The sixth formers from Bede Academy, in Blyth, spent a fortnight in the African country providing home-based care for needy people in remote villages, building a toilet block and teaching and playing with orphans, many of whom had HIV/Aids.
The trip was organised by staff from Bede Academy and its sister schools in the Emmanuel Schools Foundation who had worked in Zambia. Students from each of the ESF schools joined the trip, which followed previous expeditions to South Africa.
The 17-year-olds stayed in traditional huts, travelled around in the back of an open truck, ate the local food which included nshima, a staple made from maize flour, and learned some of the local Bemba language.
Student Rachel Byrom said:
“It was so challenging and at times very emotional but also really amazing. I’m glad we all went through it together because we needed each other to talk to about some of the experiences we had.”
Laura Rolt added:
“On the first day of home-based care I met a girl called Hope, who was 13, had lost both her parents and was HIV positive. It was hard to take in with her being so young and we had to keep our emotions in. She didn’t speak or smile, but when I handed her a yo-yo I’d taken with me her face lit up. I’ve never seen a smile like it. It was the best feeling in the world.”
After meeting a girl called Priscovia, who attended a school for the disabled for no other reason than she was shortsighted, Rachel bought her a chitenge, an Zambian fashion essential from a local market.
Callum Kewen said:
“For me it was really interesting to experience a different culture, such as seeing how important religion is to people there and the strong community spirit. They don’t have very much but they smile a lot. It made me more thankful for the things we have here.
“I would love to go back in the future, maybe to another African country to do more charity work.”
Even the non-work based activities were challenging, including sleeping under the stars and climbing the 2000m Mount Mumpu following a three hour truck journey and an eight kilometre hike.
For Kim Cole it was the hardest challenge of the trip.
“I’m scared of heights and I cried all the way, but I managed to do it so I was really proud of myself,” she added.
The other students on the trip were Jamie Brown and Jordan Holroyd.
Assistant vice principal of Bede Academy, Chris Young, said:
“All the students from each of the four ESF schools gelled tremendously well and really gave their all to the experience.”
The Bede students are to give a presentation on their trip to members of Blyth Rotary Club.