As a fresh faced student at Durham University, indeed at any University, your world becomes filled with endless possibilities. Literally anything you can imagine to get involved in, you can…all you need to contribute is the will. So, as an overly enthusiastic sport student, I jumped through a number of hoops to ensure I became a part of a new project that combined sport, coaching and a continent that is home to some of the most creative and captivating human beings on the planet: Zambia. The objective of the project was to use sport as a tool to sustainably educate and empower the youth of Zambia, to help ensure that informed life choices were a serious option. Simultaneously and perhaps less overtly advertised the project also intended to shape the futures of a number of bright University students through proactive development and refinement of their skills. This was to be international sports development with reciprocity at its core. Spearheaded by Peter Warburton, The Wallace Group was formed.
I was fortunate enough to be a part of the project from its inception and I went to Zambia for the first time in the projects first year, 2006. Although in a haze of excitement for a number of months, one of the clearest memories during this time and a valuable lesson was the way in which I communicated this to my parents. The conversation went a little like this;
Hugely overzealous me: “Mum, Dad, I am off to Zambia this summer…wooooo”
Slightly hesitant parents: “that sounds wonderful darling, who are you going with?”
Still excitable me: “Some uni friends. It’s cool my Zambian friend, Clement, is going to pick me up from the airport and put me on a bus to Livingstone, where I will meet my team mates”
Increasingly concerned parents: “so you are travelling alone? And how do you know this chap?” The questions continued.
On reflection and being slightly older I now completely realise the absurd nature of this conversation and can whole heartedly empathise with my parents’ worried response and subsequent phones calls directly to Peter – thanks for reassuring them, Peter! Some valuable life skills learned;
1. Know your audience and have empathy for them
2. Vary information levels and positioning accordingly
3. Think about what message you are trying to convey, before launching in
4. Timing is everything.
Teething problems sorted and I was on the flight to Zambia. My initial programme sites were based at ‘Tionge’ and ‘Munali’, two baseball/netball/athletics loving schools about a 45min walk from our temporary home. The experience was immersive and instantly engaging, lessons were to flow like water through subsequent weeks. The first ‘on the ground’ lesson centered on our over enthusiastically drafted ‘plans’. Lesson one: if you have a plan, be prepared for it to be fluid, at best, and redundant, at worst. Zambia-time became notorious and flexibility was essential, even in the most organized of placements. I could write for hours about the nuances and distinctive elements of each placement, but once in Zambia you soon realized that this was not a short term relationship. Like in life; when you know, you just know. Something captivated me beyond any comprehension and in my youthful, naive state, I was not able to process this immediately, at that stage it just presented as hyperactivity. It was not until several years later that I would realise the weight of my initial experience on the sports fields of Zambia.
Since my first exposure to the project and to Zambia in 2006, I have been back a number of times – either through university or personally. Each time, staying in the Chilenje compound, not only to ensure each experience was as real as the last, but to spend time with the Zambian family that I have been adopted into over the years. It was in 2008 that I and a group of close, equally enthusiastic friends set up The Perfect Day Foundation (more to come on how we named the charity), with the simple intention to keep the energy alive, to keep providing sustainable funding for peer leaders, placements and sporting projects. We wanted to provide a platform for others to stay involved when they returned from their first trips to Zambia. I am perhaps older than I would like to admit, but that was now 8 years ago and the charity has evolved with time, most recently seeing an influx of fresh ideas and energy. It is our ambition that this evolution will continue for years to come and it is with the new-look website that we intend to re-ignite this ambition. From here we hope you will get a good grasp of our intentions and current activity, there are absolutely no limitations to what we will get involved in and who we would love to be a part of this, so if you are interested or have recently been to Zambia please give us a shout. We would love to hear from you.
Speak soon and thanks for visiting.
Mollie, on behalf of the founders and the family of The Perfect Day Foundation