International Women’s Day…Nyimba Style

Week 8 Wednesday 8th March -Saturday 11th March 2017 

Wednesday the 8th of March was International Women’s Day which is a public holiday in Zambia (hint to British government!), so we didn’t run our usual sessions. Instead, the whole team met at the Community Youth Concern building at 7am before making our way to Women’s Day celebration at Nyimba Boarding School. The school was amazing with a hall and stage decorated in the Zambian national colours, a school tuck shop and amazing wall murals. It was posher than my secondary school in the UK! The main theme of this year’s International Women’s Day was the target to achieve a 50:50 gender balanced society by 2030 where women have realised their potential as contributors to economic and political development. One of the event’s speakers, a female pastor, touched upon this theme stating that women shouldn’t listen to anyone that says females can’t do anything except traditional female roles and that “women can do anything men can do”.

The organisers in Nyimba particularly focused on Gender Based Violence, a key issue in Zambia. According to a survey in Zambia, 48% of men and women thought it was justified if a man hits his wife/girlfriend for burning his food, answering back, leaving the house without his permission or refusing sex. During the International Women’s Day ceremony, we watched a sketch on why  some women across Zambia have killed their husbands in self-defense against domestic violence. Then there was a talk by the One Stop Centre giving out information on where to go in the Nyimba District to get support if you’re a victim of GBV. We learnt that the local One Stop Centre was at the Old Nyimba District hospital and the emergency number for Victims of GBV.

There were ceremonial dances and performances from local religious women’s groups and school girls, and speeches from the District Commissioner and politicians. There was plenty of dancing as the music speakers played music. At one point, the ICS volunteers were dragged to the front of the stage by a group of cheerful women. I looked like I was dancing properly for the first time thanks to a good dance partner! Overall, I enjoyed the performances , the lively environment and watching women performers dressed in beautiful chitenge garments , but it got claustrophobic as more people crowded into the hall in the sweltering heat.

(Photos above of the International Women’s Day celebrations at Nyimba Boarding School. I don’t take credit for the photos) 

Everything returned to normal on Thursday as CYC2 facilitated a session to our largest number of audience at Mulira School. We talked to 145 lively pupils which was a nightmare to control.  On Friday, two teammates and I ran the 5th Active Citizenship Day on Quality Education , which went relatively smooth despite a really badly planned crossword. One of the activities I enjoyed running was the ‘True’ and ‘False’ statements. We came up with certain statements relating to education like “Poverty is a justified reason why a child should not have access to education” and asked our fellow teammates to move to the ‘Agree’ , ‘disagree’ or ‘on the fence’ walls. It was interesting to here opinions of my teammates on key issues facing the quality of education in the developing and developed world, although it got heated towards the end. A lot of ICS volunteers enjoyed ACDs because it provided the opportunity to learn about development issues and gave us a chance to voice our opinions on controversial topics. On Saturday, one of the volunteers was celebrating their birthday so we celebrated by holding a BBQ at ‘Paradise’, an isolated but pleasantly private yard where we went to top up our tans. It was nice to relax while eating hot dogs and burgers, and sipping a cheeky Smirnoff Spin.


Short, Sweet, and Smooth

Week 6: Monday 20th of February to Sunday 26th of February 

I would describe this week as a relatively smooth and uneventful week. On Monday, CYC2 did our second session at Walter Hiebert on Malaria. The students were engaged and energetic, especially during the ‘Mosquito Biting’ energiser. On Tuesday we managed to arrive at the Chipilinumya community after our taxi  breaking down the previous Tuesday. For the school, we facilitated a session on Malaria while we ran a session on cervical,breast and prostate cancer. Both audiences were engaged, especially the latter who were asking lots of questions. On Wednesday, we facilitated another good session on Puberty at the Whitehead School. As you expect on talking about puberty to a room of 80 teenagers, the students giggled at our diagrams of the female and male body and genitalia and the girls blushed shyly whilst we discussed the ovulation cycle.  We decided not to return to the nearby Whitehead community because yet again, the chief forgot to inform the community about our session and was actually tending to the fiends himself. On Thursday, we were taken to our new school Mulira where we arranged a suitable time to facilitate sessions the following Thursdays. On Friday, the whole Nyimba Q7 team was disappointed about the news of not going to the Ncwala ceremony, a traditional ceremony held in February by the Ngoni people that celebrates the first harvests of the year.  The social committee had planned for us to attend this years ceremony on Saturday but we didn’t get permission from the VSO head offices in the UK and Zambia.

