Wow! We’re really here! Long journey but I’ll cut straight to the chase. We arrived in Zambia about 4pm local time on Saturday and travelled from Lusaka Airport to Linda School in an amazing ex-army contraption bus with no seatbelts and no windows, but bags of style.
Reaching the school was an eye-opening experience, travelling through the very poor local area where some people literally live in shack-type housing and the ground all around is strewn with rubbish, to say there are no facilities is an understatement. Then we turned into the drive to the school and were deafened by the sound of children chanting a welcome and running alongside the bus waving. At the school it seemed the entire community was there to greet us – the children smart in their uniforms, the teachers and the parents. We were embarrassed to learn they had been waiting a while as our flight was a little delayed – can you imagine all those people being willing to turn up to a UK school on a Saturday and wait an hour for their guests to arrive?!
The reception was unlike anything any of us have ever experienced. The children sang in beautiful complex harmonies, and a kind of choir did incredible traditional African dancing and got most of us up with them. This was where we learned the first lesson about ourselves – some of us were a little self-conscious while others unexpectedly got right in there shaking their booty enthusiastically with the locals. The village ladies were so emotional they came up and embraced us. Gareth, an introverted IT guy back home, came out of his shell spectacularly and built an immediate bond with the kids where he whipped them up to fever pitch getting them to yell ever louder. Finally, the rock star status he’s been seeking all these years!
The head teacher is a formidable lady called Doreen who has gathered this incredible community together in an area with many orphan children and where there is not a strong culture of getting your education. The school’s motto is ‘hope through quality education’ and she gave an extremely moving speech thanking BGL, and us, for bringing hope to the community through the new school building. (That’s you, by the way, all of you who are reading this and supported the fund-raising in any way.) She started by saying ‘Distinguished guests, we are humbled to have you’. All I can say is that we were the ones who were humbled, it was a truly overwhelming experience.
She showed us the new science block and said it’s the best building in the area – and she’s not wrong. The standard of the build is really impressive and will support the children of the area for generations to come.
We then went to the campsite where we settled into our tents and had dinner round the fire. Andy McKie, our co-ordinator, took us through the plan for the next few days. The final emotional moment of the day came when he explained that on Monday we’d eat our lunch a little away from the children as it would be difficult for them to see us eating when they don’t all get to eat during the day. This was a cold splash of reality and we resolved immediately to fund lunch for the children and teachers, at the very least during our stay and we’re hopeful we can find a way to continue supporting them after we leave.
It was pretty cold by then and we were all exhausted with the long journey and the emotion of meeting the people, so we hit the sack around 9pm and despite a school camping trip having a full on party about 50 yards away, were asleep in 5 minutes. What a day!
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