Lorna and the Zambia Project

17 September 2013

Learn about the UK Government's International Citizen Service (ICS) scheme for young people. 

ICS is a global volunteering programme that supports young people to make a real difference to global poverty by spending three months abroad alongside national volunteers working on community-specific projects. I was chosen to go to Zambia with the charity Restless Development, a youth-led development agency who believes that young people have the energy, commitment and skills to solve some of the world's biggest problems.

A total of 40 volunteers were placed in 10 teams comprising two Zambian volunteers and two UK volunteers. My community was called Mututu, Muswishi district. The community is very small made up of a school, 10 teachers' houses, a clinic and a few shops. The house we stayed in was very basic: no electricity, toilet or running water, which was quite daunting. However, I soon settled into community life collecting and carrying water on my head from the well, using the outside pit latrine and bucket-bath washing. Cooking from a brazier (container for a fire) became second nature.

The work was interesting and rewarding. We conducted sexual and reproductive health and financial literacy lessons with the school and community. In addition, we helped at the clinic and set up a youth group, conducting advocacy lessons. Our work concluded with a community event where the youth group raised important issues with stakeholders from the area.

I will never forget the Zambians, their culture and community spirit. Never have I met such friendly, resourceful and generous people. They went out of their way to make us feel at home. It was refreshing to see children running around, climbing trees and respecting their elders. It was the community and my team who made the experience.

Zambia is not like the image of Africa you see from adverts on TV, but the reality is still distressing. I experienced young children leaving school at 13 to get married, teenage pregnancies, walking hours to school for lessons to be cancelled because of the lack of teachers, a day's wait at the clinic to be given painkillers. It is not until you see it in person that you understand their hardships.

Being immersed into a different culture and way of life has been an unforgettable, eye-opening experience and one that I would recommend to everyone.