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  1. 1. Emily Bundy 25 July 2022 Reflective Essay Lessons From Zambezi: A Look Back on a Time of Accompaniment “If you don’t want to be uncomfortable, get out. If you are going to complain all day, also get out. It’s a short walk back to the convent from here.”- Jeff Dodd In reflecting upon the plethora of memories and experiences that defined my time in Zambezi, it would be both effective and meaningful to choose virtually any moment or relationship as the canvas for my reflection. However, no experience personally challenged me, exposed me to more authentic experiences, or caused me to engage in deeper reflection like the day-trip to Kalandola. As I left Zambezi District Hospital that morning, I never could have imagined the impact that this single day would have on me as a person as well as the other members of the health team and our Zambian friends. Pulling out of the parking lot, Abbey mentioned to the kids in the back of our pick-up truck, “We are headed to the most remote place I have ever been to. Just think about what it may be like.” Knowing that Abbey had spent quite a bit of time in Africa both sparked my intrigue and sowed a little fear, however I felt prepared and curious as I knew whatever lay ahead would be poignant. Several of the concepts and readings that shaped our nightly reflections could have been broadly applied to many study abroad experiences that focused on immersion in more remote locations. However, the uniqueness of our Zambezi experience, founded in accompaniment, lent well to highlighting certain discussions for me as a visitor, learner, and leader. Kalandola exemplified manifestations of servant leadership, the opportunities to engage in discussions regarding the complexity of problems often reductively seduced, and the epitome of African values in action, all while providing occasion for meaningful accompaniment. While it is geographically obvious that the journey to Kalandola would highlight rural African cultural values, its isolation and use of more traditional practices displayed these cultural tenets distinctly from other Zambian areas. The strong African value system is pervasive throughout all aspects of life,
  2. 2. belief, and relationship, its foundation in articulated core perceptions. I was continually reminded of the commitment to and sacredness of respecting these principles as unspoken, yet universally understood cultural mandates of good behavior, community care, and cultural aptitude. A sense of community. “The African idea of security and its value depends on personal identification with and within the community” (Watts, 2016). An amazing spirit of community was visibly active in Kalandola. It is understood that community manifests in a myriad of exhibitions in African culture: a sign of safety, a physical location for meeting together, “a transcendental…custodian of the individual’s ideas”, a description of the African extended family system, an obligation for “individual responsibility within the communal ownership and relationship”, and an opportunity for shared dialogue and conversation (Watts, 2016). Essentially African community resides in a deep care that Africans and Zambians have for each other. The many facets of community were made known to us over our time in Kalandola, starting with its physical structure. Unlike most of the other villages and towns we had visited, Kalandola had one central meeting point for community gathering, marked by the Zambian flag pole: the central kitchen, an open stick hut surrounding a campfire and two braziers, and the school, an open-air building with wooden benches facing a singular worn chalkboard. At meal times, the people of Kalandola come together to share in the offerings of the day, splitting responsibilities for preparation from farm to table, cleaning, and camaraderie. It was truly inspiring to witness their communal spirit. Everyone is cared for, everyone is fed. The idea of community care was further made evident to me in the collective concern of several individuals coming up to our healthcare team for assistance with a serious medical concern of a friend. They understood that this may be the only chance for her healing, hence they made an effort; they cared for their neighbor. My observations reinforced the tenet that a sense of community is the cornerstone of African culture, a foundation for other societal principles to build upon. Zambians cultivate good human relations, directly informing how they care for each other, serve as problem solvers, and view distinct communities. Interactions are between intercommunity groups and intracommunity groups and individuals, yet “everyone is accommodated” (Watts, 2016). Despite the challenge of communication between us and the villagers, I could observe differences in the ways in
  3. 3. which they approached us as visitors as opposed to how they approached fellow Zambians from different regions like Mama Josephine and Eucharia. However, ultimately, they went out of their way to make all of us feel welcome and accommodated. Kalandolans also value the sacredness of life. While I engaged more directly with discussions of mental health with the people of Zambezi, the intrinsic societal objection towards violence and self-harm was made present in Kalandola as well. Sadly, the community teacher was intoxicated and acting inappropriately. His potential violence with other community members was not tolerated in the least; he was excluded from the community that day in order to protect us, despite his pivotal village role. Western concerns such as suicide or murder are essentially irrelevant to discuss based upon strong cultural objection towards these acts. Life is to be protected, as God is the only one that can give and take life. Beliefs such as these allude to another one of their core values, respect for the sacred and religion. While we were not exposed to the formal religious practices of the Kalandola community, it was clear that they valued spirituality in both their blessings of us as visitors and in their kind words throughout their welcome greetings and songs, “We thank God for your return”. Their practice of spirituality again centers on community to practice and praise together, sharing