On Saturday, a small group of us went on a walk along the road to Chipilinumya that provided beautiful views of the Nyimba and the surrounding rugged landscape. At first, we embraced the views and we were entertained by a gecko crossing the road but we were caught in temperamental weather. One minute we were caught in torrential rain that cooled us down from the heat but soaked our clothes through. The next minute, we were in stifling heat which became unbearable by the time we struggled back home.

Highlights of the Week: I tried caterpillars for the first time at my host home. 

Mud, Mulira and Mid-Phase Review

Week 7: Monday 27th February to Sunday 5th March 

On Monday held a session on Puberty at Walter Hiebert to 81 giggly and shy students. On Tuesday, we ran the same topic at the Chipilinumya school and a successful session on male circumcision in the community to 25 community members.

The story of the week is that our taxi got stuck in the mud on our way to Whitehead school on Wednesday.  The taxi driver tried to avoid a puddle but instead got stuck in the mud amongst some grass. We were stranded in an isolated location surrounded by shrubbery and maize fields during torrential rain that made the dirt road impassable . My two work companions and I , all young females, along with two elderly members of a nearby unfamiliar community had to help push the car out, only to push it further into the mud. We were all caked in mud; one counterpart and I made the mistake of wearing white tops! When we had gathered enough stones and placed them underneath the stuck wheel to create a stable surface, the car’s battery went flat. When our emergency taxi arrived to charge up the first taxi’s battery and take the volunteers back to Nyimba, the first taxi ran out of fuel. I felt sorry for the taxi driver who was still stranded a couple hours waiting for fuel.

One of the Highlights of the week was our initial session on puberty at Mulira Primary School on Thursday. It was difficult to facilitate to 130 teenagers in a overcrowded classroom. We had all gotten headaches from the noise and chatter.

Friday was the first day of Mid-Phase Review (MPR) in Chipata. MPR is a time where ICS volunteers reflect their experiences so far in the community through a variety of aspects including work placements and relationships with counterparts and host families. It also provides the opportunity to plan upcoming Community Action Days and come up with solutions for any issues. After a few sessions, we enjoyed a dip in the pool at the Crystal Springs Hotel before letting our hair down (with the aid of alcohol) when away from the community. On Saturday, the whole team planned the following CADs and socials, before another swim, a BBQ organised by the MPR committee and another round of drinks. On Sunday, we did have fun doing energisers and dancing to Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You before set off back to Nyimba on a 4 hour journey. The volunteers enjoyed MPR as it provided the opportunity to escape the stresses back in Nyimba and bond together. My counterpart even asked if we could stay longer!

 Highlights of the week: the swimming pool, socialising with the team, especially dancing to Shape of You, NyimbaQ7 team song.

Breakdowns, Pizza, Frustration and Church.

Week 5 Monday 13th- Sunday 19th of February 2017 

The week initially started on a good note.  On Monday CYC2 had successfully facilitated our first session  at Walter Hiebert to 84 pupils. The children were responsive and energetic. They particularly loved our new Zambian team member’s energisers and the role plays we used to recap our Hygiene and Sanitation session. On Tuesday everything started to go down hill as our mode of transport broke down on our way to our sessions in Chipilinumya. Excluding the Great East Road,  the roads in the Nyimba District consist of rugged and uneven dirt tracks that are either dusty and craggy  during dry weather or muddy and impassable during the rains. Partly due to poor maintenance of the vehicle, the rocky  road surface caused the taxi’s tyre to burst preventing us facilitating our sessions at Chipilinumya school and community. 

On Wednesday, we started off with a great session on HIV/STI’S and contraception at Whitehead school, but the day started to go pear-shaped when the chief of the Whitehead community failed to inform the community about our session.

Thursday added to this week’s injuries after a disappointingly low turnout at the David community. The community members present failed to understand what the VSO-ICS volunteers could do for their community.  They were irritated at the fact that we were repeating the same Sexual Reproductive Health topics as previous ICS volunteers that came to the David community since 2014. They would have preferred us to lend them loans to help them establish businesses, demands which was beyond our capacities as peer educators and VSO-ICS volunteers. Our team leaders and the CYC2 team decided not to continue running sessions in David because, unfortunately, we could not provide the community’s needs or demands for entrepreneurial advice. I personally found this frustrating especially after running a good session on healthy lifestyle the previous week in David.

