This special girl, living in rural Zambia amidst wild animals and infested waters, has had a particularly difficult life. Like many children in Zambia, Joy is an orphan; when she was found, she was malnourished and had infected wounds on her head and over her body. She has now been adopted into the Mukambi community, by an inspirational woman called Jesse, who not only has a young child of her own but is only in her early twenty’s.
This, along with support from Game Rangers International, Joy got the medicine she needed to recover from an experience no child should ever go through. On top of all this, she also suffers from physical and mental disabilities. I am not stating this so that she is pitied. Rather, to be looked upon as an inspiration.
This girl didn’t just smile, she beamed. All the time. Whenever I would go to the school at to provide activities she would bound towards me, and my co-worker, Chiinza, to give us a hug. She seemed more content than most of the children I know in the UK, despite not having an iPad, a new Xbox game, or the latest Nike (or whatever is new and ‘in’) trainers. This made me think about the lives we lead, the priorities we have and the effect this has on our feelings towards our lives.
Personally, it was a transformative experience whereby many elements of my life – and of those around me – were put into perspective. The general assumption with Community outreach is that it is only beneficial for the ‘Other’, whom which we help. Rather, it is a mutualistic relationship; a profound experience which broadens the lens we use to look at the world.
If you think you can appreciate the lives of others, afar and near, by reading about them and discussing their position, you are wrong. I used to think it was possible, but seeing and experiencing their culture first hand, in my opinion, really does give you a unique insight. Aside from Joy, whom had a particularly bad experience, according to Western models of development and modernity, the people living in this community are deprived. If they were to live in our society, or one similar, they would be expected to be miserable and desperate.
These people are truly extraordinary. I can honestly say that I don’t think I have met a happier group of people. Despite lack of economic income, high levels of disease, and difficult access to water, they did not let these factors affect their happiness and enthusiasm. Laying in my tent at night (in a GRI camp just next to the community) I would hear high spirited hubbub and laughter well into the night.
The community ethic was also beautiful. During my visit, the Zambian football team was competing, and this was truly remarkable to be part of. At least thirty people piled into a hut, huddled around a small tv to share their patriotism with each other, and with me. These individuals made me realise that life is too short to get hung up on the pressures put on us in our daily lives.
Regardless of our situation, better or worse, it is paramount to find pleasures in life however small, and to make an effort to notice the silver linings which are always there, no matter how hard you may have to look. For me, it took traveling half way across the world to really appreciate the importance of this ideology. With this article I aim to impart my realisation on others with the hope it will insight a surge of happiness. Which, potentially could improve both our outlook on our own lives and our community ethos. My final message is: smile does go a long way; and laughter is contagious.