My host family in Zambia were absolute legends and I’d like to introduce them to you one by one.
I learned a lot from my homestay, thanks to its merits and its challenges, and my host family were always ready to help.
They got to know me quirks and all and didn’t seem to mind my wimpish approach towards… life generally in the bush.
So I’d like to let you in on my experience and give you a peek into what my host family life was like while volunteering in east Africa.
This one comes from the heart. I hope you enjoy ✨
My host dad was head of the house – or head of the mud huts – and a pillar within the community.
He was a farmer, goat keeper and handyman – providing for his family in as many ways as possible.
Most village households in Kafalulu were headed up by an authoritative male figure, but Mr Chanda was a caring man who began each day with a smile (see picture below for evidence – the man in the red shirt).
After discovering my irrational fear of fire, Cedrick would light the coals every morning ready for me to cook my porridge. What a legend.
What was rare for the village – and for Zambia as a whole – was that Mr Chanda and his wife Catherine both had children from previous marriages.
Before they were both widowed, Cedrick had three sons, Cedrick Junior, Elvis and Elliot, while Catherine had three daughters, Marta, Sharon and Peggy.
Step families, or blended families, are far less common in Zambia than they are in the UK for example, as divorce is still widely frowned upon. Yet Cedrick and Catherine tied the knot when Peggy was just two years old and the families merged.
Cedrick began building what is now their beautiful family home – planting trees, rearing animals and building enough mud huts for their six children to sleep in.
Catherine AKA Mrs Chanda
Catherine always made sure I was home safe and nursed me when I was sick. She was a strong mother figure and the cement that held the family together.
Although she could be severe with her three grown up daughters, and her grandchildren for that matter, there was no doubting the lengths to which she would go for them.
She was a devout Catholic and an important figure within her community. But she never let tradition and society pressures get the better of her.
Catherine let her daughters dream big and encouraged them to study and build a career rather than taking them out of school and forcing them into early marriages which was commonplace in Kafalulu.
Catherine’s eldest daughter Marta lived in a neighbouring group of mud huts with her grandmother and two children.
The 28-year-old brought her little girl Ethel to visit every day, who was an absolute sweetheart.
Her nine-year-old son Patrick would often join, who insisted on being called Barry – I was told he just liked the name.
Marta struck me as a mixture of the traditional and the modern day woman.
Although she had her children at a young age, as most villagers did, she was a working mum and turned down two marriage proposals because she preferred to keep her independence.
Sharon was a charity worker and visited every village within a 30 mile radius on her bright orange bicycle.
The 25-year-old worked for an American NGO where she was responsible for monitoring the progress and wellbeing of vulnerable children in the community.
Whether they were sick, orphaned, or homeless, these street children had been taken in by the community and were being looked after by a particular family – a foster family if you like.
Sharon would visit the families to assess each child’s wellbeing and ensure their needs were being met.
When she was not at work or helping around the house, Sharon was taking evening classes at the local school to resit her English and Maths “GCSE equivalent” exams.
She also spent a lot of time with Barry and Ethel when they came to visit.
Just before my time in Zambia came to an end, Sharon told me she was expecting a child of her own. It was a great moment ❤
Last but certainly not least, 18-year-old Peggy.
This incredible young woman became one of my best friends during my three month project in Zambia. She is an inspiration to all women, everywhere.
Peggy was ambitious, smart and determined and didn’t let obstacles stop her from dreaming big.
She may have lived in a village with barely enough income to afford the bus once per month, but this didn’t hinder her spirit. She never doubted for second that she would end up at university in Zambia’s capital city Lusaka.
Peggy and I would go on long walks where we would have heart to heart chats or gossip about trivial things.
The evenings we would spend drinking tea with Catherine and Sharon, and teaching one another new tricks.
We would set up our mats under the shade of the trees and laugh our way into the night.
Peggy’s favourite “new trick” I taught her had to be yoga. She loved learning to balance and found the positions hilarious.
She was also adamant I would not return home without being able to hold a conversation in Lenje and would test me every night on the Zambian dialect.
I feel so grateful to have had the opportunity to meet somebody like Peggy, who I would have never crossed paths with otherwise.
She filled everyone she met full of hope and determination and is a great example of how you should never let anyone – or anything – stand in the way of your dreams.
Barry and Ethel
Whenever I was missing home or feeling down, these two little munchkins were a certain pick-me-up.
Barry and Ethel were the most adorable little things and would visit my homestay almost every day, when their grandma Catherine was babysitting.
Barry would ask for help with his maths homework while Ethel would come and sit next to me when I was cooking.
At just two years old, Ethel was the most stylish tot in the village. She was always debuting new outfits and running around the yard with one flip-flop on and one flip-flop off.
Her favourite treat was plain rice, as the family could rarely afford it, and she would always come and perch next to me when I was cooking it.
Some of my best memories were with Barry and Ethel, doing arts and crafts, making posters and playing in the yard.
Thanks for listening and there you have it – my host family in east Africa. I hope I’ve given you some insight into how incredible an experience it can be and I will be forever grateful to the Chandas.
I hope you get to enjoy your host family on your volunteer trip abroad too.
Until next time,