However, things were beginning to look up on Friday as the UK volunteers embarked on a  four hour journey in a small cramped bus to the border city Chipata to renew our visas. Chipata is the developed urban capital of Zambia’s Eastern Province which is approximately 12-16km from the Zambian border with Malawi. It’s lively centre has supermarket’s including a Spar, hotels and lodges, universities and colleges, a mosque , several banks including a Barclays and a mall with a Shoprite, Debonairs and Steers, the Zambian equivalent to Store Twenty-one, Domino’s and Burger King respectively. The town centre is overlooked by several hills peppered with multi-coloured houses or greenary.  We enjoyed eating our Pizzas and burgers in Debonairs and Steers or browsing the shops and supermarkets and buying products that weren’t available in Nyimba. I was particularly excited for purchasing Granny Smiths and oranges. 

On Sunday, I accompanied my home counterpart and one of my host brothers to a service at the New Life church in Nyimba. Despite the service being held in an overcrowded and incomplete  building, the atmosphere was lively as the churchgoers were singing and dancing to the gospel music and hymns.  I enjoyed clapping and dancing (badly) along to the songs, especially to Donnie McClurkin’s I’ve Got my Mind Made Up that brought back nostalgic memories of attending Methodist church services with my Jamaican grandparents during childhood .Everyone was dressed in their Sunday best; the women and young girls wore bright and vibrant chitenge dresses, and the men wore smart shirts, suit trousers and ties. I was impressed with some advice that was provided on TB. The attendees were adviced that HIV+ to make sure they get screened for TB if they were living with someone infected with the latter. The overall inspirational message of the service was to be aware of the opportunities around you and God has prepared change around the corner. However, as a non-Christian/non-religious individual,I felt uncomfortable  and awkward during some parts of the service, especially during the prayers.

Highlights of the week Debonair’s pizza in Chipata. I recommend the standard Mexican Fiesta (K64) . 

(Picture bellow of my teammates and I enjoying our food in Chipata’s Debonairs/Steers restaurant.)


Week 4- Let’s Get Down To It

Community Youth Concern 2 team facilitated our initial sessions at our schools and community during the 4th week of the ICS placement

Monday (6/11/2017)  summarized some of the positive and challenging experiences we were going to face  during our placement. In the morning, the CYC2 team were pumped and ready to facilitate our first session at Walter Hiebert school in Nyimba. Our stomachs flipped and our faces lit with excitement as we saw the students wave from the classrooms or run towards us as we approached the school. However, this brief excitement  diminished as we were informed by the headmaster that we couldn’t run the sessions on our previously time, 10am on Monday mornings, and that we would need to reschedule to another time on days that our team were preoccupied. Two team members managed to negotiate a more suitable time (Mondays at 1pm) with the headmaster on Thursday.  One of the positive achievements of #TeamNyimbaQ7 was we managed to distribute 2160 condoms to members of the public along the Great East Road and the sex compound.

On Tuesday, CYC2 finally ran two sessions at Chipilinumya School. The first session was on hygiene, clean water and sanitation to Chipilinumya Primary students while the second session was on HIV/AIDS, STI’s and Contraception to 16 community members inside an empty classroom at the school. The former session went smoothly as the children were quite enthusiastic and the teacher was helpful in translating English into Nyanja. The children loved the energisers and the role play we used to recap the session. Overall, the second session went well as the community members were engaged, especially when asked how to use a condom, and they asked questions on implants and other contraceptive measures. However, personally I struggled with the language barrier; because of the translation between English and Nyanja wasn’t clear or consistent, I got confused to where we were on the session plan and lost my confidence. All my fellow ICS teammates struggled with the language barrier. whether the Zambian volunteers struggled to translate between English and Nyanja, and the British volunteers felt confused or useless when they couldn’t understand the responses in Nyanja or had to heavily rely upon their Zambian counterparts’ translations. 

On Wednesday,  we managed to facilitate the same hygiene and sanitation session to 120 pupils at Whitehead School. We did a mini-session on hygiene along with energisers and Heads,Shoulders,Knees and Toes to 40 children in the Whitehead community.  This is the only time we interacted with the Whitehead community as the village chief either failed to inform community members about our sessions or the community members were busy tending to their fields during the rainy session. In the end, we decided not to continue sessions in the Whitehead community because of the community members were preoccupied in farming, the main source of income in the community.  On Thursday, me and one other Zambian counterpart facilitated a session on balanced diet and healthy lifestyle to 70 David community members. The community particularly loved the Juga-Jiva energiser and the role play when we recapped our hygiene and sanitation session we  briefly held the previous Thursday. I was proud of my counterpart for translating between English and Nyanja by herself whilst being ill.

