Review Volunteer Connor Schmitt in Lusaka Zambia at the Youth Advocacy program
1.-How was the local ABV Coordinator and the support provided in-country ?
Excellent. We were picked up from the airport on time and given a brief tour of the center before we recovered from jet lag with a nap. In the first few days we were introduced to the details of the program and our roles as volunteers. Groceries were provided from the start and eating well was never an issue. The privacy of the guest room and bathroom was very much appreciated.
2- What was the most positive surprise you experienced?
At the program: The program does not just work with orphans, but several other causes as well. “Children Justice” is a broad term that can help many.
At the accommodation: The availability of our guest room and the quality of our food when it was prepared by Michael. He is a great cook.
About the country: The friendliness shown toward my brother and me even though we are clearly foreign to Zambia. Everybody seems happy to talk to you.
3- What was most difficult/cultural shock to experience?
At the program: I was under the impression we would be living and spending our time at an orphanage, so when we arrived at the center and saw there was no children I was confused. At first this was a shock, but in hindsight we were much more comfortable this way.
At the accommodation: Living independently when everyone left the office was very strange at first. We did not know what to do with all of our free time. Also, starting a bath is a time consuming process that involves heating up water on the stove. This can be an issue when the power turns off.
The country: The daily power outages are unpredictable and can drastically change your plans, particularly if you plan on cooking, bathing, or using WiFi to contact people back home. Sometimes they happen in the morning, sometimes at night, and there is no way to know when the government turns off the electricity.
4- Any tips for future volunteers, give as many details as possible...
Clothing: It can get cold and windy in the morning, heat up during the day, and then cold again at night – so prepare for anything. I usually slept in sweatpants and a long sleeved shirt. The only time I woke up with mosquito bites was when I wore shorts and a T shirt. We packed heavy and did not wash any of our clothes while we were here. Bring towels! We did not, and its stated in the orientation guide.
Donations: We brought suitcases with toys, shoes, clothes, and school supplies and everybody was very grateful. The children were especially excited.
Weather: Explained under “clothing.” We went during June-July, but we have been told there is a very strong wet season that occurs in the Fall.
4.1-Other things volunteers should know, about what to bring, what to do in country, what to eat, transportation, other:
a.- They will be happy to show you around Lusaka if you ask! We went grocery shopping, had our money exchanged, visited a bar, and toured a few malls all within our first weekend.
b.- The Sunday market at Arcades is great for gifts, accessories, etc. and it will help improve your haggling skills.
c.- If WiFi is unavailable at the center, there is an internet café down the street (next to a liquor store) that is very inexpensive and operates on a different power outage schedule.
d. – Zambians love playing soccer/football! My brother and I are not good by any means, but the kids all loved to play with us regardless of age, size, or gender.
5- Personal Paragraph (ABV Program Testimonial), don’t leave blank:
The experience as a whole was humbling and heartwarming. Interacting with the children was definitely the highlight, particularly when we gave out the toys and gifts we brought. They were noticeably and uncontrollably overjoyed. The time spent away from work gave me a lot of time to think and reflect about life, school, work, everything. In hindsight, it was probably a good thing we didn’t have WiFi all the time; I found myself reading and writing more than I ever have and I was constantly learning. Cooking genuinely became a fun task and a highlight of our daily routine, especially when Michael took control and allowed us to try new things. As a college student who is about to experience independent living for the first time, this was definitely an effective “warm up” as well as a great way to expand my cultural knowledge of a foreign country. The program itself is well managed, well-staffed, and I wholeheartedly expect it to continue and grow.
6- How would you describe your accommodation, meals and security in detail:
A room is provided along with a bathroom. We usually prepared breakfast ourselves unless food was left over from the night before. As mentioned earlier, cooking depends entirely on the scheduled power outages. Sometimes this meant dinner was prepared earlier in the day, other times it was on schedule. Yesterday my brother and I concluded that we haven’t eaten a bad meal in Zambia. Our meals at the center were simple and typically varied from pasta or rice – but they were very well prepared and often included a sauce, curry, or meat. Also, the coordinator was very open to purchasing whatever additional groceries we needed but we weren’t very picky. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were a daily snack in the times when we wanted something quick and simple. Security was never an issue; we fully locked up the center at night and had a guard outside keeping watch. The surrounding area is safe and relatively quiet. There is a rooster that lives next door and I forgot to mention this earlier! We are from American suburbia and were not used to this.
7- What was your favorite memory of this trip?
Program: Handing out our gifts to the children
Country: Hard to pick one. Zambia is amazing.
Tours: We are planning on going to the bush soon to game watch, but Lusaka does have a brand new national park that has white rhino. 30-40 mins from center.
8 - How was the ABV USA support prior to traveling?
To be honest, my mother handled all of this but they were regularly contacting her and answering questions via email.
9 –Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers?
Most definitely. We were here for 2 weeks and can (hopefully) answer whatever questions may come up.