Two Days in Livingstone, Zambia

During my tour in the Southeastern region of Africa, which started in Johannesburg and includes this stop in Livingstone, I came to realize that I feel like I am at home. Even though I am originally from the UK, the African people have welcomed me with open arms, and there is a sense of belonging that I feel. I’m not the outsider for a change, due to my skin color, as I’m the majority. I had a warm feeling in my heart from that moment and I hope it continues with me on this journey. 

Since being on my trip, I have not been able to volunteer my time to any organizations as we had always been on the road traveling every day to get to our various destinations. However since we were stationary in Livingstone for a few days I made it a mission to find a company volunteer with. Volunteering whilst away really is a great way to see communities and meet local people. Taking two to three hours out of your vacation really is not much, so I am trying to make this a regular goal of mine if I can.

The company I volunteered with was called Africa Impact. This group is family-run and has sister companies in and around Africa so money seems to be going to good causes.

So the choices for my afternoon of volunteering was to either do a build, do arts and craft or play games. Well you know which one I chose….play games, as I am into health and wellness as well as being a Physical Education teacher. We (other volunteers who stay here for weeks/months) were bused to a community that consisted of a dirt area and a little bit of grass. Our bus basically beeped the horn through the community to alert the kids that we were here. When we parked, we had about 5 kids who greeted us as we opened our doors. We brought along some sports equipment; a few soccer balls, a couple of frisbees, rope to create a swing and chalk. I brought along mini cones and some bibs/pinnies thinking I would organize some little games. Well obviously when we got out our equipment, the kids just dived into the basket and took out the balls and cones and just started playing. At that point I realized that all they just wanted to do was run around and playing something organized was not going to happen. I guess my expectations as a PE teacher totally backfired! After two minutes of being there, the cones I had brought to play a game with were used as hats, placed over ears, used to stack. It was wonderful to see how inventive these kids were with this equipment. Obviously I took pictures. There are some great photos and in particular I had a little admirer called Mary. Mary was a boy. I had to ask him a few times whether I had go his name right....and he would always say yes. He was 6 yrs old. The first game I played with him was catch the tail. (tucking a bib in the back of your clothes and chasing each other to take it out). He totally had me running around chasing after him but he didn't chase after my tail! I had a couple of others then join the game, but they didn't last very long. One of small boys who was playing with us couldn’t keep his pants up, and kept on falling down every time he ran!

My new friend, Mary.

My new friend, Mary.

After that game died we did piggyback races with the kids, we drew with them, swung them on the make shift swing, played frisbee, played soccer and played clapping games. After talking with the local volunteer who stayed with us it seems like this is the best play time the kids can get. Some do not even go to school as their families can't afford it, so some are sent out to sell things with their siblings. Some of these children are abandoned or even raped which is horrid. I was even told that girls of 14 yrs age would sometimes have 2 children due to their parents neglecting them and trying to sell them.

We stayed in the community for about 2.5 hrs. As it got closer to the time we were leaving more kids started to come and play. We must have had about 40 or so kids. It was just so nice to see their smiles on their faces and for them to just run around and be silly. As we got on the bus they all crowded around it and said goodbye. Some were asking when we were coming back and it felt harsh to say that I wasn't, so I just had to say soon. As we drove off the kids ran after the bus and all shouted out "mzungu bus" which means “white people bus.” When I got back to the main office, it was a little disappointing that I did not have any more time to volunteer as I would have loved to have been able to do another day.

On my final day in Livingstone, I did a local bike ride and we got to ride through some local villages. Our guide Patrick was very knowledgeable about Zambia and gave us some good information. The money from our bike ride automatically went back into the community to help with materials for the local school and providing clean water to the village. I was so thankful to be helping out a community in a small way but saddened that I could not do more.

What I learned from my bike tour:

  • Pictured to the right is a termite mound and the soil that you see is used by women and girls. They will eat this soil as it gives them iron. 
  • Zambia consist of 72 tribes and 7 different languages are spoken.
  • Elephant dung is used for treating diseases and illnesses and is collected mostly in the wintertime as during rainy season it just mixes in with the grass. You can add water and drink it, bathe in it or eat it. The use is based on the tribe you belong to. 
  • 12-15 million people live in Zambia. 
  • It used to be called Northern Rhodesia and became Zambia in 1963.
  • Livingstone town became popular with tourists since 2002 as Zimbabwe was the tourist attraction before then with Victoria Falls. 

As we rode thought the villages, the children would run after us and some would shout "mzungu". They also asked us "how are you?" and they would reply to us "fine." All they wanted to do was shake our hands or high five us. We obviously took pictures but politely asked if we could. A couple of kids said no to me so I respected their wishes. One group of kids, I took their picture with my camera and when I showed them the picture they all just laughed. It was a great feeling to make them laugh. 

Our guide Patrick explaining that this type of termite mound is often used by the women & girls of the village.

Our guide Patrick explaining that this type of termite mound is often used by the women & girls of the village.

During one village, I asked Patrick if we could go into a person's house and he made that happen. 

Here is the family's house. It is made out of mud and wood. Patrick told us this house would last only a year and then during the rainy season they would have to rebuild it again. Inside to the right it was very small. 5 people live in the space. Rice bags were used as a base and then some blankets and then there was one bed. There was a side table that consisted of items that they used, a kettle bottle bottles etc. Then to the left of the picture this was their sitting room but it was not finished and then they had another bedroom through there. 

This picture is the house that they built for their first-born. Apparently this is a tradition of this tribe. 

Quite honestly, from volunteering and doing this bike tour I can safely say I am glad I was able to contribute my time and money to good causes. I know it was not a lot but seeing the children laugh and enjoying themselves whilst playing made my day. Not even with fancy equipment. Also, by helping out a community with a small donation made me feel I was part of the solution, even though I know more needs to be done. I’m hoping I can stick to my goals of volunteering again while traveling through the rest of the region.

What's been your experience with volunteering while traveling?  Let us know in the comments below!