Upon their return from Zambia, Gaby and Lizzie have written of the significance of their time away: 

This Easter, eleven Y12 students (including Lizzie and I) were given the amazing opportunity of working for ‘Sport in Action’, a Zambian non-governmental organisation. Through donations and support from various institutions (such a as the Perfect Day Foundation) Sport in Action is able to maintain and develop schools, encouraging education through free meals and boarding, and the running of sports programmes; volunteers work with more than 160,000 children each week.

The purpose of our trip was to work in two schools supported by the organisation: Mtendere and Fountain of Hope.  Here, we were lucky enough to lead and teach sports sessions to groups ranging from 20-70 children, in netball and football. Upon arrival, we were astonished by the high level of skill and expertise despite lacking basic facilities such as equipment and adequate attire, nevertheless, they greeted us daily with enthusiastic smiles saying “Bwanji” (Nyanja for “how are you”?). It would be fair to say that we learnt from them just as much as we hope they learnt from us. Most notably how music and dancing was a fundamental part of Zambian culture; every session would commence with a lively circle game, essentially consisting of chanting, clapping and dancing. Undoubtedly the most memorable moment on placement was ‘Rain Day’, referring to the torrential deluge which we were caught in on our second day at Fountain. Rushing for shelter, the locals huddled under the thatched roof watching us, bemused as we ran out, arms open, embracing the rain that reminded us of the valley. We were quickly joined by a chorus of giggling children attempting to sing our English songs and holding our hands as this moment became not only special for us, but for everyone.

Our first week of placement was all leading up to Friday: Tournament day. Organised by Zara and led by us, the day was a complete success. Starting with a life skills session about HIV/AIDS awareness and drug abuse, this was followed by eight friendly matches between the two schools we had been working at, in netball and football, to which the overall result was equal. We were also honoured to have spent the day with Chainama special school, playing with the parachute and various other activities. We were taken aback by how joyful the student were- even when they lost, and the warmth with which they welcomed Zara’s concluding 'Thank you' speech was truly incredible.

What we didn’t count on was the amount we would grow, individually and as a group. Whether this was through cooking, card games, washing (clothes or dishes), sharing an eight-girl-dormitory, being cramped into Zambian taxis or sharing stories about school, not to mention church, which was like nothing we had experienced before. Our shortest Mass being 2.5 hours, Palm Sunday resonated with us the strongest as the congregation of our local church processed down the pot-holed road, waving palms and breaking the leaves off so we could join too- this is a perfect representation of their culture, always ready to receive anyone with open arms.

Having said our emotional goodbyes to all the inspiring students at both Fountain of Hope and Mtendere, we celebrated our hard work with a trip across the border. Having endured the eight hour bumpy bus journey, we found ourselves face to face with one of most phenomenal wonders of the world: Victoria Falls. Crossing ‘Knife’s Edge’ bridge we found ourselves shrouded in the ‘smoke that thunders’ to our right and surrounded by the view of Namibia and Zimbabwe to our left. On safari in Botswana, (the next day), we were graced with the presence of Hippos, Crocodiles and Giraffes to name a few; it was spectacular!

We are eternally grateful for the experience this trip has been and the lessons we have learnt along the way. Without the support of donors and from the staff at the college - most significantly Miss Foster, Mr Curran and Mr Reid; our hosts from Sport in Action, and the whole charity itself, this would not have been possible. We are also indebted to the children who have inspired us with their gift of joy and hope, which we have learnt no one can take away from them. Each of us feels that he or she has come back a changed person with the endeavour to be kinder, more open-minded and joyful people.

We very much hope that this initiative continues into the future, with our fellow Ampleforth students also having an opportunity similar to the one we have been so fortunate to experience.

Written by Gaby and Lizzie.