Review Volunteer Lauren Scandrett in Lusaka Zambia at the Orphanage and School Program
1- How was the local Coordinator/staff and the support provided in-country?
The coordinators were great. They arranged things very nicely and always gave me directions to where I was supposed to go on each day. I got along very well with the staff at the Children Justice office, as well as the staff at both locations where I worked. Everyone was friendly and kind. That being said, if someone comes who is not self-sufficient or willing to figure things out for themselves, they will be in for a surprise. You really have to be a self-starter to do well here.
2- What was the most surprising thing you experienced?
I was surprised by how safe Zambia is. I walked home after dark several times, and traveled by myself a lot. I only felt unsafe a few times, and it was never very frightening. The people of Zambia are respectful and it’s no big deal to walk around the city by yourself.
I was also surprised by how big of a part my host family played in my experience. I expected that the work I was doing would be the biggest part of my trip, but really it was getting to know my host family and hanging out with the little girls. I took them to a movie and to see baby elephants, and we would play cards for hours every night. My host family is what I miss most for sure.
3- What was most difficult to experience?
I’ve traveled to Africa previously, and knew coming into Zambia that I would be singled out for being white. However, I didn’t expect it to get to me as much as it did. It was really hard being yelled at constantly, being asked for money, and being started at.
We also had a baby die at the orphanage, which I’m still having to process through. That made for a really rough week.
4- Any tips for future volunteers… (clothing, travel, personal items, donations)
Bring your own phone or buy one locally! It would have been much easier to have a phone to be able to call local friends and cab drivers. If Internet is important to you, bring a laptop. There was WiFi at the office for only three days in the four weeks I was in Zambia, so I made a trip into town once or twice a week to go to an Internet Café. If you have a laptop, you can buy a WiFi bundle of sorts and then be able to use Internet wherever you go.
You can trade nice socks for items during the Sunday Market at Arcades. That ends up being much less expensive.
During the winter months in Zambia, it does actually get cold. I wish I would have brought a heavier jacket and socks.
I think food is the best thing to share. I brought over Goldfish, which my host family had never heard of. Everyone loved them and it was really fun to be able to share part of my culture with them.
4.1-Other things volunteers should know:
a.- You really can’t be afraid to make mistakes. My host family was so wonderful, but they have their own lives to take care of, and can’t be driving you around places as its not part of whats included. They will answer questions, but you have to be willing to figure out the public transportation or find a reliable cab driver. b.- Do NOT come into Zambia with the attitude of being able to fix or improve what the organizations have in place. The staff at the programs know what they’re doing, and it is a privilege for you to get to work alongside of them, not the other way around. c.- If you want to try things, just ask. At the program I learned how to make nshima, sweep with the little brooms, change cloth diapers, and put a baby on my back with a chitenge. And none of that would have happened if I wouldn’t have asked.
5- Personal Paragraph (ABV Program Testimonial):
My trip to Zambia was very challenging, but completely worth it. Through this trip I fell in love with Zambia, and made really solid relationships and friendships that I’m hoping to keep up. ABV is a great organization that prepared me well for the trip, checked up on me during my stay, and provided support for my return. My host family and the project coordinator did a fantastic job of making sure I was well-provided for. I have recommended ABV to many of my friends, and plan to use this organization in the future. I’ve traveled a good amount, and I’ve never experienced an organized visit that was as well-done as my trip through ABV.
6- How would you describe your accommodation, meals, security (e: host family, on-site, shared)
The host family is a great family to live with. I always had meals when I was there and the kids are a blast to be around. I had my own room which was nice, but privacy doesn’t really exist with four young kids around. The meals took a little to get used to, and I always bought fruit from stands and some granola bars from the supermarkets to supplement. I felt completely safe while I was at home. It was about a 25 minute walk to work and also to go to where you can catch a bus or a cab. There were daily power and water outages done by the government, so be sure to plan when you want to take a bath, get water, and wash clothes.
7- What was your favorite memory of this trip?
I don’t think I have one specific memory, but I was able to really connect with one of the babies at the orphanage. The staff would tease me about how much he loved me, and it was really amazing for me to experience something like that.
8.- How was the ABV USA support prior traveling?
So great! All my questions were answered, the flight and travel insurance information was easy to understand, and I felt confident about the support I would receive going into Zambia.
9 – Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers
I would love to!