John Fraser, Project Trust’s Overseas Programme Director, volunteered in Zambia in 1973/74. John went back to Zambia last year to work on re-opening the country progamme, and this January Project Trust has sent its first volunteers there for almost 40 years. John reflected on going back to Zambia, and what the volunteers could expect there:

The differences and similarities between Zambia in 1974 and Zambia now:

It has been pretty much 40 years since I was in Zambia. The main urban areas are a completely different world now in comparison to when I was there as a volunteer. They are modern, well-developed towns and cities, but the rural areas are not too dissimilar to when I lived there. The country’s infrastructure and roads have improved and the education system is available to more people, albeit the quality of education provided has not developed at the same pace. Our volunteers will have great opportunities to make a positive impact in the schools they are working in by working hard and utilising their enthusiasm, resourcefulness and determination. Maths, Science, English and ICT are particular subject areas where there is a shortage of teachers and it is in these areas that volunteers will make a significant contribution.

What volunteers can expect in Zambia:

Zambia is going to be extremely rewarding and interesting for the volunteers who go there, both culturally and because of the communities they will be living in. The volunteers are predominantly going to be living in rural communities where the population has a strong desire to gain an education which could lead to a job in a city. The people in these communities are very engaging and friendly, and when the volunteers start to learn the local language they’ll really settle in. Although English is Zambia’s official language, and most people will speak it to a basic level, many other languages are used, like Bemba, Nyanja, Tonga, and Lozi. Volunteers will have electricity in their accommodation, but an African shower and a long-drop toilet, so they’ll have to be prepared to rough it a bit.


Project Trust is extremely grateful to Norman Chipakupaku:

Norman Chipakupaku was instrumental in us re-opening the Zambia country programme. A Zambian citizen now domiciled in Scotland, he maintains close links with his beloved Zambia. Briefly himself a politician in Kaunda’s last government he has many contacts in the country and a deep knowledge its governance, processes thereof and the people in it.

Meeting Kenneth Kaunda is a pleasure:

One meeting Norman was able to arrange was with Kenneth Kaunda, the former President of Zambia. It was supposed to be a quick meeting, but we ended up spending half a day together. At 90 years old he is still very much abreast of national and international issues. We discussed some fascinating topics from Zambia’s links with Scotland to his role in Nelson Mandela’s release from prison and the meetings with generations of South African leaders which led up to this. He really grasped the concept of volunteering and that the volunteers will benefit from living and working in Zambia, and that the country will also benefit from the exchange. He’s also a lot of fun – when we first arrived he was wearing normal clothes, then later on with a smile on his face he announced: “This is an important occasion!” All of a sudden he shot off and arrived back in his official suit with all his medals to pose for the ‘official’ photographs.

NAME, NAME and John Fraser

Norman Chipakupaku, Kenneth Kaunda and John Fraser

What it’s like to return to the country you volunteered in after 40 years:

It was brilliant to go back to Zambia after 40 years. It really brought back a lot of fond memories of my year there and reminded me of how much affection I have for the country, as all Project Trust volunteers do for the countries and communities they live and work in. I only visited Lusaka a couple of times when I was a volunteer, but it was a small town when I was there and now it’s a massive city. I didn’t make it back to Mbala, where I was based as a Project Trust volunteer, but that would be a really nostalgic journey and is one I hope to make when I visit our volunteers.