In the fall of 2016, my roommate and I were freshmen in college. We were constantly being told to get out of our comfort zones and try new things. I was looking into various clubs on campus, but I was not so sure which would be a good fit for me. My roommate came home one night, and she begged me to go to a Zambia Project meeting with her. Having nothing else to do, I went over to the Campus Center with her, and we sat in this hour long meeting. From that point on, my life had been changed for good.
For those of you who are not familiar with this organization, Zambia Project is an organization that works to provide hope through education. We raise money for a program called Zambia Open Community Schools (ZOCS) that is located in Zambia. Through ZOCS, students are able to get the education they deserve and are presented with different opportunities that everyone should be able to do. By the money we raise, we are able to help pay teacher salaries, as they usually volunteer to teach. Also, we are able to help set up self-sustaining projects, such as gardens, or a pig farm for example. Through these different aspects, the children are able to earn profits for their own school, as well as learn different trades that could be useful for them in the future.
As I fell more and more in love with this beautiful organization, I was presented with the opportunity to travel to Zambia, Africa to meet the people of ZOCS and some of the different schools in which we support. I think I waited all of five minutes to tell my parents about the trip, and to start the process of figuring out how I could get them on board with this idea. It did not take much for my parents to see how passionate I was about this organization, and they were really excited for me to go on this journey. So, there I was with my roommate, Allie, standing in the Chicago airport, getting ready to endure this trip. Both of us nervous, but ready to have this experience.
From Chicago to Dubai to Lusaka, Zambia. The overall travel time was near 24 hours. But, it was worth every second. When we arrived in Zambia, we were greeted by a few of the staff members from ZOCS, who may have been even more excited to have us! They showed us true hospitality, and were so sweet in accommodating us. Over our three week journey, we visited many different schools, teachers and students who were able to be supported through The Zambia Project. Each school we visited, students and staff were thrilled to see us and wanted us to be integrated into every part of their day. We would go around to each class and visit with them, introducing ourselves, and having the students ask us questions. Then our group would continue to tour around the school, and meet up with different members of the community to hear more of their experiences. After, it was my favorite part of each school visit: the song and dance. At each school, us visitors were welcomed with a song and dance performed by the students. We were then invited to join them in dance, and that was an experience that I will never forget. This was a time when I experienced genuine happiness and the feeling that I had during this time with an amazing group of people was such a blessing.
The people of Zambia are so happy, and it really made me think about what true joy is, and where it stems from. Genuine happiness does not come from material items and how much money a person has. It sounds cliche, but happiness really does come about from the people that you surround yourself with and the experiences you have. If I could travel, meet new people, experience new cultures, etc. I would be the happiest girl in the world. Having these experiences and stories to share means so much to me, and it continues to shape the person I am today.
When traveling throughout the beautiful country of Zambia, I realized many different things. Many personal things that have stuck with me ever since I returned home from my mission trip. I have been more conscious of what makes me happy, and the deep roots of service that are in my personality. Service and helping others is something that I am really passionate about, and I hope I can inspire others to do the same. The little things really do matter, and one person can make a difference with the dedication and effort needed to do so. It may not be easy, but it will be worth it in the long run.
The Zambia Project has inspired me in multiple ways, and I have even gone to take a leadership role within the club. I have committed to be the World of Hope Gala Coordinator for the second year now, and I am so excited to be a part of this. The gala is our biggest fundraising event of the year, and something that can be stressful at times, but being able to take a step back and think about the opportunities we are providing makes all the difference.
I have many other stories and photos to share from this trip, so stay tuned for more! I am grateful to have had this experience, and I hope that I have inspired you to try to do even small acts of service. You could really make someone feel loved, making a difference in their day.
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent a night with a mosquito.” ~African Proverb