Monday, 19 November 2018

Moving Forward

It was amazing to be able to return to Zambia and Kaniki recently on a two week holiday.
My favourite part of the trip was spending time with the children, staff and guardians
from the Arise Orphan Project and Kapumpe Christian Primary School. Although I’ve now lived back in the UK for a year and a half, in some ways it felt like I’d only been
away a few weeks; apart from the fact that all the children had grown taller!

Smiles from Grade 1

When the children first spotted me walking towards the school there was a bit of a
stampede and I nearly got knocked over! Grade 5 sang ‘Welcome back Miss Crossy’
to me in their assembly. They have a fantastic way of making people feel welcome
and loved.

Assembly at Kapumpe

Just two weeks in Zambia reminded me of some of the difficulties that are easily
forgotten now I've moved back to the UK. There were lots of bugs, a few power cuts
and whilst I was there our car broke down, which isn’t uncommon! Poverty is much
more prevalent and it's hard to articulate the complex issues surrounding it. Whilst I was
there we went to visit one of the young boys who is part of Arise and Kapumpe but has
not been attending school recently. It turned out that during the day he has been
scouring the village for plastic bottles to make a small amount of money from a man
who sells beer.

Despite the challenges, the main impression I was left with was that both the Arise and Kapumpe projects are moving forward. This was clear to me when I spent time with children from Kapumpe, talking to them about school, looking at their work and hearing them read. Children who were toddlers in pre-school when I left Zambia were now able to read me simple sentences they had written themselves, in both English and Bemba.

Grade 5 pupil proudly sharing work

Arise Football Club is run by two sons of an Arise volunteer. They started the club after we took a group of boys who are supported by the project to take part in a football tournament at Ndola Football Stadium. I was thrilled to see that the club has continued, now running two afternoons a week with over 40 boys from the local community attending.

Arise Football Club

In some ways everything looked very familiar to me. Change seems to happen
‘panono panono’ (slowly, slowly) in Zambia. However, there were some notable
developments including building work on the third and final school block, which is well
on the way to completion! The oldest children at Kapumpe have planted their own
vegetables and flowers which they’re extremely proud of, and the Arise farming plot has
been extended.

Classroom block 3

The Headteacher and Director of Kapumpe and Arise are doing a brilliant job in
developing both staff and volunteers, which is one of the things I am most passionate
about. When I first worked with Arise in 2015 it was UK volunteers who interviewed
and made decisions about potential guardians to join the project, with Zambian
volunteers translating for us. This year, the two Zambian volunteers who run the
majority of the day-to-day programme are conducting the interviews themselves. The
Kapumpe school gardener who teaches the ‘Foundations for Farming’ course to Arise
guardians has also been helping to teach other people who are supported by another
local charity.

With two Kapumpe teachers

I am very proud of everyone's hard work at both Kapumpe and Arise, and I am grateful
to God for his continuing provision. Thank you to everyone who continues to support
the work in different ways; be that sponsoring a child, giving financial gifts or praying. If
you would like to become more involved by sponsoring a child or if you might be
interested in volunteering, please follow the links below:

Sponsor a Child

For me personally it is amazing to see these two projects that I was involved with in
Zambia, flourish and continue to impact the lives of so many people in the local
communities. Thank you for your support and I am looking forward to hearing more about
the great work that is taking place in Kaniki.

Fun times at Kapumpe

Friday, 31 August 2018

A year on...

Since returning to the UK from Zambia last year, I have become one of the trustees for The Kaniki Trust, the charity that funds and supports the work of Arise and Kapumpe. You may have seen on Facebook that building work has recently started at Kapumpe, which means that the third and final classroom block is now underway! I am returning to Zambia for two weeks in October and can’t wait to be reunited with the children, staff and the many friends that I made during my time out there. I will of course be sharing some photos from my trip here on my blog!

