by Danielle Newbern
Contributing Writer, ‘15, Mathematics
This summer, I had the opportunity to spend a month and a half in the southern region of Africa, specifically Zambia and Zimbabwe. I left for Livingstone, Zambia on May 28th, full of excitement for what was to come my way. I finally arrived on May 30th via three long international flights.
The tiring days of travel were well worth it. Upon arrival, my host family–Pastor Chris, his wife Rhoda, 7-year-old daughter Wongani, and nephew Felix–welcomed me into their home and lives. Their cheerfulness and enthusiasm made me feel at home even though I was 8,033 miles away from my family and friends.
The duration of my trip was split between two areas: Livingstone, Zambia and Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. During my first four weeks in Livingstone, I volunteered at the David Livingstone Memorial Presbyterian Primary School, which includes Pre-K through 7th grade. The headmistress Rhoda and the teachers all encouraged me to not only observe in the classrooms, but also gain experience by teaching the students various subjects. I taught the first through seventh grades, everything from Math and Science to Social Development Studies and English. I started teaching in the seventh grade classroom and worked my way down to the first grade. The differences in maturity levels and lesson content between each grade at times were a bit overwhelming, especially when I had to teach addition to first graders just a few days after teaching ratios and proportions to seventh graders.
During my time at the school I learned so much from the teachers and students whether it be from having conversations with teachers during lunch, talking to the students after school, or learning about Zambia’s culture and history alongside the students during their lessons.
When my time in Livingstone came to an end, I said my goodbyes and drove with Pastor Chris thirty minutes south to the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. From there we met Olga, my hostess, who welcomed me and took me to her home in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. I spent the next two weeks of my trip volunteering at the Rose of Charity Orphanage where I played with the kids who were too young to go to school in the mornings. I also spent time with all of the kids in the afternoons and evenings.
From talking to the people who live and work in the orphanage, I learned a lot about the place’s history and mission, as well as the programs that they started. One such program is Believe In Girls, which they have been developing over the last couple of years upon seeing the need for female empowerment in their society. This program goes to a village just outside Victoria Falls and provides workshops for the girls who are able to come every Saturday.
These workshops are divided into different sessions where they teach skills such as sewing and educate about such topics as women’s rights, sexual health, careers, and empowerment. Without these workshops, many of the girls would be taught myths about sexually transmitted infections in their community, would not understand the different types of abuse that could be occurring to them or to others around them. Before joining the program, some of the girls would even resort to prostitution in the city of Victoria Falls due to ignorance of other options and resources available to them.
Following several weeks of service, I brought my trip to a close with a couple of free days in Victoria Falls. I had to visit the waterfall, which shares the name of the city and is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. I also had a chance to interact with some of Africa’s most majestic animals. I petted a cheetah named Sylvester, walked a lion named Savannah, and rode on an elephant on a trail in the bush.
Getting to experience Victoria Falls was definitely something I will not forget, but what will perhaps stick with me more are the amazing experiences that I will always treasure from volunteering at the primary school and orphanage.