in songs of gratitude and prayers of hope for prosperity and good fortune. Kalandola epitomized the combination of these values to create a cohesive nurturing community. Nowhere else did I feel the generosity of the African sense of hospitality more strongly than in Kalandola. From plentiful lunch offerings to parting gifts and thoughtful intentionality, we were truly welcomed, loved, and cared for. Throughout Zambia, I was humbled by the generous hospitality we encountered as strangers; I soon came to realize its integral place in their strong cultural norms. At first, it made me uncomfortable. Visible poverty made their lavish gifts seem that much more unnecessary and self-sacrificing. However, it was clear that they did not believe the same, priding themselves on giving. I needed to learn how to receive. As we began to say our goodbyes in Kalandola, a few of us hopped back into the bed of our truck only to be greeted by fifty pounds of peanuts, eighty pounds of processed maize, four stalks of banana bunches, several pumpkins, and a very live goat. Naturally, the goat was placed in the back next to me-what a ride! In that moment I could have chosen to show my internal discomfort,
  4. 4. however the pride and generosity beaming on the faces of the beautiful people of Kalandola made it all worthwhile (except for when the goat gifted me with its urine half-way through the turbulent ride back to the convent). In many ways these values seem not to be stand-alone principles, but rather a network of practices that together shape life, relationship, and belonging. The significance of community was illustrated through the spiritual singing and the desire for good human relations, while their hospitality made us as visitors one with their people. I am called to remember many of the friends I came to know over my time in Zambezi who exemplified this intricate cultural web. For example, Jessie calling me to sit alongside her on the tailor bench to learn her techniques, all while describing her love for her neighbor, the ways in which she is trying to inspire the coming generation, and the culture she has intentionally created of creativity and education in her shop. She wouldn’t let me leave without an extra chitenge pouch. These principles do not need to be verbally iterated or posted, but rather the people’s exemplary life practices, made vividly visible to me as a embraced visitor, reinforce their deep care, respect, collectiveness, and authenticity. “The great leader is seen as servant first, and that simple fact is the key to his greatness” (Greenleaf, 2005). The title of servant leader is thrown around quite casually in many spheres today. First pondered during my time in high school, this concept was the foundation of one of our educational units, however only manifested through the lens of ‘as leaders we must not command but also contribute to the real work’. In America, it is viewed as an idealized leadership form that aims to break the stereotypical and often damaging hierarchical models that normally define corporate systems. As Greenleaf (2005) mentions, “the only truly viable institutions will be those that are predominantly servant-led.” Bolstered by the engrained sense of community in Zambian culture, I witnessed a plethora of servant leaders that did not seek positions of leadership for self-gain or aggrandizement, but rather to practice service and commitment to one’s neighbor. Greenleaf (2005) highlights the stark difference between those who yearn to serve first and those who start as a leader; it lies in the sentiment of care. While the health team was volunteering in the ante/post-natal care unit, I had the pleasure of knowing community health assistant,
  5. 5. Rachel Nonge. Having once sold scones in the market to bring in income for her two adopted nieces, she looked for more stable work at the district hospital. She began by serving the dozens of women that would come in the doors each day through personalized counseling, record taking, comprehensive physical checks, and medication distribution. However, she soon discovered a discrepancy in available resources between expectant mothers, taking it upon herself to close that gap, purchasing clothing and blankets with her own money to distribute where she felt it was most needed. Her care was radiant, fostering a sense of trust and community among the women, allowing Rachel to be a treasured leader that mothers would look up to when encountering domestic and maternal challenges. It was clear that through her service Rachel had become supremely respected, allowing her to extend positive change beyond the walls of her department and into the community. Many other women stood out to me as strong examples of servant leaders during our time in Kalandola as well, epitomized by our own Mama Josephine. As soon as our truck came to a stop, she hopped out to the embrace of several hugs from the women of Kalandola, serenading her in beautiful song. Not three minutes later, when the women’s voices were growing tired, did Josephine jump in giving new energy for the tunes, standing alongside to welcome us into the village. Sparked by her political activism throughout the history of Zambia, Josephine is renowned as a strong leader. Through her commitment to service in care for her local community and the greater national community she became recognized an influential feminine figure. In her capacity with our group in Kalandola she became the emblem of a servant leader: serving as the translator between us and the community, seeking opportunities for us to engage with their traditional cultural practices, using strength and her position to reprimand the intoxicated teacher, and instilling in the community the need to evaluate that situation long term. While she cherishes visiting the Kalandola community, she was there to serve us, in turn providing opportunities for community growth. Mama Josephine continually looks outward in service for others, following the guide, “except as we venture to create, we cannot project ourselves beyond ourselves to serve and lead” (Greenleaf, 2005). I will seek to implement the community cognizant approach to service that I observed so presently in this place when I engage in my own communities at home.
