Keja's Zambian Experience

By Keja (IICD: The Insitute for International Cooperation and Development)

I’m in Monze right now. This is where the main DAPP (Development Aid from People to People) office is for all the Child Aid projects in Southern Province.

Keja and Nadia with some of their friends outside their home in Kanchele. Courtesy of Keja (IICD)
This gets so much harder every time I come here. I was already overwhelmed by how much there was to tell on my second day in Zambia. Tomorrow I will have been here 7 weeks!!!! We came back to Monze a couple days ago for our project council meeting. I think I’m actually experiencing city shock! Monze is great and it’s always fun to be here, but I’m really missing the peace and tranquility of our little home in Kanchele. So now I’m sitting here wondering what to write. Is it even possible to share this place with words? I feel like there must be some other language that I haven’t learned yet that has all the perfect words for describing this feeling…but I’ll do my best.

Nadia and I live in a small village called Kanchele (approx. population is 600-700 I think, or so I’ve been told, but it’s really hard to tell). We have a lovely little house there (which is also the DAPP office so it’s ALWAYS busy…). I don’t know who built it or whether this was planned at all, but it’s situated perfectly so you can see the sunset off the front porch and the moonrise off the back and the dazzling stars as soon as you step out any door. We have an incredible tree next to the house that provides perfect relief from the intense sun. I love lying beneath it and getting lost in the branches, the leaves, and the sky above. We call our tree the ‘Mamba Tree’ because one day a green mamba snake was found in it. We have no electricity or running water, but we do have solar power so we are able to work at night without going through massive amounts of candles. The bore hole (our water point) is only about 500m away. We usually take the bike and strap our 20L container on the back, but now we’re learning how to carry the smaller ones on our heads like everybody else. We cook on a kerosene stove but we want to build an out door kitchen and cook over a fire in true Zambian style. Our yard consists of some flower gardens, a few fruit trees, our shower stall (which fell down in a big rain storm and only just got fixed last week), a garden growing sweet potatoes and our latrine. The grass growing close to the yard has been slashed but everywhere else it is so tall you can barely see anything but sky. You can get a pretty good view of the surrounding area if you climb up high in the Mamba tree though…and sunsets from that perspective are amazing.

I will write a bit about our work right now and then maybe end this note before it gets too long. This is the stuff that’s easy to write about, these details are easy to describe, it’s the feelings evoked by my daily experiences that I’m struggling with. So I will take some more time to think about what I want to say and how I can possibly share it and come back later…

We’ve been very busy these past few weeks with a project called Village Action Planning. We receive funding from UNICEF every year for building latrines and hand wash facilities. This year they want the plans to come directly from each village, instead of DAPP assuming the general needs of each community. So we’re starting from the bottom, each household makes an action plan, which is then compiled into a village plan by the facilitators and committee members of each village. Then we compile this information to make an application for UNICEF. In Kalomo district we work with almost 200 villages! So it is obviously impossible for us to hold workshops in every one…instead we held workshops to ‘train the trainers’ who would in turn train their respective communities. Each workshop took at least 7 hours!! There was so much information to be covered and the length was also increased by the need for anything either Nadia or I said to be translated into Tonga. It felt so good to finally be working, to come home at the end of the day exhausted from being up before sunrise and home long after it set, and working hard for all the hours in between. Nadia and I alternated days (we haven’t quite tried to fit all 3 of us on the motorbike yet, and I hope we never have to…). So on days when one of us didn’t have a workshop we could stay at home and work from the office. There were some busy days, but ‘working from the office’ mainly consisted of cooking, drawing water, cleaning, visiting, bathing in a bucket gazing up at the clear blue sky, writing, reading, daydreaming…can’t say I really ever relaxed, but I can say I was peacefully busy. Another component of the Village Action Planning was a form that had to be filled out by every household in each village even if they weren’t interested in joining the program. This will be used for statistical purposes by DAPP and various other NGOs. There is still a lot of work to be done with this project but I am excited to start working in other areas as well when we go back to Kanchele. I will be working mainly with women’s clubs, youth clubs and preschools, but I’ve been so busy with the village action planning workshops that I’ve only been able to meet briefly with a few members from these other areas…

It is raining today. It’s raining for the first time in weeks. Not exactly the rainy season I was expecting. Apparently this is the worst drought since 1992. There’s no mealie meal and the people in the villages are very hungry. In Kanchele we’ve actually been blessed with more rain than the whole surrounding area. When we first got back it rained heavily every day for almost a week straight. But only in Kanchele. If you drive a few kilometers away the maize is stunted and dry and nothing is growing very well. So we’re very lucky, but it’s still a really hard time for so many people. And even if you are lucky and your crops are growing well, there’s no market for them…

Despite the rain Nadia and I are going to go for a walk in the market. It’s so cool and refreshing compared to the usual heat. So I guess this is it for now. I’ll try to get back soon to share more about how I actually feel being here. For now I will simply say this: I wake up every morning smiling, feeling strongly connected, and unbelievably alive. When I was sick 6 months seemed so incredibly long, but now my time here is flying by. I have intense moments everyday where I realize how much I will miss this place when I have to leave and how much it will always be a part of me. And every day I know that being here is exactly where I’m meant to be…

much love to all,

Keja, in paradise

Click here to view more images from Keja's Zambia

If you are interested in volunteering in Zambia, one very worthwhile option is:

IICD (The Insitute for International Cooperation and Development)

IICD trains and sends volunteers to work on projects in Africa, India, Vietnam and Central America. Their contact information is or Tel. +1-616-782-0450

The sun rises over Zambia

© One World One People for Peace, 24 January 2002
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