Have you ever learned about a new idea or venture and knew you just had to be a part of it? Those were my exact feelings two years ago when I learned that my cousin, Kevin, was joining a family friend on a journey to Zambia. Yes, Zambia! In Africa! This was not just a leisure vacation. Kevin was traveling with a group of volunteers to not only experience an entirely different culture, but to assist the African Education Program (AEP) in their mission to empower vulnerable youth.
As many of you know, AEP and their local branch, the Amos Youth Centre (AYC), located in Kafue, Zambia, is a non-profit organization that offers several Zambian communities with access to education and community center services providing support and other resources for students pursuing high school and college-level educations. Ultimately, AEP and AYC strive to help break the cycle of poverty, HIV/AIDS and other issues in the region through education, leadership and connecting caring people with the students and their families.
Having previously been an educator, I was immediately hooked and wanted to learn more. I was specifically interested in using my background in elementary education to help with any teaching needs for the younger students. After some time passed, I decided that I was in the right place to make this trip work. I reached out to one of the founder, Julie-Anne, to learn more. Having known her as a child, it was great to catch up and learn about her wonderful vision and all of the hard work leading up to this point. I also learned how the volunteers continue to play an integral role in order for the program to operate. I knew I wanted to use this as an opportunity to experience a new culture, but most importantly, I knew I wanted to use my skills to help wherever possible and make a difference for these young people.
For several months, Julie-Anne and I conversed through email regarding the trip. I sent her about a million questions and each time she responded with the facts and anything else that I would need to know and understand about AEP and the community. Of course, my answer was “yes” all around. We met in person a few times and began brainstorming some great ways to enhance the program.
I began to realize that even though I haven’t boarded a plane, my journey had already begun. There was research to do, people to meet and plenty of preparation to jumpstart our new ideas into action.
This is special. This is something I want to do and it’s something worth sharing with others. We’re going to Zambia!