So I climbed on a bus and travelled for forty eight hours through Southern Africa, spent a week volunteering on the African plains and then spent forty eight hours on another bus traveling home to my family. Something that I never ever dreamt I could do. I lived to tell the tale. More than that, I totally loved it.
The thing is, I had so much fun and so many photographs that it is going to be more than a few blog posts. This is really just an introduction to the whole adventure, and a series of blogging about life in Zambia will follow…
Se7en + 1 Stories Introducing The Zambian Festival of Action
1. The GreenPop Story
I have blogged about GreenPop many times, their story is such a good one. I will be blogging about it again and again. GreenPop, are a group of Cape Town based environmentalists that plant trees both in Cape Town and in Zambia… They are a great way for families to get volunteering together and to get environmentally aware all at the same time. As fast as the world is cutting down trees, folk need to be planting trees. In South Africa, where the divide between those that have trees and those that don’t is so wide, it seems even more vital to be planting trees. We need to create a culture that is continually planting trees, every tree planted has to make a difference, even the smallest difference to the deficit.
2. The Zambia Story
Green pop have been planting trees in Zambia since 2012. Zambia happens to be one of the most deforested countries in the world. Power shortages throughout the country mean that folk rely on charcoal as a source of energy in their homes. Charcoal is made by slow burning trees… and not exactly slowly but surely, their resources or trees are literally dwindling away. In an effort to put something back… GreenPop have been planting trees there and trying to create awareness and sustainable solutions for their energy problem. There is so much more to this story than planting trees. They have spent years building relationships with schools and communities in the Livingstone area and returning to farms year after year to plant trees with the people. They have an excellent team of educators, that enable communities and volunteers to learn together, so that they can do something sustainable and of immense value to everyone everywhere, and not just those who are planting trees.
2. The Volunteer Story
I fully believe that volunteers can make serious and practical difference, just being there because they have chosen to be there, being their as an enthusiastic game player can significantly change and uplift. And this is the surprising thing about volunteering, the change and upliftment tends to happen in the heart of the volunteer, just as much as in the project they are working on.
The very dynamic GreenPop team have a the ability to motivate volunteers as their workforce. Frankly, I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t want to plant a tree alongside the World Heritage Site of Victoria Falls. Who wouldn’t love to plant trees with local school children and see their world open up as they take on ownership of their beautiful fruit trees. Editors from the United States, ecologists from Australia, students from Germany, travel guides from Sweden and heaps of folk from all walks of life, joined the volunteer team. But it isn’t just about trees and it isn’t just about ultra-green folk, or even eco-tourism. It is about ordinary people, who may or may not recycle, they may or may not choose to be vegan, they may even have never ever planted a tree before. But there is something magical and significant about planting a tree with someone on the far side of the world. And knowing that five years or ten years from now… the rows and rows of little trees will be orchards, providing food and shade, not to mention oxygen.
3. The Sustainable Story
The one thing that happened continuously throughout the week was that we didn’t stop learning, for even a moment. As a life long learner, this totally appealed to me. This is a story that is so not just about trees. There is so much to learn about so many different environmental issues… Yes, I learned how to plant a tree properly, but I also learnt all about sustainable farming, permaculture, zero garbage – it is a real and doable thing. Recycling, up-cycling and tree identification, the list just goes on. The GreenPop team had a continuous flow of micro-projects for volunteers to get involved in. Each member the GreenPop team seemed to have an incredible and amazing passion for sharing their knowledge, projects for folk to join them in and exciting ways for all of us to learn new skills.
4. The Local Story
The thing about Zambia is that I have never met such friendly folk, ever in my whole life… just fun loving loveliness. A walk down the street took about forever, folk came out of their houses to greet us. There is no such thing as just catching a bus or a taxi, without having a long conversation with everyone involved. The students were so eager to learn and the the local folk that we planted trees with were a curious and engaging crowd, they wanted to learn more and they wanted to share their knowledge too. The kids we met and connected with were such a collection of joy, it goes beyond words how much we learnt from them. These kids have a lot of problems in their environment and they are looking for innovative and creative solutions. A thirteen year old that together with his best friend, has invented an electro magnetic hover craft, because lets face it a skateboard just won’t work in a dusty township. There was a young guy who has invented a new low energy oven… and he just keeps working on it and will keep on reinventing until he is happy with it. It isn’t about what they are going to do when they grow up, it is all about what problem they are going to solve when they are older.
5. The Camp Story
The GreenPop Camp was the friendliest place I have been, the leaders went out of their way to make us feel tremendously welcome all the time. They provided a continuous flow of feasts and campfire entertainment, hard work when we needed to work and rest and recovery when we needed a break. The volunteers were folk from all over the world… really far and wide. A friendly bunch, each with their own unique story… I spent my time just meeting folk and hearing their stories. It was really the most incredible experience.
6. My Story
One peace of advice, from older moms, that I have always ignored is “take care of yourself.” I know this to be true, but I never do. So twelve days away from home was a little chance for me to a lifestyle refresh. My personal goal was to take care of myself and literally fill my “bucket” with plenty of sleep, healthy eating and just connecting with amazing and interesting folk who were a lot taller than my proverbial knee. It all began with a cracker of a headache on the first day of my trip and that was because I left coffee and most sugar behind. After that first day I didn’t even miss it. To be honest I didn’t miss the internet either, it wasn’t available and I just didn’t miss it.
7. Our Story
So the time has come for my kids to see that I am not just an adventurer in theory, or “in ancient days, before they were born I did adventurous things.” They need to know that I practice what I preach and for all the strange and crazy projects I take them on, I also do a few myself. They had a wild and fun time at home. They spent days hanging out with friends and going on adventures without me… and they lived to tell the tale. The laundry was done and the dishes washed, and they all seemed to thrive with a break from their mother person. It is in my nature to seize an opportunity and this was a great opportunity, so much so that I would love to take my gang to Zambia next year to plant heaps of trees and meet incredible people that live their. A year ago it was an unimaginable dream for me to go Zambia with GreenPop. Each time our kids join GreenPop for planting day I see their hearts itching to explore a little further, I have no doubt that there will be a number of dreamers in our house, plotting and planning ways for them to get to Zambia as well.