Volunteer Name: Krystle Cummings
Project Location: Lusaka, Zambia
Program Dates: August 31 - September 21, 2013
Volunteered At: Youth/Human Rights Program
Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers? Of course! And I really recommend it as it helped me a lot before my trip.
What was your favorite memory of this trip? Some of my favorite moments during this trip were simply being at home with my home stay family and sharing stories of our lives and cultures. The family I lived with was so welcoming and truly made me feel apart of the family, I never really felt homesick living with them because there was always someone around to talk to. At work one of my favorite memories was visiting the community school and experiencing how different it is from what I'm used to in Canada. I was able to teach a primary class which was incredibly rewarding. These children didn't really have any school supplies, they all had to take turns with pencils but they were all so happy to be at school and learning regardless of the minimal resources.
What was the most difficult thing you experienced? At home I spent the last four years in University and working at the same time. I'm used to being very time efficient and packing a lot of work into one day. Work and life is definitely slow moving in Zambia. I found this frustrating at first but learned to take things a bit more slowly. The work schedule I had was not very scheduled either, so I had to learn that plans changed by the minute and sometimes I would be working on my own at the office unsupervised. This was something that I got used to after a couple of days and wasn't an issue after I knew more about my work responsibilities and the projects that I was working on.
What was the one thing you wished you were better prepared for? I feel like I was as prepared as I could be for my trip. I talked to a couple previous volunteers before I left so I had quite a bit of insight into what to expect and most importantly what to pack. Since there were so many projects I was a little unclear as to what exactly I would be working on, so when I arrived the work plan for me was a lot different than what I had envisioned. I spent majority of my time in an office setting working with professionals, so I wish I had packed a bit differently for this as I only brought one pair of dress pants and one blazer. While this sounds like a negative it actually isn't. The work plan that the ABV director created for me was a direct reflection of my work and school background and really played to my strengths.
Any tips for future volunteers… (clothing, travel, personal items, donations, sightseeing etc) Don't be afraid to get out and explore on the weekend! I was told by my family that I was one of the more adventurous volunteers they had as I was always taking the bus to visit various places and sight-see around the city. Take some time before you leave to do some tourism research and find some fun things to do on the weekend. I felt incredibly safe the entire time and the people that I met really made a positive difference to my entire trip and overall experience. After my volunteering I also traveled to Livingstone, Zambia for 10 days on my own to more sightseeing before going back to Canada. As far as packing goes, check the weather and pack for all working conditions. Don't stress too much about forgetting things because there are so many shopping centers that you can find pretty much anything you need once you're there.
How would you describe/rate your experience working with the ABV staff in the USA? ABV staff was very helpful. During my application process I sent Sarah lots of little questions which she always responded to quickly. Once I had arrived in Lusaka, Sarah also emailed me to check in and see how things were going. I never needed much help once I arrived in Lusaka but I know the ABV staff would be quick to help when I needed them.
How was the local ABV Director and the support provided in-country? My ABV director in Lusaka was very supportive and always able to answer my questions. I worked alongside my director almost everyday at the office. Whenever I was having troubles understanding a project all I had to do was ask and my director would talk it out with me until I had full understanding and was able to go on my own. My director was also personally supportive and checked to make sure I was comfortable at the house and offered to pick me things up at the store whenever I needed, or cook meals differently if they got a bit too traditional Zambian for me. I never felt stranded or really in need of anything.
Personal Paragraph (ABV Program Testimonial): My ABV experience in Lusaka is something I'll always remember. I had the opportunity to work at projects that I truly believe in, while making a difference to those that need it most. I wish I had planned for a longer stay, as I already miss my Zambian family and the friends that I made. It was the people that I met which really made my experience such a memorable one. My experience also really made me rethink my life in Canada and be very appreciate for all the things I have. Volunteering abroad is an incredibly rewarding and eye-opening experience, I'd recommend it to anyone.