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Beautiful Days and Mixed Emotions

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Hello again from Ndola! We’ve had a great first couple days of our Partnership Trip here in Zambia. On Monday, after our history, culture and Bemba lessons with Charles, we were received with a beautiful welcome at the school. All of the Hope students sang and danced, and they even managed to rope all of us into dancing as well! We all had a bit of trouble popping our hips with the skills and enthusiasm that the students had, but everyone seemed to get a kick out of us trying.

The rest of the day we learned about Hope and got a brief tour of Hope Village, where Hope’s orphanage, school and clinic are located. It was so nice to see the trip participants who have invested in Spark get to see and experience the impact of their support. We also had a great session with our reading partners, students from the school, and Janet, Jade and Donna even got to meet and spend time with their sponsored children. Our beautiful first full day was capped with an incredible welcome program from the Hope House kids who have unbelievable singing voices. We entertained ourselves with a bit of Twister, which ended up being half Twister, half surreptitious shoving and bumping, and we worked up quite an appetite for the huge meal we were then served.

After getting to see the beauty, hope and joy with the students on Monday, we started the day with heavier issues on Tuesday. We visited a gravesite called Kantolomba, which is the miles-long gravesite where the poorest in Ndola bury their loved ones. It was heartbreaking to see the headstones, the bulk of which were for people born in the mid- to late-seventies, a visible sign of the missing generation wiped out by HIV/AIDS. We then heard a bit about the legacy of slavery and colonialism after a brief stop at the Slave Tree, a famous landmark in Ndola where African traders used to sell others into slavery. We ended the morning at Cicetekelo Hospice, where many HIV/AIDS and terminal patients come for free care, often at the end of their lives. We spoke to a patient, only 15 years old, who had been dropped off by her aunt but had since been abandoned by her family because of her condition.

Highlighting the complexity of life here, the mix of joy and sorrow, we spent a beautiful afternoon and evening playing with the children from the school and orphanage and eating a positively mind-blowing meal at the home of Mama Lillian and Uncle J. I always feel, and other trip participants have also mentioned feeling, that it’s hard to reconcile these differing experiences. We’re so used to hearing about the sadness of Africa, but seeing the joy and potential that abound here always makes me wonder what Zambia and Africa as a whole would be like if we talked more about its potential and opportunities rather than its problems and challenges. As I once heard in a TED talk, let’s start thinking about creating positives rather than just alleviating negatives!

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