“Rachel, everything is beautiful there. The people, the trucks, and the trees. Even the pollution! The good, the bad, and the ugly!” Last month, I sat listening to my friend, Camille, over the phone, as she expressed her passion for Africa. She had just come home from the continent two weeks prior. Sitting here now, I can honestly say that I share her sentiments exactly, and long for the day when I can go back.
Last summer, I had the magnificent opportunity to travel to Kafue, Zambia for a month. I went with 50 other teenagers through a missions organization called Global Expeditions. After landing in the red, Zambian soil, we took a cramped bus ride to a little church in the middle of the bush. There, we where promptly greeted by Papa and Mama Bushe. Papa Bushe was our unnoficial guide to the area. With a spirit full of enthusiasm, he enjoyed taking us from place to place and telling us everything there is to know about the country of Zambia. He even introduced us to his pride and joy: a three year old banana field that he had harvested. While showing us the beautiful wonders of Zambia, Papa Bushe also made us aware of the tragedies.
Zambia has the largest rising number of children orphaned by AIDS, in the world. While there, I worked with a group of teenage, orphaned girls. Their stories were remarkable. These young ladies began raising their families when they were as young as twelve. They had no parents, no prospects, and rarely enough food for one day. Many had been repeatedly raped and abused. In spite of the tragic circumstances, these precious girls possessed a joy that is beyond my understanding. With no problem baring their hearts to us, we learned many of their stories by the end of the month. I became such good friends with them, that I now lovingly refer to them as “my girls.” While the country of Zambia, in and of itself, is beautiful, my girls surpass the beauty of any landscape.
From these girls, I learned how to find joy in even the most dismal circumstances, and I made friends that will last a lifetime. I will never forget my girls, and I will be eternally grateful for the influence they have had on me. In fact, prior to this trip, I had plans to become a fighter pilot. Now, I am going to get a degree in Education so that I can move back to Kafue and give the Zambian children the education they deserve. If you ever decide to travel to Zambia, enjoy the scenery and the culture, but also be sure to acquaint yourself with the orphaned children. They have been through more than most American adults have been through, and they will teach you more than you can ask for. If you’re anything like me, you’ll fall in love with the country, and never want to come back home.
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