I went back to Zambia last summer for just over 3 weeks with Libby Mills. This was only a year after volunteering with the Salesian College group but I knew as soon as I came back from that trip that I could not go longer than a year without seeing the girls from the City of Joy again. Previous students who had gone back to volunteer, separate from the school, had warned me it was a very different experience compared to the school trip. However, I did not quite realise how different!
Without college, you have to be far more independent, set your own agenda and take on far more responsibility. We were in charge of helping the girls with their studies, organising activities, helping at oratory, shopping for our own food and much more. What really stood out for me was that we got to see the real daily life of the girls, their day to day routines and experience their highs and lows which in some respects are very similar to our own stresses. We had to be much more decisive while being there. With the school, activities are mapped out for you but on your own, you must make decisions ranging from how to entertain the girls in the afternoon to how to avoid conflicts by carefully dividing your time equally between all the girls.
With the help of Sister, we set our own routine to ensure we got the most out of our time there. Our usual day would begin with teaching two of the younger girls, Abigail and Angela, for 2 hours on any subjects they were struggling on – we focused on Maths and English. Then we would go to the volunteer house to plan activities for the coming week. After lunch, we would help the Sisters with any jobs they needed doing and then prepare for oratory which would begin around 2:30 pm. We would be at oratory all afternoon playing games with the girls and people from the village. We would then cook dinner and help the girls with their homework in the evening.
I am so glad I went back to see the girls and have this new experience. I feel much more connected now with the City of Joy and the work of Share the Light. Even after a year, I could see Share the Light’s changes – resources for the girls, the growth in the porridge club and the expansion of the scholarship program. I cannot wait to go back to the City of Joy to see the smiling faces of all the girls again.