Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Back to Zambia!

Again! After 3.5 months at the Hands at Work Hub in South Africa, we return to the place where a huge part of our journey began in Africa – the magical land of Zambia. We arrived with mixed feelings. On the one hand, we were dreading having to pack our lives up … yet again. It feels like, lately, we’ve constantly been on the move, making it difficult for us to feel settled in one place. We also aren’t looking forward to Zambian living – the many inconveniences and inefficiencies and the slow pace of what seems like all aspects of life here, not to mention the constant heat! There’s also much less of a community feel here. While Hands is focused on building up its presence in Zambia, there are still far fewer people here than there are at the Hub in South Africa. At times, it’s easy to get a little stir crazy because there’s really not a whole lot to do. We live rurally, on a farm, with a handful of Hands volunteers. The farm is about 12 kms away from Luanshya, the nearest town, and about 45 kms away from Kitwe, where we lived the first time we were sent to Zambia. But, as we’ve learnt in the past, it’s good to be uncomfortable. After all, we certainly didn’t come to Africa to be comfortable!

On the other hand, we are really looking forward to connecting with everyone back in Zambia, particularly the Kitwe Service Centre team – Blessings, Towela and Clement – that quickly became like family to us, and the international volunteers here that we became good friends with. We are also really excited about what we will be doing from a work perspective. When we first arrived in Zambia in mid-October of last year, we were mere rookies, fresh out of orientation. We didn’t know anything about Zambia, nor did we understand much about who Hands was or what we were going to be doing. Fast-forward 10 months and the difference is like night and day. We’re not saying that being in Africa a year has made us experts, by any means, but we now have a far greater understanding of our roles and of the big picture. We feel we have finally reached a point where we are contributing into Hands and really building into the work that’s going on here. In fact, it’s a big part of why we’ve been sent back to Zambia!

This time we’ll only be in Zambia for 6.5 weeks, as opposed to the 6.5 months we spent here the first go-around. It’s shaping up to be a very busy 6.5 weeks for both of us, though! Diane’s main responsibilities include training and working together with a new accountant that Hands recently hired to fill a huge role with our Zambia finances. She’ll also be helping out the Kitwe and Luanshya Service Centres with their bookkeeping functions, an area of constant need. As for me, I’ll be spending the majority of my time working with our Regional Support Team and our Service Centres in Kitwe and Luanshya to ensure that certain projects are completed by the end of the year. I will also be facilitating the planning and budgeting for essential projects and workshops in 2014, as well as providing general support wherever I can.

When we shifted into our long-term roles a few months ago, I wondered if I would struggle with not being out in our African communities, interacting with our Care Workers and seeing the children we serve on a regular basis. It was very much a regular part of our day when we walked with the Kitwe Service Centre for those 6.5 months and I absolutely loved it. I mean, who wouldn’t love this ...

Me and Philip, a little boy from a community called Mulenga (and yes ... that is me wearing a headband ...)
But now that we’re back in completely different roles, we are both very excited about how everything has taken shape. As much as we loved being in the community, we know and now completely understand that, as foreigners, that could never be part of our long-term role. Never mind the fact that we could never fill the shoes of our local community leaders, it’s just not sustainable, nor does it build into one of our core values of local community ownership. A part of us will always want to be on the ground and in the community with our kids (they’re pretty damn cute). But we know that we add much more value and build into something much bigger when we serve as the behind-the-scenes support. While we haven’t been able to settle down in a home as of yet, it’s been really, really good for us to feel like we’ve settled into our roles with Hands. We love that we’ve been entrusted with more responsibility and are being given opportunities to build into what we’re doing here.

With the rollercoaster 6.5 months we had here, it definitely became a love-hate kind of thing in our relationship with Zambia. But since we’ve been gone, we think fondly of our experience and are now able to laugh about the tough times we faced. We look forward to what God has in store for us this time around. It’s good to be back!

Enjoy some photos from our first few days back.

- Byron

Playing with 5 week old puppies at the farm
Relaxing, roast pig style
All 6 puppies napping
Jessie, the puppies' mom
Community church in Mulenga
Visiting a Care Worker's home after church
Diane with Johnny, Philip's older brother
Sylvia and Denise, one of our Care Worker's wife and daughter in Mulenga. She was NOT happy to see white people.
Shekinah, Blessings' new baby boy
Our room for the next 6 weeks inside the main house at the farm. Separate beds make for romantic times.
View of the farm
The office at the farm ... where all the magic happens
The volunteer kitchen
Got milk?
Former chicken coops being constructed into new accommodation for volunteers
Guest "chalets", also converted from former chicken coops
The back of the main house with our ghetto, non-functioning swimming pool
Reunited with our favourite little sweetheart at the farm, Towanga

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