4 Weary Travelers Return from Zambia with Stories to Tell . . .
AJ Roth, AJ Bradford, Jim Perreault and Richard Tanner recently returned from a history-making trip to Zambia. The following are condensed excerpts of their experiences. For more detailed versions, come hear about their experiences in person. Saturday, June 9th at 7:00 pm. 51 East 1450 North American Fork, Utah. Unfortunately AJ Roth is unable to attend this presentation but will share his experience at a TBD later date.
Jim Perreault - An Eclectic Bunch
Four modern-day pioneers set off in May for the Northern Province of Zambia to install solar panels on schools in the African bush. We were an eclectic bunch: AJ Roth, the trip lead ; Andrew (AJ) Bradford, the student who lead the solar panel project at BYU ; Richard Tanner, who had taught in Zambia at Mungwi Tech over 50 years ago and was returning for the first time; and myself, a colleague of AJs who was there to support him. While I have gone on similar trips in the past, this was my first trip to Zambia and my first time in Africa. I was not fully prepared for what I saw. The level and extent of the need in Zambia was beyond my wildest expectations. So too were the levels of hospitality, enthusiasm, and hard work that we encountered. Everywhere we went we were greeted with joy and generosity. When we got stuck in the mud, the whole village turned out to help us. Such joy and pride lifts the soul. We accomplished what we set out to do, installing solar panels at 5 schools, enabling them to power lanterns so they can study or prepare lessons at night. Additionally, on 3 of the schools, we installed cell phone amplifiers, bringing cell service to regions for the first time. Words cannot describe the feelings of accomplishment we had on the day we installed that first amplifier, giving the Zambians not only cell service but also a connection to the Internet. In the middle of the bush! Everyone was ecstatic! All our hard work had paid off.
Richard Tanner - Zambia Revisited, Fifty Years Later
The Zambian welcome was as warm as the weather. The month of May was a good time to visit with the country lush after the rains and not too hot. Thanks to generous friends I delivered 60 kg of materials to schools, most to Mungwi Boys where I taught from 1964-67. It looks like my work has just begun The school hall, (the largest building for over 200 miles around) has been condemned and I found the facilities very run down. With Zambia’s population grown by four times since 1964 and still only a quarter of eligible children attending secondary school, I realize the government has many calls on its limited budget.
I joined the three Americans installing solar panels on their visit to Chisali School. I saw the proverbial class under a tree and when asking what would happen when the rains come in November was shown the piles of bricks, stones and sand that villagers have gathered ready to build two more classrooms when funds allow.
Unfortunately Mungwi School was on vacation so I didn’t meet the boys I sponsor but hope they appreciated the presents I left for them. However, I did meet two of my former students; one told me he’d been Botswana’s Sr. Prosecuting Counsel and the other I learnt was Zambia’s Minister for Trade and Industry. Let us hope and pray that other Mungwi boys are following in such
AJ Bradford- Different Qualities or Classes of Life Experiences!!
Of our motley crew I'm definitely the one with the least life experience to speak of, but I think that there are definitely different qualities or classes of life experiences - and the highest of all these classes are the riveting ones that suddenly call our complete attention; the ones that give us pause; the ones we hold close and revere; the ones that remind us of hope. My time in Zambia was exactly that. Despite the fact that we were saddened by the sight of destitute children and families, and we often got frustrated, stuck with our wheels spinning in the mud (literally), the emotional impression that followed me on the plane from Lusaka was the joy, gratitude, earnestness and warmth we received from our Zambian friends in response to ZSF's work and even the mere presence of us volunteers.
I feel blessed to the point of guilt for the opportunity to affect the lives of many teachers and students through the solar project, and I'm amazed at all we were able to accomplish. I think that we cannot fathom at this point all the positive benefits of the project. Admittedly I also feel a sense of anxiety and responsibility for the long-term upkeep of the systems we installed, and I think that we'll have much to learn as we follow up with our teachers and students.
I hope that those involved in ZSF understand that their impressive work is completely changing lives and making possible the formerly impossible. Thanks be to the ZSF boards and to the many donors.
AJ Roth - "It's Not Over!"
BYU Student Andrew Bradford points his Go-pro at me and asks on our last day in Kasama, “What’s your last words for the trip?” I’m short with him and simply say “It’s not over”. With 16 Days in country a few of the things we did included 5 schools now with solar & rechargeable lanterns. 3 with cell phone amplifiers providing service. A ZSF accounting audit. Meeting with Zambia ZSF board. Visits to sponsored construction of 3 Bush High Schools. Chikuku Orphanage planning. A meeting with over 90% of ZSF sponsored teachers. And 21 more needed bikes for teachers use at schools! Words can’t describe the success, lasting, positive, life-changing, sustainable impacts Zambia’s Scholarship Fund is making, and the humble infinite gratitude offered by hundreds we met who have been touched through the domino effect of education. Andrew, Jim, and I were fortunate to witness the appreciation first hand, however the entirety of the credit and gratitude goes to each of you individual donors and sponsors who as a ZSF team are making tremendous strides in an enormously challenging environment where there are mountains of needs. In Bemba they say Natotela Sana!
After returning to the states my mind has often been caught away, 3 pages into reading my kids a book I find myself pondering on the kids that may never be read such a nice kids book in their lives. Driving down the road I’m amazed at the road crews, pavement, multiple lanes. I tell co-workers the trip was “good”. Earlier this week I’m informed via our teacher Roy Simwanza through a Whatsapp txt “we have lost, madam… of Mankalala Primary school.. Condolences to the family..” Sera Chansa, single mother and working teacher, who was well, happy, and smiling at our teachers meeting 2 weeks prior complained of a headache on 27 May in her village 82 km from town, an ambulance called, and hours later before reaching the hospital she passed away. These teachers, these students, our staff in Zambia are heroes. The sacrifices they make in their quest to help their own country escape poverty is immeasurable. I pray we continue to open our hearts and wallets to allow these efforts to continue in a magical place of love, life, and hope. My reflection on the trip and ZSF remains the same - “It’s not over”. AJ Roth