For six girls from the European School Culham (ESC), Summer 2016 was one life changing experience. For a short while, we were able to experience life as one of the children at the Funsani Home in Zambia, and practically accepted by them as siblings. To this day, we are often in contact with them via Facebook – when they have the chance to use Internet.
We would wake up and have breakfast at the family table in the dining room at around 8 in the morning, tired after a long night of singing and dancing with the kids. We would only realise later that they themselves had actually been up since 6:00am to feed the chicks and pick vegetables from their patch for a later meal. We were asked to dress with the same etiquette as the girls in the home – long trousers to cover our legs but any top we felt comfortable in – it was a matter of modesty due to a religious upbringing, and we were happy to comply. After preparing ourselves for a long day of games and activities, we sat in the living room playing cards or the keyboard and guitar, waiting out the heat of the day (or the cold in the kids case) to then go outside and play basketball or piggy in the middle.
Eventually after a couple of hours, having run around the garden and learnt new things about each other, we would all go inside and watch a little Indian EastEnders all while starting another series of card games. From Solitaire to ‘Round the world’, there would be cheers and screams of laughter from both the winners and the losers. “Again, again…” would be the extent of the vocabulary used during our games and putting down the pack of cards once we had started was pretty much imposssible.
The 1st September 2016 was Nora’s 14th birthday and the leaders had planned an afternoon at the pool for all of us. Costumes, towels, and cake and we were ready for lunch and a little dip. Although it took a while, we managed to convince almost everyone to join us in the pool for a bit of a splash. Much to our surprise, the kids didn’t know how to swim, therefore our natural reaction was to help them and to try and teach them the basics. By the end of the day they were experts in floating on the surface, holding their breath, and even finding little earing studs that had been lost by a girl on the trip.
As much fun as we had playing and dancing with the kids, we were not only there for fun and games. So, one day we decided to sit down and revise for some upcoming exams the kids had. From early primary maths to advanced physics, we helped them in all kinds of different subjects according to our own various strengths. We wanted to show them that hard work can pay off and that a little bit of extra effort can get you that much further. Having been on holiday for the past two months or so, that day was just as helpful and important to us as it was to them – the teaching and learning went both ways. We later found out that the ‘tutoring’ had been mostly successful and we were happy to hear that some unexpectedly good results meant graduation for one of them.
On the nine hour flight back home we all started talking about how appreciative all the people at the home were for the gifts that we had brought them but also how accepting they all were, willing to teach us new games and songs and getting to know us and our lives. Our experience with them was unforgettable and we all had an amazing time. They were grateful, kind, caring and enthusiastic people that deserve everything good that comes their way and we are happy to say that we managed to contribute a little towards their life and experiences. We also hope to continue supporting them from our side of the world as they grow.