To Zambia With Love – Our First Road Trip Adventure
Well, we can check road trip with baby off the list of firsts for our family. Isaac, my mom, and I braved the open road and headed off to Ndola, 320 km north of Lusaka. After many slow moving trucks, several police check points, numerous “abnormal loads” (see picture below), and three detours down a dirt roads with dust flying, we made it hot, sweaty, and dusty to Ndola. The drive was both beautiful and monotonous.
This is definitely big sky country with mostly flat land and gentle rolling hills. Along the way, we saw scattered villages – mostly small brick buildings or round houses made of mud bricks with thatched roofs. There were also markets along the way selling vegetables and large numbers of watermelons which seemed an odd choice for a road side stand.
Isaac was an absolute superstar during the drive. He only had a couple of meltdowns which were best solved with either taking him out of his car seat or feeding him. I’m continually amazed by him. He seems to be able to take everything in stride, even a 6 hour drive which was supposed to be 4.5 hours. By the end of it, we were all road weary, but feeling proud of ourselves for taking on this adventure. The purpose of our trip to Ndola was to visit with Njavwa, one of our Canadian friends who was born in Zambia, and to visit Mercy Touch, the orphanage and mission her family runs.
The second day in Ndola we were taken to the orphanage. I was surprised that it seemed to be in the middle of nowhere - down a dirt road and in the middle of fields and forest. They own a large area of land which they have started farming to become more self-sufficient. We had a tour of the farm which includes a banana plantation, ground nuts, vegetable plots, fish ponds, chickens, pigs, goats, and a bull. There were two very nice houses, one for girls and one for boys. The children were very interested to see us and all wanted to have their picture taken.
Friday is the day the mission runs their feeding program. Local women in the community bring their children and receive a meal. Many are identified through the local clinic for the feeding program. Local volunteers keep track of the children’s weights and make sure they are growing properly. They also provide them with a soy supplement to add to their meals for the week. They certainly provide them each with a large meal which to our eyes looked like much more than a child could possibly consume in one meal, but as Njavwa explained, for many of these children, the meal they receive on Fridays will be the only sufficient meal they eat the whole week.
The experience made me feel saddened, hopeful, and thankful. I was saddened by the lengths these women have to go to ensure their children receive a good meal, many walking some distance to attend the feeding program, and by the effects poverty has on their lives. I felt hopeful for the children who were in the orphanage. They appeared happy and well cared for. Each child attends a private school and has individualized plans for getting them into university or jobs once they are old enough as well as help finding accommodation.
Mercy Touch really does provide excellent support to these children. I was so incredibly impressed with the work that Njavwa was doing. As a volunteer director of the organization, she has what appears to be an overwhelming task in keeping everything moving forward. It’s certainly not something that I think I would have been able to take on in my early twenties or now for that matter. Her goals are admirable: to start a preschool on site for the children in the orphanage who are now home schooled and for other children in the local community and to build a playground for the children.
I was struck by the thought that these children would likely have such a small world without Mercy Touch. They appeared to be literally isolated from the outside world by having that long drive down a dirt road to reach the highway and then a much longer drive to reach the city of Ndola. But with the help of this NGO, their horizons have expanded to include school and seeing more than just the small village where they live. I also felt incredibly thankful for all that we have back home.