IRFF’s Discover True Friendship Service Tour 2009, Zambia

July 22 - Aug 7, Ndola, Zambia
By Mikio Yoshida

15 participants from the US and Switzerland joined IRFF’s 2008 Discover True Friendship Service Tour in Zambia. The tour was launched on the 22nd of July, 2008 with the welcoming of the young volunteers at the Ndola International Airport by IRFF Zambia staff and the songs and smiles of a children’s choir team, the Mackenzie Little Angels. At the evening welcome ceremony, the Mackenzie compound chairman, school volunteer teachers, and Bishop Mibenge - who is chairman of IRFF Ndola - offered their deep gratitude for the project.

The Mackenzie Community School, established by IRFF, has been providing the opportunity of a free education to about 250 1st - 4th grade students from the community. The Supporting Success Scholarship Fund has also been providing the top students who finish the 4th grade at the school with the opportunity to continue their education at a government school. IRFF’s microfinance program has also been successful at providing economic opportunities to needy mothers in the community since 2003. These projects have strengthened the community and given people hope. Therefore, IRFF regards Ndola as a model area of our holistic approach towards promoting sustainable development.

Ndola was chosen as the very first venue of the Discover True Friendship Service Tour in 2004. The project of this summer of 2008, funded by a donation by Divine Acres, was to build an additional classroom for a 5th grade class and a library for Mackenzie Community School. The Service Tour has several major purposes: to provide a learning opportunity through a service project, discovering true friendship, learning about sustainable development and its application, visiting other NGOs, and sightseeing.

When we arrived at the school, construction had already been started by the local workers. The participants immediately joined the work, making blocks, bringing water, and mixing sand, cement and stones. Several young volunteers from the community were also working together with the group. They became friends quickly. The IRFF volunteers learned how to work easily and they worked hard, cooperating with the local volunteers.

Finishing the foundation was the most challenging part because we needed to make a huge amount of cement and put it into the foundation immediately. The participants took initiative and organized the job very well. Every participant took turns and joined in hardest and dirtiest work. Their hands, feet and shoes were all covered in mud by the end of the day.
We soon changed the initial plan to make over two thousands blocks and the construction proceeded very quickly after that. Besides supporting the construction process by bringing materials and water, the volunteers painted the bathrooms, kitchen, and trees of the school. They planted small trees to form a hedge with the local volunteers, too. The first phase of construction was finished before participants left for Lusaka.

During the project period, participants visited Mackenzie community to experience how they live their lives. Since IRFF activities were acknowledged by community people, participants received greetings from them. They visited the community fish ponds and saw the efforts of development. During the community tour, a number of children followed us with smiles. They eagerly wanted to walk with the young volunteers. It was an amazing experience for some participants to see the children welcoming strangers with so much love. Throughout the project, the participants spent a lot of time with the children.
As well as the construction project, the participants initiated “Community Interaction Day.” It was a good opportunity for them to serve the community by sharing their abilities and skills. Dance, song, art and photo sessions were organized by the sisters. A soccer tournament was initiated by the brothers. Almost 100 children came to join in the activities. Each class was packed with children and they enjoyed the first time their school has hosted such a festival. The dance team even performed at the program’s closing ceremony.

In addition, the participants joined the “Keep Zambia Clean” campaign of the Zambian government, and organized a cleaning project which was attended by over one hundred local secondary school students. Young volunteers fought with countless piles of garbage on the street. Each plastic bag was easily filled with garbage, yet still a lot of garbage was left. It seemed to be never ending work. Volunteers faced the serious reality of Zambia through the project. In the afternoon, they joined soccer and net ball tournaments.

Volunteers visited microfinance members in Mackenzie. Mr. Chisha, the IRFF director of Zambia, explained about the program before starting a short tour. We visited several small shops that were located in front of their houses and witnessed how they were improving their lives through small

One mother started a small business selling homemade African drinks with the microfinance support several years ago. Her business has been growing and she was selling charcoals and keeping pigs now as well. She had already built a new house for her family and she explained the future plan for her business proudly. Another woman bought a sewing machine and was making a special fabric product. It seemed like a small dust cloth but she was selling them to companies that produce cleaning equipment. She also spoke about her plan to renovate her house in the near future. Her face was bright with hope.
All of the microfinance members had confidence for their future. They were full of appreciation for IRFF. The participants were impressed by the mothers and understood more clearly about the microfinance program.

In addition to their hard work, the volunteers were also enjoyed a two-day trip to the city of Livingstone and the famous Victoria Falls, which was the most exciting moment for all the participants. After the hard work, they really enjoyed the amazing falls. Even though the height of the water was not so high because of the dry season, a spray of water comforted the volunteers’ tiredness. Beautiful double rainbows also impressed all of us. The next day, the group took a guided tour of a safari park and also bungee jumped by the falls. It was an experience they will not soon forget.

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