  6. 6. Having never been to Africa before, I was struck at first by its physicality: the decrepitation of the infrastructure, the overabundance of trash adorning the streets, the visible poverty. Instinctively I began to propose solutions in my head, ‘why don’t they just start a trash service?’, ‘why doesn’t the government implement a food system to combat malnutrition?’, ‘why don’t they dig wells for clean water?’. I had become victim to The Reductive Seduction of Other People’s Problems (Martin, 2016). Henri Nouwen (2022) reflects on this same occurrence stating, “They see poor houses, hungry people, dirty streets; they hear people cry in pain without medical care, they smell unwashed bodies, and in general are overwhelmed by the misery that is all around them.” I call to mind the sentiments of this reading in regards to my time in Kalandola, as I did not feel overcome by physical appearances like I had initially, however was instead amazed by the good work I observed and what I received. It had become evident to me through our time in Zambezi that the amount of easy fixes that had been provided to the communities- cheap roads, broken wells, shipments of American t-shirts, were less desirable than more intentional solutions such as education and long term planning. While some short-sighted projects too were present in Kalandola, the community also had made an intentional effort to support their connection with the Save Environment and People Agency (SEPA), a well-run and financially viable environmental organization in Zambezi that took it upon themselves to cultivate Kalandola through farm-safety tools and other agricultural support-the livelihood of their village. This partnership also fostered intracommunity leaders to sustain the projects and manage the administrative components of community development. It was recognized that sustainable solutions were complex, a partnership of accompaniment developed in response. SEPA leaned “in to systemic complexity with a kind of idealistic sobriety,” inspired by a community call and a “fresh energy for change” (Martin, 2016). It was validating and inspiring to witness domestic needs being targeted domestically, fueled by the cultural foundation of serving community. My heart will forever be touched by the beautiful communities and people of Zambia as I “discovered that in the smiles of the children, the hospitality of the people; the expressions they use, the stories they tell, the wisdom they show, the goods they share; there is hidden so much richness and beauty, so much affection and human warmth” (Nouwen, 2022).
  7. 7. HEALTH EDUCATION TEAM REFLECTIONS I feel honored to have been part of the dynamic, spontaneous, curious, thoughtful, and eager health education team. Even before the start of our time in Zambia, we were busy in preparation, researching pertinent health topics, and crafting the curriculum for our classes. Our group was intentional about arriving prepared, yet open to the interests of our students and the opportunities we had to learn valuable information from their practices, medical beliefs, and lived experience. I did not have many, or any, expectations regarding what my experience on the health team would look like. In retrospect, I am very glad that I didn’t, as the spontaneous moments that often fueled our interactions proved to be the most eye-opening, valuable, and authentic. Based on past groups’ reflections and the trusty direction of Jeff, we planned for approximately 12 classes worth of content. This number turned out to be advantageous, while still allowing us time to accommodate student interests as well as miss a few classes for day trips. Looking up relevant topics on the World Health Organization and global medicine sites helped to narrow our focus to Zambia-relevant health topics, meeting with Eucharia, (our wonderful nurse collaborator at the Zambezi District Hospital) hearing her insights as an experienced professional in the field was crucial. She stressed addressing the prevalence of malaria as well as encouraging mental health discussions, as the topic of mental illness is still relatively taboo. Melding our curriculum with Eucharia’s guidance we crafted a course plan. I was pleasantly surprised and greatly encouraged by the success of our classes. Starting from the first day we routinely had 30-35 students from all different professions, backgrounds, and skill levels eager to learn and educate each other. A couple nursing students joined us daily which immensely alleviated some translation stress with medical terms. The classes that were most successful either implemented areas of hands-on student engagement or pertained to extremely relevant topics. CPR practice, wound packing, and tourniquet placement (with attainable materials) were active and dynamic, drawing the students into taking an active role in their own communities. The health sessions on family planning and mental health also included lots of activities, time for personal reflection, as well as community discussion fostered in a safe environment for sharing. Finally, the classes regarding water
  8. 8. safety/water purification methods and HIV/AIDS were well received, as both diarrheal diseases from unclean water and the spread of HIV are very real problems affecting Zambezi as a community. It was so inspiring to see the engagement of the students as they vigorously wrote notes about new purification strategies they learned, or about how to encourage regular STI testing with friends and loved ones. The students loved the graduation ceremony at the end of the course, really appreciating that the “topics covered” were included on the certificate to present to future employers regarding their competencies. A few aspects of the experience could have been improved and streamlined. For future health students, try to reach out before departure with a local professional to gauge topical interest and relevance, as our discussion with Eucharia helped us to narrow down and weed out topics for our classes. As a general cohort, try to coordinate times for the class that don’t conflict with other Gonzaga offerings. While scheduling was generally okay, we did have a few students that would have to leave early for computer class or who missed one or the other offerings due to a time conflict. As