When I catch up with old friends, and we delve into our post-Correlieu adventures, it’s tempting to describe Africa as dodging riots, interviewing “witch doctors”, camping on the Zambezi River, flaming cars, elephant attacks and machete wielding thieves. However, these are cherry-picked stories that misrepresent my actual experience volunteering for the SAM Project in Zambia. A more honest depiction of my average day interacting with the average Zambian (subsistence farming villager) would describe endless displays of hospitality and kindness in the face of unimaginable hardship.
It may be entertaining to describe Leah Blezard’s encounter with the lethal snake in our crumbling latrine or the black widow found in Jake Rogger’s mud hut bedroom, but the fact that the community donated their best accommodation to us free of charge (and constantly offered to improve it) is what is truly worth noting. A single elephant standoff tends to outshine months of relentless waves and toothless smiles on the same road, which is especially incredible considering they’re often walking kilometres to access water, education, or healthcare. We tend to generalize a place and people by the stories that stand out, but Zambia is not just a Safari. In general, it is simply the unchosen home of an incredibly friendly people. Its exotic phenomena are rare and insignificant compared to their kindness and resilience.
The average day also entails an onslaught of cyclic moral questions: Are we actually helping? What are the repercussions of this help? Do they need help if they’re already so happy? In response to this last question, although strong, Zambians do not smile and wave at malnutrition, disease, and death. Although most are kind and good humoured, this doesn’t make the squalid conditions they endure any more acceptable. Zambians’ ability to face poverty with as much compassion and dignity as they do makes them more deserving of assistance, not less. Especially in light of the recent Fort McMurray fires, Canada’s issues are both abundant and important. I don’t intend to minimize these issues, but the SAM Project is my best opportunity with my current skillset to lessen the suffering of the less fortunate.
As for the other questions, let me say for now that I know our impact is significant and worthy of continued investment. But I actually ask that you don’t take my word for it. Instead, I invite you to Richbar Nursery on May 17 at 7 p.m. to learn more. I will describe in depth the hurdles that Zambians face and our strategies to assist them. Afterwards, I will be hosting a gallery auction of personal photographs from past projects, with 100 per cent of proceeds going to an upcoming project of the donor’s choice. Please come out to support the SAM Project, whether through a donation or purely active interest in our cause.
The SAM Project is a Quesnel-derived organization operating in Zambia. Past Quesnel residents Colin and Sandra Eves founded the organization while the majority of volunteers Leah and Cole Blezard, Jake Rogger, and Taylor Josephy are Correlieu graduates.
– submitted by Taylor Josephy