frustration, but more often than not I felt a deep satisfaction and joy. It was an experience I would live over and over again.
rondavel - a hut
braai - open grated fire for cooking
'Murishani' - 'Good morning' in Bemba, the local language
imbalasa - a traditional thatched shelter
A volunteer's short film
You can get a flavour of the community and of Luansobe/Kashitu from UK volunteer Rob Rass's short film from his stay in 2012
Kaloko Trust UK
39-41 Surrey Street, Brighton, BN1 3PB, UK
T: +44 (0)1273 766 660
Kaloko's UK staff are working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic but you can contact them by phone or email.
Please note that the Kaloko office itself is closed - so responses to post may take longer than usual - but both UK staff have now returned from furlough. Project activities by our partners in Zambia are continuing.