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A Tearful Goodbye to Ndola

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Our last day in Ndola started off with what I find to be the most powerful part of my trips here. The trip participants broke up into smaller groups, and each group walked with one of the Hope students to his/her home to learn more about his/her life. We visited the home of Akima, whom I’ve mentioned earlier in the blog, and we also visited Kainos and two brothers, Kondwelani and Ishuma. It’s so easy to create a picture of what these kids’ lives are like from our own understanding of Africa and poverty, but to see it first hand, both the good and the bad, is a moving and memorable experience.

I remember the first story I took like this on my first trip to Zambia in February 2010. It was about Steward, whom I’ve since sponsored and who was a quiet, serious and seemingly burdened student in Grade 5. I learned while speaking with him that he was the oldest of five siblings, the youngest of which was only six months old. He had to rush home from school everyday because no one was home to watch his youngest sister, Grace. This was in part because his stepfather was an unskilled laborer who had to go out every day to look for odd jobs and in part because his mother had committed suicide after finding out she was HIV positive.

This week, I’ve been able to read with Steward after school as part of our trip program, and I can’t believe the change that’s taken place since last year. Hope managed to find a social welfare service to help take care of Grace, so Steward can be the 14-year-old that he is rather than the adult he was forced to be before. He is reading better than I’ve ever seen him read, and he is more confident, seemingly better rested and overall seems healthier in mind and body. I know the trip’s not over yet, but I have to say this is likely the highlight for me.

After experiencing the Transformation Stories, we went classroom to classroom to give brief motivational talks to encourage the students, despite the enormous obstacles they often face to getting educated, to stay in school and dream big. We then had some time to play with the kids at school before sharing some tearful goodbyes to the staff and students and head back to our lodge for an early night.

While I know we’re all looking forward to seeing the poultry farm in Lusaka and the natural beauty of the region in Livingstone and Botswana, I have a feeling we’ll all deeply miss having crowds of beautiful, animated, instantly friendly and hopeful kids around us every day. (I think we’ll even miss having them follow us around saying “muzungu,” the Bemba word for a white person, all day long!)

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