Below we hear from volunteer alumni, Catherine Macaulay from Scotland, on her experience with African Impact and teaching in Livingstone, Zambia.
If I had know what a wonderful experience volunteering with African Impact was going to be, I would have stayed longer. I also wouldn’t have been so afraid to get on the plane in the first place! Even after travelling to many different countries in the past, I was nervous about leaving my teaching job and my friends and family in Scotland. However, it turned out to be the best decision of my life and 3 weeks and 3 countries later I still deserately miss Zambia.
My late father gave to several charities, including some who worked with children in Africa and after talking to him about it, I became keen to go there and see what it was like to teach and live in Africa myself. After doing some research, I decided Livingstone was where I wanted to go and I loved the fact that African Impact was all about sustainable change, not just helping out for a while then deserting the communities.
I moved into Livingstone Backpackers (my home for the rest of my time!) 3 days before I was due to start the program and straight away I knew I was going to love it. I met Kirby, another volunteer, by chance beside the pool and she introduced me to everyone from the house. They couldn’t have been friendlier and more welcoming, so by the time I started volunteering on the Monday I had already settled in and felt like part of the group.
My first week volunteering was at Zambezi School, where I helped teach a grade 6 class. We worked on English, Maths and Science and what amazed me was the children’s desire to learn and read books, a good reminder that the simplest of resources can help a child learn and progress. I loved that they were there to greet us every day and help carry our things into school. Their appreciation for us being there was evident and it reminded me of why I got into teaching in the first place.
One day I asked the class to draw an outline of the human body and what they thought it looked like on the inside. I was so impressed by the creativity and effort they put in and I left that morning thinking ‘I can’t wait to come back tomorrow‘.
Another school I volunteered with once the summer holidays had started was Livingstone School. This was a new project that was made possible by another volunteer Bev, who had visited there as she was keen to observe what it was like in a Government school. Through this, African Impact was able to make a link and began to provide holiday tutoring for many children. I taught an advanced grade 6/7 group (who were an absolute pleasure!) and each day more and more children would turn up to join in. They also loved teaching us how to play their games out in the yard and it took me back to when I was at school myself.
A highlight of my experience was Holiday Club at Linda Community Centre. We spent each morning playing games and teaching the children a variety of subjects using fun activities. There was an older group – ‘The Champions’ – and the younger group – ‘The Rockstars’ – and there even became a group of babies and toddlers which were a lot of fun but definately kept us on our toes!
I soon began to learn the names and faces of the children who would turn up day after day and it made me realise how important it was for them to come and how much joy it gave them. One little boy Eric was there every morning to greet me with a huge smile on his face and he couldn’t wait to play frisbee or throw and catch with whatever ball was available. It was amazing working with the same group of volunteers at holiday club, as we worked so well together and with the children. We all agreed that our last Friday was the saddest, yet the most fun day we had there.
Spending time with these children really has been a life changing experience and if it has impacted them half as much as it has me, it will have been the most worthwhile thing I’ve ever done. I hope to continue to communicate with Zambezi school and with African Impact to share information and resources which can help improve learning for the children and sustain the impact we had as volunteers while we were there.
On a personal note, I never imagined how this experience would impact me and my life. I was able to spend time in the most beautiful country, work with wonderful people like Josiah and Mr Mulopa (thanks for teaching me how to mix cement and plaster a wall!), and I have made some lifelong friends who made my time there so special.
Thank you Africa, I have left a piece of my heart with you, and African Impact and it’s coordinators for the experience of a lifetime. I hope to see you again soon!