Volunteering (via ABV) in Lusaka, Zambia was by far one of the most valuable, meaningful, and insightful international experiences thus far. From the moment I initially starting talking with ABV, until my last day in Lusaka, I was repeatedly affirmed of my decision to participate in the program.
The 8 weeks I spent volunteering with Advocacy for Juvenile Justice Drop-In Centre have greatly impacted and shaped the legal work I do in the States. When I initially signed up for the program, I (so wrongly) thought I would be training, educating, and implementing my ideas and knowledge of juvenile advocacy and restorative justice programs into the prison system, schools, and outreach programs in Lusaka. Instead, I was the one who learned a tremendous amount- from professionals, field-workers, NGO workers, and the Zambian people- regarding this area. I finished those 8 weeks with a changed heart and perspective.
In addition to the work, I fell in love with Zambia and her people. They were beyond curious what a "muzungu" was doing in Lusaka, but those stares, questions, etc opened the doors to wonderful friendships, cultural exchanges, and a richer understanding of how small our world really is. While the work was tiring at times, I had such a fun time in Zambia and traveling throughout neighboring countries.
While my experience was out-of-this world, it is super important to be the right person for the program. You have to know yourself on this one. I went alone, and at first was taken back by how little support you get on the ground to figure everything out (from transportation, cultural norms, language barriers, social things, etc.) If you're comfortable with figuring out things on your own, navigating a new city solo, and not having anyone to hold your hand, go for it 100%. I personally think this immerses you in the life and culture so much more. But if you aren't quite comfortable with essentially moving there and creating your own life from scratch, do some more research and really evaluate if the trip is right for you.
The program is really difficult in the sense that, if you are from any developed and/or thriving country, you will be out of your comfort zone 100% of the time. But that place is usually where you meet unbelievable friends, see spectacular places, make the largest impact, and have your life be transformed. If you land in Lusaka with an open heart and mind, I can guarantee that you won't look back. You will learn an amazing amount about Zambia, Africa, and yourself in the process of making a huge impact in lives of the beautiful Zambian people.