Before our immersion trip in Zambia, we learned as much as we could about the country. We learned of its beauty both in the kindness of its people and the picturesque views of the land. We also learned about the devastating poverty and harsh realities of their government. However, we could never read in a book how much this experience would truly shape each one of us. We knew we wanted to be of service to the Zambian people, but what we could not have truly understood prior was how much the people of Zambia would impact us.
Upon arrival, the St. Lawrence School students and the Vision of Hope girls welcomed us in song.
“There is more love somewhere, I’m gonna keep on till I find it, there is more love somewhere”
“You are in the right place, at the right time, with the right people, you will not go back the same way you came”
These words became our mantra all month long. Along with the power of these songs, the first interactions we had were overwhelming and heart touching. The girls at Vision of Hope shelter immediately told us that they loved us without even knowing our names. They thanked us greatly for being there without us even having done anything yet. When we arrived at St. Lawrence School, all of the children ran across the schoolyard as fast as they could to embrace us in the tightest hugs, shake our hands, give high-fives, and tell us they were so happy we came and that they loved us.
Those moments were indescribable and overwhelming in the best way possible. We experienced instantaneous love amongst strangers for the first time. We all learn that we are all one people, brothers, and sisters of the same God, but I think this was the first time that many of us had ever truly felt this. Whether one believes in a religion or not, the love in those moments was so strong it could move and reach anyone.
During our trip, a group of 25+ strangers from Cabrini became more than a team. We became friends for life, a family that did not want to return home. We wanted to stay and continue in our journey of solidarity, love, and partnership. At St. Lawrence School, we were inspired by working alongside the most passionate teachers and instructing lessons to the most enthusiastic students we’d ever witnessed. In Vision of Hope, we admired the bravest of girls and women while we helped them achieve their business plan for their astoundingly beautiful handmade products. And at Home of Hope, we made sibling-like bonds solely through playing games with children whom the rest of the world besides those at the shelter had turned their head to.
We learned that our heads should not be turned to anyone- that everyone is deserving of love. That family doesn’t only mean genetics. That the Zambian people are kind, beautiful, intelligent, and loving. That no matter how small our intentions or actions may seem, they can make the largest difference in someone else’s world- and so much more.
Trip funded by the US Department of Education’s Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad grant