03-11-2010 Eleven friends2be standing on Schiphol airport, checking in for a flight to Zambia. We had a stopover in London, where we drank an English beer on Heathrow and did an introduction round. Most of us knew each other of friend4life gatherings. A divers group with entrepreneurs Hans Duijf, Han de Groot, Meta van den Boom and Michiel Slegt, strategy consultant Odette Perik, Madelon Bogers who works at Orangina, business student David Salcedo, Mirjam Boom and Eveline Aendekerk of dance4life and Pom Zwart who made the documentary about the friends4life trip.
In the plane to Lusaka I was sitting next to a woman who works for the UN in New York and Zambia, we talked about womens rights and Zambia. She fights for womens rights in Africa and we talked for a long time about women emancipation all over the world and that we still have a long way to go.
Ten hours later we arrived in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. The first destination was Kabwe, 150 kilometer north of Lusaka. We had breakfast on the way, the first thing we noticed that people didn’t like to be taken pictures of, they were not used to tourists obviously. After the arrival in the hotel, we met Kate who had lived in Zambia for four years and works for dance4life in Amsterdam now. She visits about 10 countries every year to see how the projects are going. She took us to a very nice lunch place a little outside Kabwe. After this idyllic spot we went to the office where we met Molly (English) and Rose (Zambian) who gave us a presentation about the organization Restless Development which implements the dance4life program in Zambia, their slogan is ‘young people can, young people do’. We got an explanation how it works, where the money goes to and how the program is set up and why. Really impressive to see how the organization is run by young people and mobilizes young people to develop life skills, young leadership and livelihoods development thought sharing and learning.
At the end of the day we got a tour around the market. People didn’t want us to use the camera, we were the only white people in the village so quite an attraction. Han was the only one who bought some tomatoes and red herbs, he left the worms and dried fish for what it was.
At night we had a great local food buffet, a regular dish here is ‘meali’, a maize porridge with beef or chicken. It was a beautiful evening: under date trees, Rose gave a private concert, Hans played the drums on wine bottles and glasses and we shared thoughts on our first day in Zambia.
The second day we left at eight o’ clock in the morning to visit a HIV hospital, that was tough: children were orphans or HIV positive and older people laid on beds with different diseases. The average age people die in Zambia is at 38 year old, so the perspective on life is rather different!
After this visit we went to go a school to see the schools4life program. Young people are taught in a cool way about HIV and how to prevent it. Through role plays, songs and dance the teachers tried to get a serious message across and even more important, it inspires them to go out there and actually do something about it and become actively involved as an agent4change. An agent4change takes parts in the school4life activities. We talked with six agents from twelve to sixteen years old, very inspiring to see their energy and developing leadership skills. At one o clock we returned to the office where we had a local lunch. There was a girl who started after here studies (social work) as a volunteer and now she is travelling all over Afrika to spread the movement. We were all impressed with the people who work for dance4life, you can make a difference! We talked about the social life in Zambia and how it affects the way people look at sex and their sexual life.
In the afternoon we could join children in a performance of the heart connection tour. Schools are visited by the dance4life schoolteam, people like dancers, musicians, peer educators and young people living with AIDS called positive speakers. The positive speaker was a woman who told her story about her being affected with HIV and how she lived with that, about the stigma she had to deal with. I remembered the story of a Dutch positive speaker at a dinner at Duncan’s house a year ago: a woman in Amsterdam in her thirties who got infected by ‘just a boyfriend’. Here one out of seven is HIV positive so that is a different story. We danced the dance4life drill, sang and laughed, great to see how Africans bond and communicate through dancing!
In the evening we had dinner at the Molly’s farm a little outside Kabwe. Molly’s husband prepared a great meal for us. Hans had this brilliant idea to go to a wildlife park three hours drive from Lusaka on the Zambezie River. Mirjam made some calls and in an hour we arranged a reservation at a lodge on a privat island with elephants and hippos. This night I couldn’t sleep, the day had been so intense, struggling with thoughts about life being so unfair and unreasonable.
The third morning in Africa we returned to Lusaka at eight to visit an AIDS clinic where people can get an HIV test or man could get circumcised. Han, Hans, David and Michiel were very intrigued but unfortunately nobody wanted to be a guinea pig.
At noon we drove in about four hours to the lodge. A great drive through nature with little tribe villages along the roads. Our …bus with Eveline, Madelon, Mirjam, Han and David got a funny, not to mention …reputation, I really enjoyed these hours driving in Africa, it felt like a ‘schooltrip’. I was wondering whether it was the African air, the synergy between us or the malaria pills that led us to these conversations. We had to cross a river with a small ferry boat and finally we arrived at the Zambezie river. A boat took us in ten minutes to the Island. I stayed in a beautiful little wooden lodge with Madelon and Pom underneath our mosquito nets. At sunset we made a boat trip on the river where could see elephants, hippos, crocodiles and lots of birds. At night we sang songs of the eighties and had a great dinner at the main lodge, local ‘Crocodile Dundee’ Richard explained us about the wild life and working life in Zambia. ———————————————————————-
The fourth morning in Africa, Han woke us up at five o’clock, the sunrise was absolutely stunning! Five canoes were waiting for us. I was kind of scared to peddle so close to the elephants, crocodiles, monkeys and hippos, but it was an amazing experience to see these animals so close in the wild: www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOWMC32OthE
After a nice brunch and swim in the pool we had to go back to Lusaka to meet with the Dutch ambassador of Zambia in his house. Eveline explained him about dance4life, we had lots to drink and eat and talked about charity, politics and corruption.
We returned to the hotel at eight o’clock for a dinner with three agents4change who had just stayed in Amsterdam for seven weeks. Two girls and a boy, full of energy and spirit, hopefully future leaders who already at a young age try to make a difference.
The last morning in Africa we had to get up early again because our flight to London was at nine. Ten hours in the plane went by so quickly with talking, eating, sleeping and watching movies. On Heathrow Airport we had our last dinner at Wagamama. Kind of sad but thankful we were back safe and sound, we said goodbye. A big applause for Mirjam and Eveline for the great organization, Pom for being so patient with the camara and friends4life Hans, David, Han, Michiel, Meta, Odette and Madelon, what a great positive energy this group had, it couldn’t have been better: thank you all for these special days in Africa!
Marlies Katy Smit