Sarah O’Hanlon in Zambia

27th Nov


Sarah O’Hanlon in Zambia

Account of my time in The City of Hope:  Sarah O’Hanlon

The idea of spending a large chunk of my Summer in Zambia was an exciting one and it wasn’t really until I got on the plane that I began to worry that I hadn’t really thought about what I was getting myself into. Africa seems like such a daunting place from the outside, so foreign and unfamiliar. Little did I realise that I would be immersed immediately into a community in which I felt needed and wanted and unbelievably welcome. From the very beginning I was accepted as a member of the City of Hope and one week in, I was in a routine and felt like I belonged.

There was always something to do and the days were very busy. At home I’m a secondary school teacher so I was set to work straight away. In the morning I would work with the Grade 12 girls before they went to school (The City of Hope School currently only goes up to Grade 11). We would work together preparing for their upcoming exams. Afterwards I taught in the school until lunchtime. Everyone in the school is really friendly and quick to help you when you don’t know your way.

After lunch,  Maura, the other Irish VIDES Volunteer, and I would read with the nine to eleven year olds. Maura had brought books from home and we were able to teach the girls from sounds to words to sentences. This was probably my favourite part of volunteering as we were able to witness the girls progress day by day and amazingly watch them engage with the stories and develop an interest in reading for pleasure.

There were other activities lined up after lunchtime until rosary, which we said  together every day at 17.30. This was a lovely part of the day as everyone, volunteers included, said their part and there was a wonderful sense of community as we prayed and sang together. Afterward the girls had study and the Volunteers would help them with their homework or set them work to do.

The days seemed long but went quite quickly and there was always plenty of time to play with the girls. As we all seemed to share a love of music I spent many evenings  writing down song lyrics for us to sing together the next day.

We did have Saturdays off for the most part and usually after Mass on Sunday also and we seized these opportunities to see places in Africa such as Victoria Falls. Maura and I also visited another orphanage while we were there.

The City of Hope has been running for a long time now so it was easy to slot into a role that had been well established. The sisters are extremely welcoming and approachable and there to talk to whether you need extra blankets or have been bitten by mosquitos! The girls are amazing and want to spend as much time with you as they can. They are bright and brave and funny and I feel really privileged to have been a part of their lives for a short time.

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