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Bernice Willoughby writes about her week of volunteering at Kawaza Basic School
 
In September 2011 my husband Don and I traveled to Zambia with our good friends John and Bonnie. It was our second trip there. In 2008 we had stayed at Nkwali and had a day trip to Kawaza Village.  The tour this September included all the Robin Pope Safari camps of TenaTena, Nkwali and Nsefu. Every one of them is wonderful and different.  The camps had amazing guides...(you know who you are) and interesting accommodation.
 
The trip highlights were the walking tour with Deb Tittle, she is an amazing guide; our visit to Kutandala in Northern Luangwa -  Rob and Guz were incredible hosts and the area is perfect for walking; and our visit to Victoria Falls where adrenalin shots came when we swam in the Devil’s Pool . . . not to be missed! However, after four wonderful weeks, the most memorable part of the trip for me (and I think I can speak for the others) was our stay at Kawaza Village. 
 
On our last visit we discovered that guests could stay a night or two at the village to experience life in a typical Zambian village. Through Robin Pope Safaris we made arrangements to stay and then contacted Karen Beattie at Project Luangwa about volunteering at the local school. She suggested that we decorate classrooms and bought in everything we needed prior to our arrival. We arrived at dusk one evening full of great anticipation and thus began our week at Kawaza. 
 
Things move a lot slower in the village and we sat talking while two ladies prepared an evening meal in an outdoor kitchen and our huts were made up with bedding.  The traditional huts contain two twin beds with mosquito netting and a reed door that you move to enter and exit.
 
The kind ladies who prepared our meals also delivered hot water to our reed shower morning and evening so we may take an 'elephant' shower - pouring water over yourself with a plastic cup from a water filled tub whilst standing on a cement block.  The toilet facilities, in reed huts next to the shower, were always clean and only used by guests.
 
Our village hosts were Constance and Constantino and what wonderful people they turned out to be. It was our pleasure to get to know them over the week and we spent many hours sharing stories about our very different lives. Constance is a beautiful young woman who served our meals and walked with us to neighbouring villages. Constantino is an interesting man who loves to engage in long conversations about life and the world we live in. He doubles as 'entertainment director' and made an outstanding effort to provide us with entertainment in the evenings; we had dancers and a jazz band (with incredible homemade instruments).
 
Both hosts were there each morning to make our day run smoothly even though several nights they had been up with the rest of the neighbouring villages chasing elephants away. Kawaza, surrounded by other villages, was never bothered but the village provided a watchman for security.  It may have provided a comfort level but it certainly wasn't necessary as we didn't feel unsafe at any time.
 
The traditional food was interesting.  Breakfasts consisted of either Nshima (cornmeal), rice or sweet potato.  Lunches and dinners were Nshima with a vegetable such as preserved pumpkin leaves, and chicken or fish. Traditionally food is eaten with your hands and we did so for several days and then moved on to using the cutlery we had brought with us and this was totally accepted and understood by Constance and Constantino.  Considering myself a bit of a coffee snob, I have to say that instant coffee and powdered milk tasted just perfect in the village setting. With no electricity cold drinks are not an option, although Karen and David kindly supplied John and Don with warm beer which seemed to be enjoyed at the end of each day.
 
On our first day the headmaster invited us to morning assembly and we were moved by the beautiful songs of the school choir. But after breakfast Don - our foreman because he was the only one wearing a watch - usually herded us off to the school to begin work. Bonnie and I ended up being in charge of the masking areas to be painted, doing the trim around the windows and painting a huge sign that the headmaster requested.  But there were many distractions for me; the day the baby clinic was held and I worked my way up the line to photograph and hold the babies, taking my Ipad to the class of grade 9’s and letting them email back to Canada, reading and listening to them read.
 
One of the most rewarding moments for John and Don was when they brought Constantino over to the school and taught him to paint.  From that moment he was on board every day practicing his new skills. The days flew by as we got into our routine and suddenly it was time to leave.
 
Since coming home I have been in frequent touch with Karen at Project Luangwa and we have all tried to help in our own small way with some sponsorships and donations for books.
 
The reason for writing this was not to tell you about my wonderful holiday.  Everyone that comes to Africa and specifically Zambia has a wonderful holiday. The purpose was to tell you that if you are in Zambia please consider visiting and staying in Kawaza Village. It benefits so many; the village by renting huts to guests, Constance, Constantino and the lovely ladies who are able to earn a wage and the students at the school. If you can engage in an activity such as painting and repairing in a school, trust me it is a very rewarding experience.
 
On another note, on the website there are suggestions as to what you can bring along on your trip.  With just a few phone calls we were able to bring about 40 soccer balls which with the help of Karen and David we distributed between four schools. We also packed a lot of school supplies and some fun stuff like balloons, light sticks and bracelets’, bubbles to share at the end of the day with the children in the village. We brought soccer shirts from our grandchildren and t-shirts.
 
Bernice Willoughby  

 

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