This summer I spent nearly 2 months, (from the 8th June to the 29th July), working in Kashima West, a village in the North-Western province of Zambia. I went as part of a student-led society, Edinburgh Global Partnerships, who deliver sustainable, community-led development projects. There I worked with a team of 6 other Volunteers from Edinburgh University, our amazing host – Gerald, the builders on site, and of course the women of Chiseke Women’s Organisation. We were building a zero-waste cooking-oil production centre which converted the locally grown, abundant groundnuts into valuable cooking oil. Not only will the project act as a source of income for the women and the community, but it will provide them with cooking oil for many, many years to come.
Female empowerment is at the heart of the project and Chiseke was made of the most amazing women. We were made to feel so welcome and have found a new home in Kashima West in Zambia.
Throughout last year, we spent 9 months fundraising to reach our goal, (since October 2018), and so hitting target and being able to travel to Zambia with all the funds to implement everything we planned to for the project was an incredible achievement.
The experience was incredibly life changing. It was a completely different way of living to what we are used to, one which we discovered in Kashima as involving the entire community to reach goals. Everyone we met was incredibly self-sufficient, intelligent and friendly. Being detached from the modern world as we know it was something which definitely benefitted me and it was really refreshing to be able to go back to basics – we spent a lot more time reading, playing games and drawing and it was such a good experience to have.
I was nervous before I left. I was nervous that I would struggle with being in somewhere so different for so long. However, I was fine as soon as I arrived. I learnt a lot about being able to adapt to a new environment and this is something I will continue to carry with me. I also learnt how to deal with challenging situations and how being patient and staying calm is one of the most valuable qualities to have – all of which I developed even more during my stay in Zambia.
The impact which this project will have on the community of Kashima and eventually the North Western Province of Zambia is immense. The project is fundamentally a female empowerment project and is aimed to encourage about 1,500 women to be involved in just the next 5 years. If it is as successful as we hope it to be, the project will be able to develop and expand to other communities, villages and the rest of the province. The difference we have made is one which is incredible – we have now formed a partnership with Kashima, Chiseke and Gerald and I will continue with this in the future.