Building work at Kapumpe Christian Primary School

I’ve been back in the UK for over a year now and for the past 11 months have been working at Tearfund, a Christian relief and development charity. I am learning a lot, not only because working in an office is so vastly different from teaching, but also because my role is focused on the humanitarian sector. It turns out that the world is a much darker place than I realised; there are disasters and conflict going on all the time, the impact of which last for years. What we see in the media really is just a drop in the ocean.

Volunteering for Tearfund at Big Church Day Out

It is a privilege to work for Tearfund, who work in over 50 countries of the world through churches and local partner organisations to end extreme poverty. And so on Sunday 30th September I’m going to take on my first half marathon in Ealing, to raise money for Tearfund. Every little helps so if you would like to support Tearfund by sponsoring me in my run, you can follow this link.

Thank you so much for your support.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Over and Out

Three years ago I made the decision to move to Zambia. As I look back now, I think it’s one of the best decisions I ever made. I expected my time there to be full of adventures and challenges, and I was not disappointed in either respect. Yet I didn’t anticipate quite how much I would learn and how much it would impact my life.

Final day of fun at Kapumpe

An unwanted visitor at Kaniki

Oops - I got stuck in the mud!

Now I’m back living in the UK, life generally seems easier yet busier and somehow less simple at the same time. My time in Zambia has made me reflect on how I live, what I spend my time on and what I am most passionate about. You may not be surprised to hear that my experience in Zambia has motivated me to want to work in international development.

The Zambian flag at Kaniki

Job hunting has certainly been interesting! When I first arrived back home, I was convinced it was time to leave the teaching profession and move into the charity sector. However, it took quite some time to figure out exactly what I wanted to do and where my skills could be transferrable. In the meantime, I found myself temporarily back at my old school doing supply teaching. A few months on, I’m excited to have secured a role in a brilliant Christian international relief and development charity called Tearfund (, where I started last week. This new venture and career path will also see me moving to London within the next few weeks. So it’s all change again!

I plan to continue supporting Kapumpe Christian Primary School and the Arise Orphan Project. I love hearing about how the projects are going and I want to continue my involvement, even though it will need to be in a different way than when I was physically there in Zambia. So as a result, I’m going to join the team of UK trustees who support the projects financially and with advice. So, although this will be my final blog post, if you do see me in person then it certainly won’t be the last you hear about Kapumpe and Arise!

At the Grade 1 Hair Salon

One of the Kapumpe pupils with little Archie
(who unfortunately I couldn't bring back to the UK!)

During my time away I learned so much about people and culture which I find fascinating. I’ve felt particularly challenged by issues of poverty. It is therefore no coincidence that I have found Tearfund’s Lifestyle articles ( really helpful in considering everyday ethical issues about things like food, travelling and shopping. And it has left me feeling challenged to have an ‘attitude of gratitude’.

A wonderful moment to remember -
seeing this guardian walk independently
for the first time since I met her!

With one of the pre-schoolers supported by Arise

There is something amazing about living in a totally different context, outside of your own familiarity and comfort zone which challenges your beliefs, your perceptions of life and who you are. There’s a risk that you might not be the same again! For me, the biggest things I’ve learned are about God. I am convinced there is a God who created the universe, who gives us life and who deserves our praise. He gives me purpose for living and hope for the future. This is definitely what has enabled me to find peace in two seemingly different worlds and to cope with the unanswered questions that life often throws at us.

Visiting Arise families

In summary, I am hugely grateful for the time I spent in Zambia, for the privilege of getting to know many wonderful people there and for what I learned from them. And as I draw my blog to a close, I would also like say an enormous thank you to everyone who encouraged me and supported me financially or in prayer, having made it possible for me to live and work there. Thank you for taking an interest in my experiences and for finding the time to read my posts. Last but not least I’d like to say a very big thank you to my sister, Rachel, who edited over 100 blog posts for me!

