As I have previously mentioned, this past winter break, I was given the opportunity (along with my mom and sister) to travel to Zambia in Africa on a mission/service trip in conjunction with the OZ Project (which stands for “Orphans of Zambia.” Those twelve days that we spent in Zambia were some of the best days of my life. I learned a lot about myself and about the world around me, and I would love to share some of those thoughts here on this blog.
In traveling with the OZ Project, we spent a lot of our time in Zambia working with orphaned children ranging from the age of two or three all the way until about fourteen years old. Our goal each time that we would work with the kids was to show them the love and attention that they unfortunately lack in their day-to-day lives as orphans. We played with them, sang with them, colored with them, ate with them, and even simply held them on our laps or gave them hugs and high-fives. Even the simple things that we would do, like telling a child that he/she did a good job on his/her activity, would make the biggest difference in these kids’ lives. Their faces would light up in smiles and by the end of the trip, even some of the shy kids would open up and want to sit and play with us.
Despite the fact that we traveled to Zambia for the purpose of helping these kids, I will be the first one to tell you that simply being around the kids helped me more than I ever thought was possible. I realized in my time with the kids that kids, no matter their backgrounds, their ages, their beliefs, the language they speak, the clothes they wear, or what they look like are kids. Kids are kids. Kids in America have the same needs and desires as the kids in Zambia. They want to be loved, to be held, and to be played with. Even though I have always believed that kids are kids no matter what, I never really experienced it firsthand until I went on the trip.
Coming back home from Zambia suddenly made me all the more passionate about this project. I suddenly couldn’t wait (even more than before) to finish this project and to see the kids in Egypt receive the computers that we have all worked so hard to purchase. I felt as though my eyes had been opened to see yet another needy population in this world, even beyond the confines of my family’s home country. And after hearing about the dire situations these orphans are facing when it comes to their educational experiences, my heart ached for these kids. I was astonished to find out that more than 200 kids are being crammed into a school with only two classrooms and one teacher. It made me so upset to know that there are so many kids in this world, SO MANY, who will never be given the education that I have been given. In fact, the majority of the world could really use One Laptop Per Child, including these kids from Zambia. Especially these kids from Zambia.
The needs of this world are tremendous. I can’t even believe it. Going on this trip made me realize that I cannot continue to live my life the way I do. It made me look at things in a totally different light back here in America. So now, when the power goes out or when there’s a bug in the room (still working on that one, though!), I don’t freak out as much as I did prior to going to Zambia. I don’t worry as much as I did about what I look like, what I’m wearing, or if I’m wearing makeup. The little things in life that I take for granted were suddenly out of reach while we were in Zambia. It was quite often that we ran out of power. We didn’t have internet access at all. We sometimes even ran out of water. There were many days when we only ate one or two meals of the day.
Overall, if I had to describe my trip to Zambia in one word, it would be amazing. Because even though my world was shaken when the things I consider basic were taken away from me and my eyes were open to all the aching need in the world, never have I never met people who are so happy. The people in Zambia, despite the fact that they had very little, were the happiest people on Earth. Yes, they have problems, and some of the adults and children were able to open up and tell us how they were feeling and what they were facing. But nonetheless, the people I met were the nicest people on the face of this Earth. When we would visit someone’s home, the wife would offer our big group food and drink even if they had very little for themselves. There was one woman we met whose children had died and had since then adopted 10 orphaned children into her own home. There was another man who was the father of 13 children but only 3 of them actually survived past infancy, yet he invited us into his home and constantly had the smile of someone who had just won the lottery.
We came to help the people of Zambia, but in reality, the people of Zambia helped us more than we did for them. I’ll write more about my trip in the next few days…