Inspiration and exhilaration at Amos Youth Centre

Philip We heard the beat of the drums from about 100 yards away. As we drew closer to the Amos Youth Centre, we realized the music was meant to welcome us. We certainly felt welcome, but were also overwhelmed with emotions. Dozens of children lingered outside as we made our arrival. AYC’s drama club staged a performance, warning of the hazards of HIV and AIDS, which is a huge problem in Zambia. There were drummers and dancers and singers. Enthusiasm and excitement were everywhere. We swayed and clapped at the spectacular scene. Gideon, wearing traditional African garb, danced with the energy of an Olympian.

The center is an attractive, low-slung brick red brick building. Out front hangs a sign: “Amos Youth Centre. Our missions empowers youths through education, mitigating the impact of HIV and AIDS in the community.”e made our arrival. AYC’s drama club staged a performance, warning of the hazards of HIV and AIDS, which is a huge problem in Zambia. There were drummers and dancers and singers. Enthusiasm and excitement were everywhere. We swayed and clapped at the spectacular scene. Gideon, wearing traditional African garb, danced with the energy of an Olympian.

We were moved even more by the display inside. Children crowded the center, where books line every wall of the larger front room. Signs on the wall welcomed us all by name. There were individual signs for most of us, and each one said: “We love you.” Needless to say, there were a few tears. We sat against the central wall, and wave after wave of children and teenagers funneled past us. Hugs, smiles, and names were exchanged. Every second was exhilarating as we tried to soak in and remember every moment.

“We’re so grateful you came,” said Fred, the AYC Program Manager. “Two-hundred and eight students are sponsored, and 30 are in college. We would not have been able to do that without you. We would appreciate it if you would come back again. The kids are happy to see you.”

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Added Mario: “They all need to go to college. We need to bring back a lot of money.”

Before we were able to digest everything that was happening, another performance began. More drums, more dancing, and a young student dressed as a witch doctor. Agnes explained the theme of the sketch: “Don’t depend on witch doctors. You need to go to the medical doctor when you’re sick.”

We toured the center, which also includes a kitchen, bathroom, and three rooms that can be used for teaching and studying. A third performance began after the tour­ on the importance of maintaining the culture of Africa.

“Despite our many tribes, we are one,” Agnes said.

Everybody bonded with the students and children. Mario, Julie-Anne, Karen, and Sofia were swarmed by friends they’ve made during their previous visits. Susan, Carly, Kathy, Julien and Ira began making new friends. Both Susan and Carly almost immediately had crowds of younger kids surrounding them and hugging them.

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As we made our way back outside, Julie-Anne lent Carly some advice should she choose to settle down in Kafue.

“If you want to get married in Zambia, learn to make Nshima,” Julie-Anne said. “Only Sofia can get married in Zambia. She’s mastered the art of Nshima.”

Once outside, we walked to the market about a half mile away on dirt roads. Children and adults passed on foot and bicycle, and women walked by balancing large containers of maize atop their heads.  There were a variety of stores, most of which were stone rooms or thatched huts. Again, we were reminded of the huge differences in the standard of living.  It was also a chance to get to know the students in a less crowded setting.

“We love you,” said Bertha, a boarding student under AYC sponsorship is in the drama club and also enjoys poetry.  “We look at you as our fathers and mothers. You are everything to us.”

Added Mario: “She’s an incredible young lady.”

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After stopping by the center again and enjoying various conversations with the students, we walked to the boarding house. Like the center, it’s a basic well-maintained building surrounded by poverty. A vegetable garden is in the yard. We toured the boarding house, where we witnessed more striking and inspirational singing and dancing. Julie-Anne, Kathy, Sofia, Carly, Susan, Julien, and Ira all were all invited to dance.

The second day was mostly about celebrating and meeting each other. Work was accomplished, however.  Interviews began for prospective students. With more than two weeks left for most of us, our work and fun has just begun.