A few of my wonderful Zambian friends

If you’d like to keep up to date with the fantastic work that continues at Kampumpe and Arise, you can follow their Facebook pages at Kapumpe Facebook Page and 
Arise Facebook Page or let me know if you would like to receive their termly newsletters. They rely on donations, prayer and support to make a difference to the lives of so many people. And finally, I’d encourage anyone who has ever wanted to travel, do something totally different, or step out of their comfort zone, to give it a try. Like me, it might be the best thing you’ve ever done!

From Kaniki with love xx

twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than the ones you did. so throw off the bowlines. sail away from safe harbor. catch the trade winds in your sails. explore. dream. discover. -mark twain.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

The Aftershock

I wanted to share how I have found the transition of moving back to the UK with my fellow missionary and expat friends in Zambia. Here is a letter to them which tries to explain my experience of reverse culture shock, or ‘aftershock’ as my sister Rhi and I used to call it when we returned from our first trips to Africa some years ago.

Rhi and I in Kenya in 2003
Dear friends,

Greetings from the UK! Hope you are all well and not feeling too chilly in the cold season. We’ve had some hot days here in England - it reached 30 degrees, but not quite like the hot season in Zambia with power cuts and lack of water! I am so grateful for your friendship, it's amazing how living in a foreign place makes you form a close community with like-minded people. It was great to be surrounded by people who supported and encouraged each other, and would do anything to help each other out regardless of their length of stay in Zambia.

Missionary/expat buddies in Ndola

You know the privilege and the wonderful experiences that come from living in another culture. But you also know the difficult and sometimes painful challenges that come with this. Having friends and 'family' in both places, frequently saying goodbye and never entirely fitting in. However much you embrace either life, you're a little torn inside. But of course, it's all totally worth it!

Having been back in the UK for two months, I've had some time to reflect on life in the UK and Zambia and my transition between the two. I know some of you will be moving back to your 'home' country in the next few months or years so I thought I would share a little of my experience of reverse culture shock, in case it helps you. Whilst everyone's experiences will be different, there may be some similarities. Hopefully sharing a few ideas based on what I have found helpful might prove useful to you in some way.

1) End well 

It really helped me to 'end' my time in Zambia well. I handed over my work to great people who share the vision for the projects I had worked on. I even had the privilege of seeing the school running without my involvement before I left. This showed me first-hand the bigger picture that I'd played a part in, and confirmed to me how important it is to always invest in those you work with. See who you want to see before you leave, and of course take lots of 'snaps' to keep as memories.

The new Kapumpe headteacher with Grade 4

2) Have something positive to go home to

It's not all about saying goodbye or leaving. As well as wanting to end well, you want to start your next journey well. Even if the future feels unknown, which it probably will, find something that you will look forward to or feel like you're moving towards - family and friends, church, a new job, a different adventure...

3) Take time out

I spent the first weekend hibernating at my parents' house, just hanging out. As well as giving me a chance to spend time with them, it also gave me a little time to get my head around being back in the UK before being thrust into a busy life, seeing lots of people and facing lots of questions. I would recommend doing this briefly if you can.

Dad, Mum and me

4) Invest in your friendships from 'that side'

I expect you've already found the value in doing this. Some people feel like others back at home forget them while they're away, but the reality is that everyone has busy lives, and so friendship requires investment on both sides. But the relationships are worth it. I have wonderful family and friends who kept in touch and supported me whilst I was out in Zambia. But this doesn't just happen, and I believe it needs to be a priority. I spent many hours writing blogs, emailing, speaking to people on Skype or chatting on WhatsApp. A lot of people kept themselves informed about my experiences and this really encouraged me.

I was a bit blown away by the welcome home I received. Some friends threw a surprise party on my first night back in Winchester, and as well as being completely surprised, I was very touched. Maybe not everyone will make the effort that you hoped they would, but it’s worth remembering that their lives have moved on too whilst you've been away. Show them a little grace (as people will do you) and over time you will know who you want to spend time with.

