A Zambia Gap Year with Project Trust is an opportunity to step outside your comfort zone, integrate into a rural community, adapt to a more basic lifestyle and immerse yourself into a fascinating country.
Zambia is a landlocked country in south-central Africa, taking its name from the Zambezi River. It gained independence on the 24th October 1964 having previously been under British rule by the name of Northern Rhodesia. Kenneth Kaunda is regarded as the founding father of modern Zambia and was its first President from 1964 – 1991.
The landscape ranges from the isolated mountain ridges that rise more that 6000 ft, the rift valley and Lake Tanganyika and to the south and west the valley of the Zambezi. Home to a wide variety of ethnic groups, Zambia is considered to be one of the friendliest countries in the world, making it a very welcoming place for Volunteers to live.
Project Trust Volunteers are based in the Eastern Province of Zambia, living in rural communities. Standards of accommodation vary but be prepared to adapt to basic accommodation (bucket showers, pumping your own water, irregular electricity). If you want to experience a completely different lifestyle and get to know the ins and outs of a rural community, Zambia may be for you.
The Copperbelt is where 45% of the population live making it one of the most urbanised countries in the world. The extensive deep and open cast mines produce some of the highest grade copper in the world and are the mainstay of the economy. Lusaka the capital and the towns of the Copperbelt boast high standards of living with modern shopping malls and a lifestyle which is not so unfamiliar to someone from Europe. However rural areas continue to face significant challenges in respect of amenities, education and employment. Over the years, the country’s infrastructure and roads have improved greatly and the education system is available to more people, albeit the quality of education provided has not developed at the same pace.
Zambian culture is diverse, with the population of 15 million, consisting of 72 ethnic groups, it provides the opportunity for learning languages, developing an insight and understanding of the histories and traditions that are so much part of peoples day to day lives.
Zambia first had Project Trust Volunteers in 1973 although the programme only lasted three years. In 2014 the opportunity was presented to open a new programme and education was identified as an area where in science, maths and IT in particular there was a shortage of teachers. Volunteers with these skills make a significant contribution to education. They will be teaching with limited resources so must be adaptable and have high levels of initiative.
English is Zambia’s official language and in the urban areas it is spoken widely. Not so in the rural areas where there are nine main indigenous languages and many more minority dialects. Volunteers will certainly have the opportunity to learn Nyanja, Ngoni and Chewa, the main languages of Eastern Province.
When on Holiday, Volunteers will have opportunities to travel across Zambia, but also to some of the bordering countries, where they will have opportunities to meet up with other Project Trust Volunteers in Malawi and Namibia. Victoria Falls, shared with Zimbabwe is called in local dialect Mosi y Tunya, lierally translated as the ‘smoke that thunders’. This is one of the many places you will get to visit and if you are brave enough, try to zip wire or bungee jump. You will also have opportunities to visit South Luangwa National Park or go and see the 20,000 year old Bushmen paintings at Nsalu Cave.
Zambian Volunteers must be resourceful, enthusiastic and determined with good communication skills.
As well as teaching science, maths and ICT, there will be many opportunities to run extra-curricular activities. As English speakers you will also improve the standard of spoken English amongst the students.
Zambia is rewarding and interesting for the Volunteers who go there, both culturally and the interaction you will experience as a teacher. The projects are all in rural locations which, with effort, gives the opportunity to learn about and experience the way of life and culture of the people. Make an effort with language in particular and a whole new world opens to you, giving a unique insight into life in rural Africa.
The Zambian country programme provides many challenges but real opportunities to learn about and engage in a different way of life and culture.
Peter is not a Returned Volunteer but gained his experience from working with young people for the past 25 years in a wide range of settings, qualifying in Youth and Community Work in 2002. Peter’s overseas experience came as a result of two expeditions with another Gap Year Charity to Namibia in 1998 and Belize in 1999. Having the opportunity himself has given him the experience and desire to enable other young people to volunteer overseas.