Kanakantapa is a small rural village located in a very poor area about an hour's drive outside of Lusaka, Zambia. We only knew it existed because a good friend we made at Cha Cha Cha Backpackers in Lusaka was the organizer of a charitable effort in the village. She had started up a program whereby young medical students from the UK volunteer to come down to Zambia for a few weeks to help rural kids learn about how to take care of basic medical needs for themselves and their families.
We decided to join the regular volunteers for a day to see what their program was like. Our trip started outside Cha Cha Cha when the truck came to pick us up in the morning. As the truck slowly made its way along the dirt roads towards the town, we picked up many kids and bystanders on the way through. It took a little over an hour to reach our destination; it sure was a bouncy and dusty ride!
The program takes place inside the open-air neighbourhood school in the Kanakantapa area. My wife (a teacher) had the opportunity to teach a lesson about astronomy to the kids with the help of a translator - what fun! At lunch time we ate with the teachers at the school and talked about teaching and the differences in our cultures. They taught us how to eat Zambia's traditional meal, nshima, which most Zambians eat 3 times a day (if they're lucky), 365 days a year. Nshima is basically a maize porridge - it is popular throughout sub-Saharan Africa, although it may go by different names in different countries. You should definitely try it at least once sometime when you're in Zambia. It's rather bland, but a bit of salt and garnish can go a long way in making it at least semi-tasty!
Interacting with Zambian kids is always a rewarding experience - they're genuinely thrilled to see you and love to share their stories and play with you! Soccer, dancing and playing games are just some of the ways African kids like to have fun. The more excited you become, the more excited they will become, of course!
Many people are apprehensive about getting involved while in Africa because they believe they'll have to give up huge amounts of time from their already short trip, but this is not necessarily the case - it is possible to make a difference - even just for a day! The Kanakantapa project is just one example of the many simple ways you can get involved and make a small difference in the lives of some wonderful people. Not only will you help out the community, but you'll have the chance to observe African life in an authentic setting.