previously mentioned, the more active participation you can include in the classes the better. Not only does it “ensure” engagement, but it also helps you to gauge comprehension and applicability, helping to adapt future plans. Our students really loved periodic quizzes (~10 questions) for fun-great students! Outside of our classes each afternoon, we spent a good amount of time at the Zambezi District Hospital. This year was the first time that this relationship was more officially fleshed out; after a bit of a slow start it was really wonderful. We were fortunate to convince the lead administrator of the district to allow Eucharia to work with us daily. Not only did her presence help to engage us with the different departments, but she also helped with some translation and advocated for our immersion into the different units, making it an outstanding experience. Originally we were going to solely be placed in the ante/postnatal care outpost adjacent to the hospital facility. The health team spent a couple of days there helping with antenatal checks, vaccines, monitoring, prescriptions, and medical records. While at first I felt as though I was a wrench in their well-oiled machine, the community health workers and nursing staff threw us into the mix, putting us to work. The normal privacy measures and policy violation fears that are so present in the US were not emphasized at this facility, allowing us to participate in a wide variety of
  9. 9. care opportunities with patients. We remained in this unit for about one week before Eucharia asked if we would want to tour all of the hospital departments. Being very interested, we spent most of the remainder of our hospital time being exposed to the innerworkings of the hospital. From dark room x-ray production to gender revealing ultrasounds, a look at the operating theatre to sessions with the physical therapist, we saw it all. I was absolutely fascinated by how the hospital was able to provide quality care to a vast population of patients that stretched outside the means of their infrastructure. However, through the unit visits and time spent with the hardworking hospital employees, the care and effort that was being made to provide healthcare service was made apparent. They were doing everything they could with what they had. It would be easy to look at the facilities and immediately use their decrepit state as a comparison to healthcare in America. Such a mindset is not only not useful, but also denigrates the well-delivered care for the many patients that entered sick and left well. Towards the end of our time, a few of us were able to offer more maternally relevant education on breastfeeding, pregnancy warning signs, and post partem depression to the ante/postnatal care unit. Again, their eagerness to learn and be responsible caretakers was gratifying. I will forever remember my time at the Zambezi District Hospital with extreme fondness, admiration for the resilience of the providers, and gratitude for the observations and opportunities it provided me. If the coming cohorts have health teams, I would strongly encourage this opportunity to be provided again. While we learned a little bit about Zambian healthcare through our classroom students, we were only fully immersed into the reality of the system through our time at the hospital. I would also advocate for a similar unit immersion experience (perhaps again spearheaded by Eucharia), as it allowed for meaningful patient experience, authentic daily work, and a holistic perspective of the organization. Perhaps making this the main aspect of the daily hospital visits and the antenatal care clinic secondary (one week) would allow for all students on the team to feel engaged. After this year’s “trial-period” I am confident that this opportunity for the health team will continue to blossom and be experientially meaningful. Finally, the health team offered two sets of Days for Girls and Men Who Know discussions on puberty at regional secondary schools. For the girls, these discussions were complemented by the
  10. 10. distribution of reusable pad kits to encourage hygiene and self-care during this crucial developmental stage. Although our team did a bit of practice preparation, it was very efficient as we had a comprehensive and essentially word-for-word curriculum for this project that had been purchased. We were able to share these lessons in Chitokoloki and another nearby village school. Both times I was encouraged by how engaged the students were, open to asking important questions about their health. Furthermore, it seemed as though they would genuinely use the reusable kits and were very grateful for them. For future cohorts, this is a wonderful opportunity for education, sharing personal experience to foster a safe environment, and observing authentic curiosity. We had only 75 kits with us, but it still felt like we were able to make an impact and teach them to assemble kits with items they had. Trying to bring even more supplies could be a goal for future groups as well as reaching out to schools that are potentially more remote or in greater need of this educational resource. As someone who hopes to become a medical professional with a focus on global medicine, this opportunity was outstanding. I absorbed so much in doing research for the classes, learning from my students, engaging in extracurricular medical opportunities like the Chitokoloki hospital and the witch doctor visits, and being immersed in the local hospital environment. It may be cliché, but this was truly inspiring and transformational for my personal growth and medical interests. As Henry Nouwen (2022) writes, “ But none of us will be able to really give if he has not discovered that what he gives is only a small thing compared to what we have received.” I will forever be grateful for all that I received. Tunasakwilila mwane, Zambezi.
  11. 11. Bibliography Greenleaf , R. (2005). Who Is the Servant-Leader?, 21–27. Martin, C. (2016, January 11). The Reductive Seduction of Other People's Problems. BRIGHT. Nouwen , H. (2022, July 13). Creative reciprocity. Henri Nouwen. Retrieved July 17, 2022, from https://henrinouwen.org/meditations/creative-reciprocity/ Watts, G. (2016). African cultural values.

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