The following blog post was written by Shelbe Van Winkle, a modzi Co-Op who is currently in Zambia.
Zambia. I came here this past summer for a month long field-study program with Northeastern University. Two weeks into my program and I knew I’d be back. There’s something about this place, though at the time, I don’t think I could have put a finger on exactly what. I’ve been to loads of places, lived in my fair share of countries, and learned my fair share of languages, but I’ve never returned to a place, not really. For me, I’ve always had the mentality of seeing the new. Although I loved the old, the new was foreign, unknown, and exciting. As much as I still want to experience the new, I had a feeling when I left Zambia this past summer that I hadn’t yet experienced everything, and that there was still more “new”. Since arriving here just about a month ago, the feeling that I hadn’t yet experienced everything proved itself true.
For a long time now, I’ve known that I wanted to work in the field of education. I saw an internship with modzi as the perfect opportunity for me to learn more about creating access to education in the developing world. While I saw systemic issues with education when I was first here this past summer, what I didn’t see was how to help solve those issues. That was the “new” I wanted. I wanted to learn how modzi is helping, and how I could help. Education is something everyone should have access to; the fact that kids just a few years younger than I am can’t go to school, angers me. If I can go to school, how in any way is it fair that they can’t.
“You don’t choose where you’re born.” My supervisor and modzi’s President, Anna, has been saying this since long before I arrived in Zambia, but it didn’t really resonate with me until I actually witnessed what she meant. There is a certain stigma here about living in a center (essentially an orphanage, but most kids at centers here still have some family, they just can’t afford to take care of them). Kids living in a center or living on the streets are often times just seen as that: street kids; uneducated; poor; another mouth to feed. What people are missing is that these kids didn’t choose this life; they were given it. And most of them are doing the best they can with what they were given.
educated. Just because they haven’t had the same background as others, doesn’t mean they don’t deserve their human right to education. The only difference between these kids and the people in the world I am coming from, is where they were born. These kids, these people, are trying to make the best of what they were born with, and it’s inspiring to watch such dedication and passion towards things so many people take for granted, particularly school.
After only a month, I’ve seen sadness and tears, fear and uncertainty, along with strength and perseverance, friendship and brotherhood, and mentorship in so many forms. So I guess, after a month of being back in Zambia, I’m finally understanding why I came back; while I’d seen Zambia before, Zambia wasn’t done leaving its mark on me. This country, this place, these people, continue to teach me everyday, and I have the upmost respect for them and the lessons they bring to me. Here, there always seems to be more “new” to experience.