I can honestly say that 2011 has been quite the year that I hoped it would. No I didn’t find love, no I didn’t lose weight, no I didn’t travel to a million different countries and no I don’t find myself sat here looking back at old resolutions and find that they are all complete. Instead I believe that I did something far greater.
This summer I spent 5 amazing and challenging weeks in Zambia with a charity called ‘The Book Bus’. Their motto: ‘improving children’s lives one book at a time,’ is something that I really believe in.
I lived for the first 3 weeks in Meheba refugee camp.
Here we spent Monday-Friday in the camp. The mornings we would teach three different lessons to three different age groups my biggest group was 54 children and just me!! Five of us turned up one morning to school D (in the camp there are Blocks A-G and it takes two and a half hours to get from the entrance to the end of the camp, each block has its own government funded school, only block A has a medical centre or a high school, so that’s a two and a half hour walk for someone in block G to get medical attention or advanced education never going to happen) and the teacher asked us understandably to take his class of 200 children off his hands for the morning 200 STUDENTS TO ONE TEACHER!!!!
Lessons usually consisted of reading a book ‘with the children’ and doing some fun activity afterwards…making handpuppets, putting on a play, making crowns, rubbing glitter into their faces and sticking sequins all over themselves. All lessons designed to try to make them want to learn to read- the younger children were easy, they liked being told a story and all the pictures and actually seeing a book. The older children were tougher-some wanted to learn…others that had more difficult lives realised at an early age that they would never have the opportunity to leave the camp as they would never have to money to buy their way out-most have never seen a coin before …so ‘madam whats the point of trying to learn when we will spend our days sat on our doorstep drinking illegal alcohol and beating our children’…..ummm tough one to answer.
In the afternoons we set up adult reading classes and ran a book club for unoccupied children…i.e every child in the camp (around 1800 lived in the camp). Here there were no restrictions…we set up a cheerleading group to help support school C’s football team. (We lived opposite school c so had a very close relationship to these students and adults), we made fortune tellers, drew pictures, played duck duck goose and of course had our hair braided and received lots of snotty kisses. My favorite memories come from these moments.
I must leave it as this to begin with as NYE celebrations begin….if you are interested and wish to know more about the child soldiers I met, the happiness that we caused and received and to know more about this amazing charity and lovely lovely country please follow as I think there will be many more posts to come, extracts from my diary I kept over in the country and more photos!!!