By perfectday, Sep 25 2016 07:33PM
Last year I was lucky enough to be introduced to the Zambia IDEALS project by a friend. This has meant that for the last two years I have been fortunate enough to spend 6 weeks in June and July working and volunteering in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. It is hard to put into words what I have gained from this experience. Having been back now for well over a month I still often miss the country and people which I have been so blessed to have visited.
A normal day on placement in Lusaka is characterised by its distinct lack of normality by our expectations. Just travelling to placement is an experience in itself. Buses in Zambia are very much a love it or hate it experience. You are crammed into a tiny, often broken down bus, with four or five people on a row of seats designed for three. You then get to barter with the conductor in order to secure the best price. It is a process which should be embraced. Travelling on the us is also very different because of the interactions you have with the people on them. Zambians are in the main incredibly outgoing and friendly people and they will always attempt to engage you in conversation.
The thing that makes the whole experience so special is the people. The volunteers and staff at Sport in Action are so hardworking, friendly and inspiring. It is almost impossible not to become incredibly close with the peer leaders at the placement sites you work at and visit who are all friendly and welcoming. But above all else it is the children you teach and coach who have the most profound impact. Despite often having very little they turn up to PE or sport sessions everyday with a sense of happiness and excitement which is hard to describe. Whilst lessons can often be chaotic given the number of children, often topping a hundred, taking part they are also immensely rewarding given the enjoyment on the faces of those taking part.
Perhaps the most important thing I have learnt as a result of the project is to rethink sport development and third world development projects on the whole. So often they get painted as ‘Us’ going over ‘there’ to help ‘them’. In actual fact I have learnt so much more from the people I have met in Zambia than I could ever teach them. For me development projects such as this a are two way process whereby the people who travel to Zambia in the project get as much out of the programme as the local children and coaches. I would strongly encourage anyone who has the chance to take part in the project, you will get more out of it than you could imagine!