Volunteering in Zambia - Interview with Mummy Mo - mo'adore: cruelty-free beauty ∙ vegan food ∙ glasgow/dundee lifestyle

23 May 2015

Volunteering in Zambia - Interview with Mummy Mo





Internet! Remember almost three years ago I went to Africa, dived with sharks, seen giraffes and navigated being a vegetarian in a foreign country for the first time? If you don't, here is my South African recap and my Zambian recap. Whilst me and my dad were fapping about playing tourist for a week and a half, my mum had actually been in rural Zambia volunteering for three months! Three years on I've pinned her down to talk about her experience volunteering (she's been back for a second time since and will be returning again in the Autumn) and get the low-down for anyone else considering this kind of trip. 

Over to you....

Tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Moira Lee, I am 57 years old and I have now been to Zambia twice as a volunteer and plan a return visit later this year. My first visit was for 7 weeks in May and June of 2012 and then 10 weeks between October and December of 2013. These are my own thoughts and rambles on being a volunteer.

Why did you decide to volunteer?
Many reasons, I have found that everyone will have a different purpose. For me as you can see I was older! My ‘gap’ year came nearer the end of a working career as a full time nurse. I now work part time and able to take flexible time off work. My desire for doing different things is still strong and I did have an urge to ‘give back’ all the good things that I have experienced through my career. I also have a Christian faith which did influence my choices.

Why did you decide to go to Zambia? Did you consider anywhere else?
There are so many options, though less for an older person! I researched many different ways of volunteering which is vital; many you may discount as not for you. Your reason for volunteering will influence where you go and for how long and this is which you have to think about why you are volunteering for; i.e.  It won’t be like a holiday where you are free to do as you please. It is likely that you will have to follow the culture you are going to etc.  Find out how the locals dress etc, respecting their culture is part of the whole experience.

I was grateful to meet a lady called Jenny who was working as a mission partner in the Copperbelt region of Zambia for both the Church of Scotland and the Methodist Church in England and she invited me to join her there. Jenny worked partly teaching social work to trainee minsters in college there, plus working in the local community which I was I tehn did while there.

For me my choice of volunteer work was vital; was the work sustainable after I had left, was it well thought out? Was it crisis work I wanted to do or an established programme?

What should people consider when preparing to go?
Find out as much as you can about the culture where you are going. Visas, vaccinations (my mum had alllll the vaccinations whereas I only need two! - Morag) all take time to organise and can be expensive. Are you being sponsored or able to pay your way? I chose to pay all my own expenses which I felt left me more flexibility. I did fund raise through my church for the programmes that Jenny was running. I also had to be accountable though for how the money was then used for those who had donated.  

What were some of the cultural differences in Zambia?

Be prepared for a very different culture experience. Volunteering usually means you will be working where poverty exists or in a way you may not have experienced in your home country. Home comforts like running water and electricity are not reliable in many places. Personal space will be limited in most cases. In Zambia I was a ‘Mzungu’  a term used for white people through much of East Africa. While there I met situations that challenged me and overjoyed me, meeting many lovely people who changed in different ways how I viewed the world.

Where you are will dictate how you think of your personal security. Take advice from who you travel with. In Zambia I felt quite safe and respected, (Maybe because I was older?) used the local transport mini buses on my own, (got offers of marriage to take them back to Scotland through the window at some stops!) You do not go out at night on your own though without using a safe taxi. Walking alone at night is out, as no street lights in many places and you do increase the likely hood of robbery.

What would you recommend taking to somewhere like Zambia?
Clothing; keep it simple and comfortable with good walking sandals, trainers and a hat. I bought the local material called a Chitenge once there to go over my skirt/ trousers for local visits. Many young women do were western dress, but their Chitenge is never far away. Wearing it helped me be accepted as it demonstrated respect.

Depending on what you are doing if you can, make room for items in your suitcase that are either expensive for locals or just not available. Your chosen organisation can help you with this. I have packed puzzles, lego, memory games, reading glasses, bibles, knitting wool, embroidery thread, torches and loads more.

What was it like to return home to somewhere like Scotland after Zambia?


I think I can safely say you will have changed in some way, so be prepared to look at what we have in the UK in a different way. Be prepared to question things, even yourself, what you maybe thought was important. I was taken aback at the adjustments I had to make on my return, which was actually harder than arriving in Zambia at the beginning.  Most people I have met through volunteering also want to return as you get the bug. Enjoy your trip!

If you have any more questions for my mum you can leave them in the comments and I'll pass them on. Or if you want you can read her semi-update Zambian blog here

1 comment :

  1. Your Mum is absolutely fantastic! I've often wondered how Western volunteers would be generally accepted in parts of Africa. I think there is a lot more respect for people who are older over there, compared to here in the UK.

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