My Experiences At Makeni
Over my two and a half month stay at Makeni Ecumenical Centre, I’ve had many, many incredible experiences. I’ve learned a lot of new things, I’ve met a lot of new people, and I’ve found myself doing things I never imagined.
St. Nicholas Children
Working with the children has been my favourite activity by far. I’ve really gotten to know so many of the children and had so much fun with them. The first things I had to do was to learn their names. With thirty one children, it’s not easy. There are some of course, that you get to know right away. Those are the ones who aren’t shy and who take to you right from the start (usually the younger children). The older ones took a while to get to know, but once I did I was very glad and some great friendships arose.
The thing that really started me getting to know the kids was the evening walk. Most days of the week, the children go for a walk around the back roads of the area. This is to give them some exercise as well as some social interaction outside of the Makeni compound. On the first walk I had so much fun singing, laughing and joking with the kids, that every day afterwards I was asked “Teddy, are we going for a walk today?” It became a favourite part of my routine.
Another thing that helped me get to know the boys in particular was playing football with them. On the weekends there are football matches against other Makeni area teams, as well as Tuesday and Thursday afternoon fun games with only the orphanage children. The children were thrilled that I joined in and it was a big help in developing a rapport with the older boys.
Working with the children on their studies was also a lot of fun, and at times a challenge. I soon learned which children were happy or eager to have help, which ones didn’t think they needed it, and which ones avoided work. I found that the big Nursery Rhymes book helped to capture the interest of most of the young children and from there I could get down to their individual reading practise. Individual reading was the main thing I did since almost every one of the children needed a lot of practise. My mathematics knowledge was tested too a fair amount. I found myself wracking my brain for how to teach basic division, and wracking my brain trying to remember how to do more complex algebra. I also found that going over the children’s practise tests helped a great deal.
Another thing I did with the kids was crafts. The kids are usually fairly receptive to craft ideas, although will never take initiative to do crafts without you walking them through it. Drawing is an exception. They never seem to get enough paper to do their doodling and colouring. Greeting cards were a good way to make use of this energy.
Another thing I discovered by accident was the children’s love for music and dancing. They were playing Shakira on the DVD player one day, and I started dancing, and getting the little ones dancing with me, and before I knew it, the dining hall was full of kids dancing their hearts out, having a great time. Like the walks, I was soon being asked over and over when we would play the music and dance again. That was another of my favourite experiences.
Working and just generally spending time with the kids was an amazing experience, from going on the walks to learning the local language, Nyanja, I learned so much about African people and culture and I had such a great time doing it. If I could, I’d do it all over again.
One of the more fun projects, I went from a couple or basketball rims and reinstated the basketball court on the Makeni Centre car park. This project had been conceived a year ago, and Mrs. Dil was anxious for someone to get it finished. I took the job. I found the poles in the store room, and some old table tops became the backboards. I got the children to help me take the poles across the road to the welder, who cut the poles to the right length, and attached frame for the backboards. A little professional help got the poles cemented into the ground, and soon Makeni Ecumenical Centre had a basketball court again. The subsequent basketball lessons and games kept me busy, and were a lot of fun too!
The Butchery Project The butchery project took me by surprise. A butchery expert from Holland, Mr. Lindhorst arrived a few weeks after me, and I was helping Mrs. Dil welcome him, but I was soon wrapped up in the project. I went on a visit to a local meat processing factory, then participated in the actual butchery lessons given to the Makeni agriculture students. I watched how to carve a pig into its different parts and then I did a lot of packaging and pricing for the sale of the pork. I then furthered my knowledge by preparing hams for smoking and actually smoking them using an oil drum and sawdust. I brought closure to the whole episode by eating some of the bacon and ham.
Computer Education Computer education with the children was something I started very late in my visit. The laptop computer for the kids was brought in late November from the UK by Anton Dil. I put it to use training some of the older kids how to use the mouse, start the programs and use the games. It quickly became a hit with all the kids, especially the Cat in the Hat and Lion King games. A lot more work with the kids is required, though, as they are still unsure of what to do in case of any problems. The laptop will be arranged to be left at the orphanage with the house mothers, and should be looked after carefully.
Entertainment While staying at Makeni, I had many great experiences in Lusaka, the surrounding area, and Livingstone. Usually on weekends, these activities fall under the entertainment and/or tourism category.
Weekends at Makeni bring football games, and I usually played with the kids on Saturday or Sunday or both. They were always welcoming and I had a lot of fun. It also allowed me to meet some people from outside the Makeni walls. The children are also very happy to have volunteers in for a film. Any time they were watching one, all I had to do was poke my head in the door and they’d invite me in to sit down.
Saturday is also shopping day, so I went into town with Mrs. Dil and we would spend the afternoon at either Manda Hill or Arcades. Both these shopping centres have a big supermarket for shopping, and also many shops and cafes where we stopped for an ice cream or a milkshake. Arcades also has a cinema and a bowling alley, although I never managed to visit either one.
Outside Lusaka there is the lovely Lilayi Lodge, where we went numerous times for a drink and a swim, or a lunch and a game drive, or a combination of everything. Lilayi was great because it was so close and it offered a calm relaxing afternoon, as well as zebra, giraffe, monkey, and many other animals to see.
Another Lodge that I visited only once, though it was incredible, was the Protea Hotel on the Great North Road. Similar to Lilayi, it offers a great lunch buffet and a calm swimming or relaxing atmosphere. It has some other attractions, though! Mphamvu is their elephant, and you are able to meet her, and even sit upon her. Not a common thing, and very special it was! Protea Hotel also has Lions you can see, as well as a game drive through their plains. Lilayi and Protea were great for relaxing after a long week, and neat African experiences as well.
I was also lucky enough to get down to Livingstone twice during my stay in Zambia. Seeing the Victoria Falls was incredible, and there were some very memorable moments. One such moment was the game drive through the Mosi-Oa-Tunya Game Park, and seeing Mr Njovu (the Makeni driver) next to an njovu (njovu means elephant). The other amazing thing I did in Livingstone was the Livingstone Island Trip, where I swam at the top of the Victoria Falls, and had tea and breakfast looking over the edge.