In July we had the pleasure of welcoming GlobalGiving staff member Aleia Bucci to Zambia. Aleia spend time with African Impact and ourselves visiting some of our projects in Livingstone. Her is her story about her time with us.
‘African Impact, an organization that connects volunteers to local projects in Africa, has been around for over 10 years, running projects in 12 different countries and enabling over 12,500 volunteers. The Happy Africa Foundation, established in 2008, exists to manage donations received from the volunteers working on projects for African Impact. The two organizations maintain a close partnership, with Happy Africa funding numerous initiatives and programs where African Impact has projects. African Impact projects are evaluated using a detailed scorecard which includes analyzing long-term viability and impact of the project. Additionally, each project has local community stakeholders, ensuring that the projects are completed in the best interests of those who are benefitting.
In Livingstone, Zambia, African Impact runs multiple projects: teaching assistants, after school activities, reading club, art club, math club, remedial classes, girl impact/empowerment, adult literacy, sports, medical clinics, home-based care, elderly care, health talks, litter picking, and building/construction. As such, there are typically many volunteers cycling through this location. I was lucky enough to be able to spend a lot of time with the volunteers and staff at African Impact – the hostel I stayed at in Livingstone serves as their base, and I stayed there close to 3 weeks. There is a minimum 2-week commitment for volunteers, but most stay around 4 weeks and some even longer. The volunteers are organized by project coordinators who work tirelessly to ensure the volunteers know where they are going and when as there are morning and afternoon sessions for most projects. The coordinators also ensure the volunteers are prepping for their project visits in advance, deal with any issues that arise, and organize all of the logistics (including meal times, transportation, weekend activities, and curfew). Volunteers can range greatly in age depending on time of year, but since it’s now summer break for many universities, most of the volunteers were on the younger side. They come from all over the world, so it was nice to see so many cultures working together seamlessly.
During my official GlobalGiving site visit, I went to the Zambezi Sawmills Primary School. African Impact has been working here for about 6 years and places volunteer teachers in the classrooms. There are close to 600 kids at this school but only 5 classrooms so most kids are only able to attend school for a few hours per day as they must operate on a staggered schedule to accommodate everyone. Happy Africa has recently renovated an existing classroom block and are raising funds to build additional classroom blocks to help with the overcrowding situation. Zambezi Sawmills is a community school, serving only grades 1-7, and therefore does not receive any government funding. By adding more classroom blocks, the school will be able to accommodate grades 8 and 9 to achieve basic school status and begin to receive government funding. This additional source of funding will help the school become more self-sustainable. Another project helping the school to become self-sustainable is a garden. Here, the students are helping to grow their own food for meals while learning about agriculture in the process. Happy Africa also helped fund a borehole at this school so they now have access to safe water.
There are over 70 languages spoken in Zambia, but only 7 are officially taught in schools across the country. This means that for many, school is not taught in their native language, adding another barrier to learning. African Impact created and implemented a Happy Readers scheme, designed to help kids whose second language is English. The teachers use this scheme during their regular classroom teaching, with the help and support of the volunteers. African Impact also organizes a reading club twice per week to help kids further their reading skills.
During my time in Livingstone, I also went on a project visit to see what it was like to volunteer with African Impact for the day. The project I visited was a girl impact session held at one of the local schools. The organization has an incredibly thorough manual of what to teach at each of these weekly sessions and the topic during my visit was saving money. The volunteers took turns teaching the lessons interspersed with activities for the girls to complete. It was really great to hear them share their thoughts and experiences with money and the amount of giggling during the activities seemed like they were enjoying it as well. At the end of the session, the girls all wrote on a chalkboard what they wanted to save their money for. One of the most eye-opening items for me was a girl who wanted to save enough money to see Victoria Falls. This girl has spent her entire life living 5 minutes from the Falls, but has never been able to see it.
Both African Impact and The Happy Africa Foundation are wonderful organizations working incredibly hard to help rural communities throughout Africa. I was very impressed at the level of accountability and systematic structure within both organizations and would encourage anyone who wants to spend time volunteering in Africa to take a look at the wide variety of projects they offer.’
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