Community Engagement

I took part in a service trip to Zambia during Summer of 2016. I initially joined a service group called Serenje Orphans Appeal (SOA) in school, they did bake sales and other fundraisers within the school in order to hit a goal of funds necessary to buy school supplies and shoes for the children living in the orphanage. This was my first direct interaction with a service group, and I realized that I truly enjoyed being able to directly help members of a community that needed it. During the initial stages of the meetings for the service group, all the new members and those participating in the trip were informed of different things, we learned about the culture, some history (of the country and the orphanage), and some do’s and don’ts during the trip.

The whole experience really opened my eyes to lots of things. There were no fancy hotels, little choice in food, and strict schedules. We stayed in small hostels, had electricity cut out at night every other day due to shortages, and set up mosquito nets whenever we wanted to sleep. Not only did this open my eyes to the situation the whole country was in, but that there were problems and situations that I never thought of as a possibility.

During my three week stay in Serenje, a small rural town of Zambia, I got to experience the food market, local food, and the shops in town. I realized that there were big problems in this place, some of the food was rotting and still being sold and bought in this market, the portions were small, and the shops were often running out of supplies. There was another small market in some random empty land, they sold anything from car parts to clothes, anything to make a little money. They offered things for so little that instead of bartering we even paid more. During our days working at the orphanage, and even on our way to it, we encountered people that the leader of the group knew from years of previous trips, and the people in the village knew who we were and what we were there for, and they would stop and thank us, or do a thumbs up. Another aspect of the trip that made me realize how much I took for granted was having access to electricity and electronics. Towards the end of the trip we went on a safari tour after the service part of the trip, and we did an overnight stay in the game reserve. We were surrounded by nature and clearly didn’t have access to electricity or electronics. This made me interact with people I wouldn’t have interacted with otherwise, and truly opened my eyes to how much I took these things for granted, and how much of a difference it would make if I used my phone less and interacted with people. Even though throughout the trip electricity and electronics weren’t particularly accessible, the night at the reserve was certainly one of the biggest moments when I realized this. We were sitting by the campfire talking to new people, and talking about subjects that would probably never be spoken about otherwise. After the trip I decided to be more informed on the situations people lived in, and what was going on in the world around me. I decided to use my phone less around new people and in situations that were probably once in a lifetime experiences. I have decided to appreciate the environment I am in and take it in rather than saving memories of it. I would rather form these memories in present than look at them through a screen later. I realized the situations some people lived in, and how much it really feels like you’re doing when you go and  make a change rather than just give other people the resources to do so. I believe teaching them, maintaining the orphanage in good shape, and giving them school supplies and clothes was a helpful experience, not only for them, but for me as well.

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