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I spent 4 weeks with Project Luangwa, teaching music at Katapila Basic School, tutoring maths at Mfuwe Day Secondary School, and helping out in the Project Luangwa office. As an 18-year-old on a gap year, I wasn’t sure what to expect from my stay in Mfuwe, but it was a really interesting and enjoyable experience - both for me and for the children I was teaching - and I’m so happy that I did it! 
 
As a musical person, I knew that I could be a unique volunteer at Katapila school, and I think the kids had so much fun and learnt a lot through making music. I had brought with me some percussion instruments and recorders to use (through the very useful Pilot Post Scheme), which was complemented by a recent donation of recorders to Project Luangwa. I had 3 general lesson plans - recorders, percussion and improvisation, and singing. All of the children in Grades 4, 5 and 6 got a chance to try everything; in particular, they were really excited by the recorders which they had never seen before! 
 
With the help of Ireen, the lovely and inspirational headmistress, and the other class teachers in translating what I was teaching, I was able to teach the kids how to play a recorder. It was quite difficult at first, since they have never played any instrument like it before, but slowly it started coming together as they understood how to make a good sound as opposed to a squeak! I eventually taught the two best children, Wisdom and Margaret, how to play the Zambian National Anthem which was extremely impressive after only 4 weeks of lessons and I was very proud of their achievement.
 
The percussion instruments that I brought (including triangles, tambourines, drums, maracas and agogos) led to a very different kind of lesson. I taught them all the names of the instruments, and explained how they are played. Then, I encouraged the kids to be creative through improvisation, teaching them that although percussion cannot produce a melody, you can still make a variety of rhythms. We had fun passing each instrument round in a circle, as each child had a chance to make something up on the instrument! I then moved onto using objects in the classroom, our bodies and our voices, and I showed them that you can make music however and with whatever you want. The kids would always cheer when I walked in with my bag of instruments, knowing that an exciting lesson was coming!
 
I also had a lot of fun teaching the kids to sing ‘This Little Light of Mine’, and they definitely enjoyed it as well. I chose that song because it’s simple, repetitive and catchy, and it’s fun and easy to sing! The kids picked it up incredibly quickly, and the older boys automatically made up a harmony which sounded perfect. Once all three grades knew the song, we had a brilliant jamming session during break time one day with all the kids singing along, playing the percussion and doing some dancing as well! I encouraged everyone to get involved, pulling random kids into the middle of the circle to dance with me.  We also had a massive ‘photo shoot’ - the kids loved seeing photos of themselves and I was extremely happy to oblige! The memory of that day will always stick with me - it completely summed up the life, energy and soul of Katapila.
 
Approaching Katapila in the mornings, the car would be charged by numerous kids shouting ‘Alaina, Alaina’. Some would pass me small green fruits, while others would want to shake my hand or have a short ride in the car, or just grin at me! I think I became part of the community in that time - in particular, I insisted on helping young girls carry heavy containers of water from the borehole to their village, and they would continuously giggle until I put them down. Ireen took me to meet members of the community, and also showed me where to buy some traditional chitenges (colourful African wrap-around skirts). She was also incredibly generous in treating me to traditional African lunches complete with nshima (the staple food made from maize meal), potatoes, beans and assorted vegetables. I am also grateful to Ireen for the colourful, traditional African dress she made for me as a thank you present, since she was so pleased with how happy I had made the kids! 
 
In addition to my mornings at Katapila, I also helped Dave and Karen out in the Project Luangwa office. They have so much work to do for just two people, including looking after over 120 sponsored children, keeping in touch with all of their sponsors, visiting some of the 20 plus schools they assist, updating their systems and coordinating volunteers. I did what I could, mainly assisting with data input by updating the sponsored childrens’ Term 1 grades and expenses. I also spent some afternoons tutoring maths to some of Project Luangwa’s sponsored children at Mfuwe Day Secondary School. It was a challenge, but I think I succeeded in boosting their confidence and increasing their skills.
 
I don’t have a single regret about my decision to come out to Mfuwe as a volunteer. I had so many new experiences, and it was a joy to teach the kids and see them flourish. Their smiles and laughs were a reward in themselves, as was watching them improve in skill and confidence. I’m already planning a return trip next summer!
 
The kids certainly took to everything that Aliana taught them with gusto and her lessons could be heard  three villages away.
Thank you Alaina, for making over 300 kids smile each and every day you were here.

 

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