On Saturday, the Community Action Day  (CAD) committee organised the initial CAD. CADs are one off events or campaigns ICS volunteers plan and conduct in the wider community. For the first CAD, we cleaned the old Nyimba District Hospital. We were split into three teams; one team would clean the children’s ward, another team would clean the OPD and the last team would clean the women’s ward. I did enjoy cleaning the floors and windows of the children’s ward although I wasn’t the best window cleaner. The ward’s staff looked amused as they watched me struggle with washing the windows. Thumbs up to the CAD committee for planning our first CAD.

Highlights of the Week- distributing 2160 condoms, our first CAD and facilitating our first sessions. On a personal note, I was introduced to President and A***hole. This is the card game our team loved to play prolifically the following weeks and was the main way we bonded as a team or kept our sanity during challenges we faced throughout the placement.

lowlights of the week– One of the national CYC2  team members left Nyimba because of a job offer and the other national volunteer left suddenly two days afterwards. This left CYC2 with two British volunteers who couldn’t speak Nyanja with the task of running sessions in our work placements. But our excellent team leaders found replacements so the situation was dealt with quickly. 

Cautionary Tale–  My phone got stolen from my bedroom window! On Friday I made the mistake of leaving my bedroom window open (it was a humid night) and leaving my mobile in full view and within reach of the window. It was a scary and surreal experience as I saw the culprit put his hand through the window. I felt sorry for my host family as this was the first time they experienced a burglary (two doormats were stolen from the washing line as well!). But let this be a word of warning to perspective VSO-ICS volunteers, tourists and travellers that this could happen anywhere across the world so please make sure you don’t leave your personal belongings within full view and grasp of pick pockets or burglars.My project officer and host father dealt with the situation responsibly and reported it to the police ASAP.

Two tips of the Blog

  • If you are a perspective ICS volunteer, pack board games and a pack of cards in your hand luggage. Card games in particular are useful icebreakers and team binders.
  • If you are travelling anywhere in the world, make sure you keep your personal belongings safeguarded.


    Week 3

     Monday the 30th of January to Sunday the 5th of February 

    During my stay in Nyimba, I was part of the second Community Youth Concern (CYC2)  team along with one other British and two Zambian volunteers.  Community Youth Concern is a youth charity based in Nyimba that was the partner organisation of Voluntary Service Overseas  and International Citizen Service (ICS). As VSO-ICS volunteers, we were responsible for planning and facilitating Sexual Reproductive Health sessions in rural communities and schools in the surrounding  Nyimba District.  On the third week , CYC2 visited the schools and communities we would be facilitating sessions to during the following 8 weeks. This week was about introducing ourselves to the community and arranging the times which we would run sessions at times best suited for the schools and communities. We established the following timetable:

    • Mondays: Walter Hiebert  School (Grades 1-6)
    • Tuesdays: Chipilinumya School  (Grades 1-6) and community
    • Wednesdays: Whitehead school and community
    • Thursdays: David community for the first couple of weeks and Mulira School (Grades 1-9) towards the end of the placement.
    • Fridays: Active Citizenship Days (ACDs). During ACDs, ICS volunteers are asked to run a workshop for their peers to discuss and advocate on global issues such as gender inequality or Gender Based Vilence.

    highlight of the week: We had our first team social which consisted of a pizza party in Kalamb,  our main hang out spot in Nyimba, and a BBQ at Azemac where we played several games such as Ring of Fire whilst drinking Mosi, a Zambian beer.

    lowlight of the week: My teammates and I felt that this was a slow-paced and unproductive week as we didn’t start sessions until the following week.

    (Photo to the left: CYC2 team with some David community members. Photo to the right: our first team social.) 



    There are currently 130million girls in the world who are out of education. In Zambia only 13% of girls stay in secondary education due to many factors including early marriage, teenage pregnancy and poverty.  I am passionate that the world achieves the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, especially SDG4, quality education and SDG5,Gender Equality. But how are we going to achieve gender equality if the world fails to provide access to education to 130million girls?. There is this campaign called #GirlsCount that aims to get 130million individuals to video to count an allocated number and create the worlds longest video to encourage the worlds leaders to get our girls into school. I have shown my support by filming myself counting my number 12,296.  But there is still a long way to go until the #GirlsCount campaign reaches it target 130million. Please make sure each of the 130million girls who are missing out on education get counted and create a video showing your support for the campaign. Thank you. ://