Why did you decide to volunteer with African Impact in Zambia?
Christos: I woke up one day wondering what it is I wanted do for Christmas and suddenly it hit me! I thought, why not try volunteer tourism… I would get to see new places, travel to real Africa, meet interesting people while at the same time I would be involved in something humanitarian. Believe it or not, it was a self-healing process, a wonderful trip and a beyond words experience. I didn't know African Impact until then, but after Googling "volunteer tourism" I reached the conclusion that this organization serves its purpose in a sincere and secure way.
Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.
Christos: The day to day activities were pretty simple. We would wake up early in the morning, have breakfast, shower and then prepare for the days project. Depending on what your project was (medical, teaching, farming, old people, etc.) we would gather in the preparation room with the other volunteers assigned to the same project for the day and take all necessary equipment as well as discuss with them what it is we will be doing.
For example, I was teaching at an orphan's school in Livingstone, the Nakatindi. We would get our geography maps, our soccer balls, our pens and pencils, notebooks, picture books for children, and a few stickers to reward those children that come in time, and would later get in the van that would drop each volunteer at their project. We would spend the first few hours in the classroom and then we would take the kids out to play soccer..their favorite sport in the world. The first half of the day would end there. We would then gather by the volunteers house, have lunch, get some rest and head for the second half right after. That would either be Mwandi school, or the old peoples home where we would read the elderly travel books for example or play with them bingo and checkers. After finishing that half, we had the rest of the day free.
How has this experience helped you grow personally and professionally?
Christos: There is more than one way this experience impacted my future, past and present on a personal basis as far as I'm concerned. First of all, I realized that these kids are happy the way they are. The Western world tends to think that we need to adopt a couple and offer them a better life. That's mistaken.
All they need is education. Education to move forward with their lives and do something. They don't need to leave their country, and believe me they don't want to. There are more lessons I took from these kids than what I gave them. And to that, all the volunteers agreed. The biggest one was that possession doesn't guarantee happiness as we tend to believe. A smile and a hug would do just fine.
Overall, it was an experimental trip for me, as it was something I had never done in the past. The experiment was successful. I'm leaving again in April for a different project, again with African Impact.