This summer it was my honor to intern at two schools for orphans in Zambia, Africa. I cannot even begin to describe what a privilege and joy it was to work with the students and teachers there! The first school was Mercy Ministries in rural Lusaka, and the second was in the Ng’ombe compound called Chikumbuso (a compound is basically how Zambians describe a slum). At Chikumbuso my main responsibility was helping students who struggle in the classroom prepare for their government exams, and at Mercy I spent time teaching grades 5, 6, and 7 as well as instructing the teachers.
While teaching I definitely learned a great deal about the variety of issues faced by students and instructors in Zambia. School fees, proximity to schools, and sexual abuse and violence are extremely prevalent struggles for students, especially for girls. On the instruction side, teachers can be paid $20-$40 a month if they receive compensation at all, and may need to teach multiple grade levels in a single one-room class. It really is different that extreme poverty isn’t simply an idea or a statistic examined in a classroom, but it’s the issue faced by real people, strong people, that I know by name and face. Truthfully, the need in Zambia is overwhelming and very present and there’s so much for which I’d love to advocate. But if there’s anything I can attest to, it’s the life-changing difference of education, healthcare, and nourishment. The living conditions in the compounds cultivate an environment of hopelessness especially in the lives of children; it is a victory to make it past five as a child, and many kids don’t anticipate living long enough to grow into any aspirations. One day at Chikumbuso the teacher asked all the students of the class to introduce themselves and say what they would like to be when they grow up. I almost cried with excitement seeing these children who live in the slum and who were receiving the gift of education, food, and healthcare, stand up and say they want to be pilots or nurses or teachers or pastors, to hear them giggle when others spoke, and to see their joy about completing their education. These kids have hope. And as I look to the future I see many opportunities for research and long-term, sustainable partnerships to assist the people of Zambia. Donald Miller in his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years said “when we live [our story], we are telling the people around us what we think is important.” I want to live out my education, my career, and my life, showing that these people are important. And this begins by transforming myself; as Leo Tolstoy articulated, “everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing themself.”
I already miss the people a crazy amount. I miss Ruthie calling me Auntie Molly, I miss walking into class to an excited group of students chiming “Good morning Madam!” I miss praying with the widows, I miss laughing with my friends during lunch. It’s definitely an understatement to say that I had a few snapshot experiences…climbing at Victoria Falls, eating impala, making friends with an ostrich, drinking Coke on a ledge over the Zambezi…but most of my time consisted of relationship building, breathing blackboard chalk dust, and trying to learn to live on Africa time. I wish I had the words to say how thankful I am for these moments. And as I left and students and teachers posed the question, “when will you return to Zambia?” I hope the answer will be very soon.
Molly Crane is a rising sophomore at Northwestern University, majoring in Urban Studies and International Studies. She loves working with the homeless in Evanston and Chicago, heading the community outreach branch of NU’s diabetes club, tutoring, and travelling abroad whenever she can.
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