written by Sian Jones
As I prepare to return to Zambia to volunteer at Shine Zambia Reading Academy for 6 months as a trustee of Shine, I thought I would briefly share with you the journey that has brought me here.
After completing my training as a secondary maths teacher and teaching for two years, I decided to fulfil a lifelong ambition of volunteering in Africa. I dipped my toe into Africa with my first trip during the 2007 summer holiday by spending a month volunteering at a literacy centre in Cape Town, South Africa. Coincidently, it was called The Shine Centre and is an amazing place!
This trip was supposed to quench my thirst, but most people will tell you that once you have visited Africa it gets under your skin. 16 months later I returned to Africa for my FIRST trip to Zambia in January 2009. I spent 8 months volunteering with a charity as part of an HIV/AIDs programme in a rural school. I lived at the school in a house without running water and sometimes without electricity and fell in love with Zambia. The people are amazing, the country is beautiful and the poverty is heartbreaking.
Unfortunately, my experience of working with a charity wasn’t all that positive. Mostly due to the overwhelming poverty and corruption, I didn’t believe the charity was achieving many of its goals. I desperately wanted to be involved with an organisation that was making a difference in Zambia, but finding such an organisation was a challenge!
I returned to Zambia for the SECOND time at the start of 2010 to work at an international school in the Copperbelt region. While I was teaching, I spent 5 months looking for a charity to become involved with, but again I failed to see past the corruption and poverty that drives most organisations in Zambia. I returned in May 2010, defeated.
At this point I had almost given up. But then a friend from the literacy centre I had volunteered with in South Africa 3 years earlier mentioned that a UK charity called Shine had built a school in Zambia. I met the founder, Vineet, just before he was to return to Zambia in June 2010 for 6 months to complete the second phase of construction of Shine Zambia Reading Academy.
After speaking with Vineet about his charity and his vision, I hoped that maybe this was the organisation working in Zambia that I was looking for. I wanted to be sure, so I packed my bags for the THIRD time and hopped back on a plane (actually 3 planes) to Zambia.
I could write pages about how amazing Shine is and the wonderful work it is achieving in Zambia. But all I will say for now is … it was definitely THIRD TIME LUCKY 🙂