Volunteer Voices

I am a volunteer who happens to have a passion for writing. I was inspired to reach out to the African Education Program when Julie-Anne Savarit-Cosenza, executive director, Joy Mweemba, youth center executive director, and Smart Lungu, a university graduate, visited my high school, Julie-Anne’s alma mater. I was captivated by how passionately all of the presenters spoke about their time with AEP. It instantly seemed like such a positive community, and I realized right away the weight of the issues they were working to solve. I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of. I’ve only been working on the blog for a short while now, but I’ve had the opportunity to talk with various staff members and volunteers. One thing connected each individual that I have interviewed so far: a motivation for change and an undeniable focus on morality and goodness. 

Alexandre facilitates a discussion with a group of students at the youth center.

Alexandre facilitates a discussion with a group of students at the youth center.

In an interview with Alexandre Colas, a July 2019 volunteer, Alexandre explained his ultimate motivation for travelling to Zambia. “I really wanted to be useful, and especially I really wanted to volunteer in education in an organization like AEP. We are living in developed countries. [Education] is a right for us. But for them it’s really a privilege. I wanted to challenge myself also. It was the first time I was teaching.” Alexandre’s primary role throughout the duration of his trip was as a maths and history teacher. His students were mostly in grades 9, 10, 11, and 12. Due to the previous lack of history classes and curriculum that would provide students with historical knowledge surrounding Africa (aside from Zambia itself), Europe, or Asia, Alexandre had a key role in expanding their world view. Well aware of the importance of these lessons, he remarked, “I really wanted them to understand how the world, how humanity, is going.”

Alexandre’s experience was not just educational for the students in Kafue, but also for himself, “I learned about Zambia in general: what the challenges are in Zambia today, a new culture, a new people. Very kind. I also learned a lot about me, as a teacher. It was interesting to see how easily I could adapt to a new environment, because I was alone in a very different country.” 

Alexandre and AEP’s #1 Volunteer, Momma Mario, pose for a photo after a history class.

Alexandre and AEP’s #1 Volunteer, Momma Mario, pose for a photo after a history class.

It’s easy to imagine that we, as citizens of this planet, understand what other people go through. We are able to see what is going on in the world around us through the tabloids and headlines of newspapers. This was a point Alexandre returned to often : “We as people, living in developed countries, we are not having the same life. We are living, they are just surviving. If you don’t see it, you cannot be aware of it. We know in newspapers that there are problems in Africa, that development is not going well for most countries. Going to Zambia really opened my eyes about how deep inequality is in the world.” 

Alexandre’s family has provided a college scholarship for Peter who is studying at the Kafue Institute of Health Sciences.

Alexandre’s family has provided a college scholarship for Peter who is studying at the Kafue Institute of Health Sciences.

Alexandre’s time with the program did not end when he returned to Paris. The work he did inspired him to continue helping back home. He plans on contacting his university’s administration to see if he can arrange a partnership with the youth center. Additionally, Alexandre and his family are contributing financially to the organization: “I’m going to sponsor a few kids; I’m going to fund their school fees with my parents. We already made a donation.” For Alexandre, a lifelong passion began last summer, and the people of Kafue can expect to see him again in July 2019. 

If you choose to spend your own time volunteering, it is so important to find something you are passionate about. This was clearly the case for Alexandre; working with the AEP was a complex and emotional experience. When asked what he learned from his trip in Zambia, Alexandre responded, “It’s going to take a lot of time for me to know about what I learned there. It was very intense and very moving. I still need time to see what this experience brought me. “

If your passions align with the mission of the African Education Program, there are many ways you can get involved! 

Your volunteering experience allows you to contribute to the mission of the AEP, as well as foster wonderful relationships with staff, students, and yourself. Stephanie, a 2015 volunteer, remarked: “It feels weird to be back! It will certainly be an adjustment! I miss the kids already.”

Estelle aComment