written by Sian Jones
Going to Zambia has always been an adventure for me, a new unknown chapter. Each time, I have boarded the plane heading to a new area of Zambia with new people and new challenges.
This time, my fifth trip to Africa and my fourth trip to Zambia, is different. I’m going back to a familiar place, with familiar people at a familiar school. I know what lies ahead and have some idea of the work that needs doing and how it will be achieved.
The main difference is that I am no longer arriving as a visitor. I am going back to Shine Zambia Reading Academy where I lay a brick, put in new tables and chairs and wrote the timetable. I have spent the past couple of weeks analysing the end of term exam results for the whole school, organising holiday catch up lessons for the pupils who need some extra help and planning for the pupils who will graduate at the end of this year.
In past years, I haven’t needed to do much more than if I were planning for a holiday. Is my passport up to date? check. Have I had all the vaccinations I need? check. Is my bag packed to the full capacity of my luggage allowance? check. Is my travel insurance booked? check.
This year these things have been the easy part, not the main focus. This year my mind is focused on the fact that I will arrive in Zambia around 6am on Monday morning and by lunch time I will be meeting with the teachers at the school. The first week will be a week full of meetings and preparation for the new school term, which begins the following week.
Am I ready? mostly. Am I excited? yes, but a different kind of excitement than before. Will I be making a difference? …
… this is the question that I have been anxious to know the answer to every time I have sat on that plane. Will 4 weeks in South Africa be enough to make any real difference? Will 8 months on an HIV/AIDs education programme in Zamia be enough to change the alarming statistics? Will a job in an international school enable me to find a charity to work with to change the lives of some people in Zambia? Will I be able to add any value to a community school set up by a UK charity in 2 months with my teaching skills?
This year I board the plane already partly knowing the answer to this question. Shine Zambia Reading Academy educates over 100 orphans and vulnerable children who would otherwise have no access to basic education and no hope for the future. It provides jobs for many local people, including teachers, builders, cooks, gardeners and security guards, who may otherwise be without income. It provides a building for the ministry of health to carry out vaccination programmes and local churches to meet to worship. It provides hope to an incredibly impoverished community.
So being part of this – organising the school programme, training the teachers, managing the pupil data, preparing the exams and reports – I know the answer is already yes.