“Okay boys, take a couple of minutes to get some water and we’ll go again!”…
“Enjoy every second of it, the 6 weeks will fly by”; the famous last words shared by everyone and anyone that is ever lucky enough to experience this trip. 6 weeks later and I already find myself writing the final blog entry for Group 2. The past 6 weeks has gone by in a flash, it’s had its highs and lows, sandwiched in between some incredible memories and experiences, but it’s an experience I wouldn’t change for the world. As always, any day out here in Zambia is never a dull one, week 6 is by no means any different. The past few days have been jam packed, so sit back, relax and enjoy the ride as I take you on Group 2’s final week out here Lusaka.
We started off this final week with British Night – a night organised and hosted by us – the student volunteers. We invited all the peer leaders and site coordinators to celebrate and reflect on all our special experiences, for one last time. Unlike Zambia night, it was now our turn to cook a range of British, American and Spanish delicacies to say a massive thank you. Georgie and Nick took the lead with all things cooking, with everyone helping prep veg and wash up. Throughout the day, others visited the markets and tailors, grabbing all the last bits they needed to before our departure on Wednesday. The afternoon was great; the group had the privilege of being the first to hear Issac’s new album, an interesting concoction of educational tracks and melodies. All the peer leaders tried Smores and Abby’s famous cookies for the first time – they loved them. We finished off the evening with our group photo and some special words shared by our volunteers and the Zambian peer leaders.
Monday came around and it was time for the legendary Wallace tournament. All the hard work our Wallace Group and Zambian committee had put in over the course of the last few weeks was about to pay off. In true Wallace Group style, we had four separate mini tournaments for Volleyball, Basketball, Netball and Football and a section on life skills, run by our very own Izzy and Mirriam. Fountain of Hope, Kabwata, Munali, Mutendere, Chipata all arrived in full force, showing their support for all their schools and hub sites. The focus of our tournament was all around fair play and we presented an award to the most respectful and honourable team across the day that we felt showed all the qualities of a great team. It was an amazing day all in all, with some great sport played and honourable sportsmanship shown.
Tuesday morning was an early one, all the girls and I got up before the birthday girl to make birthday banners and blow up balloons for Georgie’s 21st birthday. Despite her being the least morning person of the group, she braved a smile and a cuddle for us all. After breakfast, the whole group headed to the office for the end of placement review meeting. All the Wallace Group volunteers and several of the Zambian peer leaders got together to reflect on all the successes and challenges faced across the course of the 6 weeks. The meeting was effective, long, but worth the time none the less. We discussed all areas from placements, peer leaders, to the Wallace tournament. It was a great opportunity for everyone involved to express their true opinions and thoughts, in order for changes to be made in the future. Despite some areas obviously being discussed before, I came away feeling as though our comments and opinions were taken on board, with the potential to see some real progression in the future for the project and sport in Lusaka.
After what felt like the whole day at the office, half of the group went off to their placement sites for the last time while others headed off to Fountain of Hope to celebrate the opening of the new netball court. I myself headed to Munali for the last time. I had organised a fun, games session with the girls to celebrate a hard at times, but rewarding 6 weeks with the U15s. The session was great, the girls were interactive and full of laughter as always but the goodbyes were never going to be easy. I gave the girls a little personalised thank you card and Emilia my peer leader a Loughborough University sports T-shirt. A few tears were shed on behalf of the girls, which if I’m honest, took me by surprise. Munali has been a real rollercoaster of an adventure for me, with multiple highs and lows, but to see just how much I had personally impacted the girl’s lives, was the most rewarding and wholesome thing. Before I knew it, I was walking back down the dusty track for the last time and that was it; my last session here in Zambia was over, it felt all too real.
The night everyone had been looking forward to and dreading at the same time was finally here; our last super and Georgie’s birthday meal. The whole group piled into taxis and headed for the steak restaurant in Kablonga for one last time. We ate and drank the night away, finishing off with house awards to celebrate an amazing 6 weeks we have shared as a group.
Wednesday was a mixed emotions day. Despite it being our last day in sunny Lusaka we had a lot to celebrate at the same time. For the final time, the whole squad headed to Kuanda Square for the opening of the new Ace2Zambia (Alexa, Tom, Nick and Jamie) netball court. Sport in Action, the contractor and Jamie said a few words before Alexa officially deemed the court open, with the cut of the ribbon. In true Zambian style, the court was christened with a netball match played by the Kaunda square girls, umpired by Bright and myself. Our local celebrity, Tom even made his umpiring debut for this special occasion. All in all it was a great morning with much to celebrate.
Goodbyes are never easy, and this one was by no means any different. Packing away, saying goodbye to what had been our home for 6 weeks and welcoming in Group 3 was the hardest of all. The experiences and memories we have all shared together over the course of these 6 weeks are second to none and the adventure we have all experienced we will be able to treasure for a lifetime. Zambia is truly a beautiful place, with so much potential and talent. It’s been an honour to be a part of the catalyst for change for sport in this country and I can’t wait to remain heavily involved, as well as come back to see it in all its glory in a few years.
For the time being, but not for good, Group 2 and myself say a huge, loving goodbye to Zambia. Zikomo.
Mae Holmes, Loughborough Volunteer