During our travels in Africa we had the chance to volunteer some of our time at Simoonga Thandizani Trust School in Zambia! It was an amazing learning experience for us and our kids. It also gave us the opportunity to share with the students a bit more of our experience and skills.
How did we find the school?
As we were putting together our plans for our travels, we started thinking of some natural wonders that we wanted to visit. One came right to mind: the Victoria Falls! Initially the biggest dilemma was deciding on which side to go, Zambia or Zimbabwe. Quickly the dilemma was solved.
As I was looking on the Worldschoolers group on Facebook I came across a post about a school in Zambia. They were searching for volunteers as well as sponsors for their school.
I was intrigued and I also thought about the amazing coincidence. The school is only 30 km away from the Falls! Our trip was officially planned! We were going to volunteer for 9 days in this school and on the weekend explore the Victoria Falls!
We arrived on a beautiful summer day. As we walked in the lobby of the airport we were greeted by 2 students, some of the teachers and the founder of the school Edwin Nguni. It was such a special greeting for us, specially after a very early flight to get there.
We were than welcomed by the rest of the students and staff, in the afternoon when we joined them all at school. Every class introduced themelseves by singing a song. I loved so much listening to them, that I created a little collage of some of the songs….
Where is the school?
The school is located in Simoonga Village in Zambia. It is about 17 km from the main city: Livingstone. You can reach it by plane, flying into Livingstone or by car if you are coming from another country.
For US citizens you need a visa to stay in the country, but you can get it on arrival. For the same price you can purchase also the Visa for Zimbabwe (in case you want to see the Falls from both sides). In Zambia kids don’t need a Visa, so that was helpful!
The school has more than 350 students right now. They unfortunately have to turn some away because of space restrictions. The classes are pretty full, a couple have 50 students! They offer: preschool, receiving, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th grade.
The teachers are truly amazing! I was in awe watching how they were able to keep under control so many kids without having to put them all in time out!
They have limited amount of resources if you compare to school in the US for example. But everyday they are there happy and ready to give the best for their students. They want to make sure that all these kids have the opportunity to succeed in life!
The school currently receives no funding from the Government and the community is too poor to support the school. This is why they rely heavily on donations from tourists as means of funding.
What did we do?
We were all welcome to share our experience in the classrooms. Cosimo and Emma went from one class to the other. They assisted for example with the computer (they have only one computer for the class to learn from…..), math and english classes. Mass and I both taught some Italian in many of the grades!
Cosimo also taught a little dance class with Luca assisting. He also shared his interest with rocks in one of the grades, showing them all the ones he has and how he catalogs them.
Mass also taught a bit of health and how to go on the slack line! Yes! During their outdoor gym activity we went to the park on the other side of the road and he let every child try to go on! Since they all loved it so much we donated ours to the school, so the kids could keep on practicing. Mass explained to the teachers how to assist the kids so they could keep on doing it also once we were gone.
As for my self? I took headshots of every child, printed them and gifted them to each one. I was amazed to see the kids reactions during the whole process. When I put them in front of the camera and told them to smile, many could not do it, they looked confused. Once I showed them the picture behind the camera, the smiles that came out of them were amazing! The most special moment was when we dropped the photos off in each class, they were all so excited!
On the weekends we were free to tour the area. We went to the breathtaking Victoria Falls. You could also do a safari, check out the feeding of the crocodiles or tour the town of Livingstone.
We also had the opportunity to partecipate to a local soccer match between the local team sponsored by the school and one from a village nearby. It was a great time to meet families and to see the kids out of the school environment.
How can you help?
1. Volunteer Program
The school needs volunteers! They are searching for motivated people who like to work with children. They want to give the children an opportunity to have a contact with the outside world through the people that come there.
The Volunteer schedule is open and flexible. They would like volunteers to share their knowledge, for example teach a language, share their expertise or simply assist the teachers in the subjects they are teaching.
Families, just like ours are welcome to the school, everyone is valuable in expanding the minds of the students!
The school is always in need to help since they receive no funding from the Government and our community is too poor to support the school. This is a list of the areas that need to be financed:
- The feeding program, they offer lunch to all the children.
- Furniture for the school.
- Books for a future library.
- Laptops for their computer class, they want to keep them up to date for today’s requirements in the world.
- Supplies for the classrooms (pencils, school books, notebooks, black board eraser etc)
- construction for:
- Most urgent a well for the school. Right now they are attached to the town but apparently they will be disconnected soon and the kids cannot stay in school without water!
- New bathrooms, at the moment we have only 2 that more than 300 people have to share. The construction just started a month ago!
- Classrooms, our school is growing and we need to add more rooms.
- A kitchen, at the time being the kitchen is in the courtyard of the school.
What did we learn form this experience?
Often we give for granted, for example all the resources we have in school. They are actually more valuable than we think! Some grades had to share the same black board eraser because they didn’t have enough for each class. One student would go to the class and ask for it and once the other class needed it, they would do the same. There were no complains, they simply worked around the problem! We often get lost in much smaller problems……
We all have something valuable to share, we all come from different experiences in life and you never know who you will inspire by simply sharing your passion and your knowledge. Never hold back what you have to give to the world! Also our young kids were blown away by the fact that they had something valuable to share.
Simplify your life. Make it about special moments to share with people and not about collecting stuff…..
Thanks to all the teachers and kids from Simoonga Thandizani Trust School for giving us the opportunity to be part of their school!
Check out the Photo link below to see more of where we were!
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It has come to our attention that that the River Club (the company that brings the water supply to the whole community and the school), has decided to disconnect the school from the village water supply. We all know that water is life, what are these kids going to do if they cannot go to school because there is no water?
We decided to start a Gofundme in order to raise money to help this community that we have grown to love dearly. If everyone would be willing to donate also just a little sum, imagine what a difference it would make to the school! Our kids have decided to donate the money they got from their birthdays to the school. We are going to do the same with what we earn from a few jobs we have lined up in the next months. If you have time and would like to help as well, please go to this link and make also a tiny donation, every little bit counts! If you can’t please at least consider passing the message along by sharing our campaign!