One opportunity I never thought I’d get through college or even life in general, is to go to Zambia and help start a business for an orphanage for girls that have either been abandoned, abused, or trafficked.
Going into the experience, it was as if I was stepping into a whole different world. From meeting all these wonderful people and children, hand-feeding elephants, walking cheetahs, and immersing myself into a culture filled with so much happiness, joy, and great food.
Working with the girls at the orphanages was nothing like I thought it’d be. After hearing the dreadful stories of what had happened to these girls you’d think that they would be very reserved and shy. These girls, however, were filled with so much joy, and always wanted to help us work on whatever we were doing with the business. The business is a sewing business and these girls have so much talent in their little fingers. Anyone in the world would be stun to witness it.
I truly loved working with the girls, however, even though the days were not typically that long, it did feel like it since we’d be working very hard in able to do the most we could for them. There were periods of time throughout the month where we’d have breaks for a day or two, which is when I had experienced some of the coolest things anyone could do. One of those experiences was having an amazing opportunity to walk a cheetah. It was a bit scary at first, but it was worth everything in the world. Another one of those experiences was hand feeding and walking alongside an elephant and her babies. These are moments in my life that I will never be able to forget, and I’m beyond thankful for the opportunities I was given.
The culture there itself was absolutely amazing. It was nothing that I was used to which was personally why I loved it. I got to learn so much about the culture there. Everyone in Zambia was so nice and easy to talk to. To this day, I still get calls and call some of the guys over there that I met, and we talk about our days and funny things that happened and it’s just always a good talk.
One guy, in particular, is someone I talk to a lot; his name is Crowd. I met him one night as he was serving us food and we invited him to sit and talk with us. While we talked, it was as if we’ve known each other for a while. He told me his story and what he plans on doing in life and he is one of the people that made me realize that even though we live such a long distance away from each other, and come from two completely different continents and cultures, we still have so much in common. Saying goodbye to everyone was really sad, however, saying goodbye to Crowd was the hardest goodbye for me.
As fun and amazing as this whole experience was, it eventually came to an end. The reason why this experience was so important to me, is because of the many lessons I learned while I was over there. It was just one of those things that life throws your way, and opens your eye to a whole other way of life. The stories we hear; the things we see online or on TV are really just masks. They cover and hide the real deal, and those masks come off once you’re really experiencing what you think you may know. For anyone who thinks they’d want to go on an experience like this, don’t let those masks and cover-ups fool you and make you think you don’t need to go because “you already know what’s it’s like over there.”
Trip funded by the US Department of Education’s Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad grant