Some of my sneaky Winchester friends!

5) Enjoy the people and things you've missed

For my first five weeks back home I thoroughly enjoyed reunions with various friends and family, plus the benefits of living in a developed country - reliable power, water and WiFi to name but a few! This time it didn't feel like just a visit back, it felt like I was back for good even though I didn't know exactly what life was going to look like going forward. There are still lots of things to enjoy. For example, there's lots more going on and things to do here compared to Ndola (no Leeja Palace or Sunken Lake though!). I didn't find it overwhelming going to the supermarket, but instead I appreciated the convenience of being able to find whatever I was looking for. I have enjoyed doing lots more cooking and baking, walking everywhere instead of enduring sweaty journeys in the car, going running in bearable temperatures and the beautiful green scenery of the British countryside.

Salted caramel chocolate cheesecake, yum yum

'Green and pleasant land'

6) Your perspective can change

After the first initial month or so of being back, I found my thinking changing. Whilst I still felt positive overall, I began to feel more challenged about things I'd seen and learned in Zambia. I realised that there aren't tidy little conclusions to a lot of life's questions - poverty and wealth, life and death - which are things faced on a daily basis in Zambia. Whilst out there in a different culture, you tend to just get on with things and approach challenges as they come. Then back in the developed world, it can feel frustrating that these issues aren't front of mind for everyone. 

Lives facing different challenges

7) You can't fully convey your experiences 

Lots of people will ask you a lot of questions about your experiences and what you're going to do next. It's good that people are interested but it can also sometimes be difficult to know how to answer. For me, it initially felt sufficient to respond by simply saying Zambia was great, or I'd had an amazing experience. It was true, I had. But over time, I felt like that was a very simplistic answer to a question that couldn't be answered easily at all. This has been my major frustration - I love communicating with people yet I struggle to convey the complexity of what I have seen and learned. Sometimes it makes you not want to say anything at all. So don't worry if you don't want to talk about it for a while, maybe just saying it was great buys you a bit of time before you really try and delve further.

8) Go with the flow

We should all be good at this after living in Africa! Allow yourself time to adjust and experience all the emotions you may or may not encounter – laugh, cry, grieve, celebrate, smile; all of which I’ve done! Like me, you may well find yourself living in a state of limbo. I didn't expect to have two months off before getting a job (it turns out that changing your employment sector is another road to navigate) and I'm not someone who likes to sit around!

However, for me it has been an unexpected blessing. I've had proper chunks of time to visit friends, to reflect and not rush around like I used to before when I lived in the UK. Apparently one of the common effects of reverse culture shock is exhaustion. Not only do you need time to rest after what has been a physically, emotionally and spiritually demanding time, but you also need time and space to re-adjust. Cut yourself a little slack.

Visiting uni friends

9) Be frustrated and make changes

Being away has allowed me to view my own culture with a sharper focus. I see things that I think are brilliant about it. But it also means I see some of its weaknesses more clearly. I struggle with these weaknesses because I am part of the problem, it’s not just about what everyone else does. I've seen another side of the world and the poverty that the majority of the world live in, but even then I find it hard to get my head around it. I see the excess and waste that my culture (me included) produces and only now it dawns on me the effect this has on others. Nevertheless, I can't convey the weight of the responsibility that I feel those of us in the UK have. With wealth and power comes great responsibility - I just didn't realise how much wealth and power we have.


10) Culture and faith

Living overseas really showed me that culture is a way of thinking. One aspect of my culture that I have found challenging is our attitude of self-sufficiency and sometimes animosity towards God. Poverty in Zambia seemed to bring a sort of humility that made people more aware of their own limitations and need for help. Whilst here in the UK, it seems as if we think if there is a God, he needs to prove himself to his creation. We hear of and increasingly experience relationship breakdown, mental health difficulties, acts of terrorism and many other tragedies. We know individually we're not really an island and that we need help with anxiety, fear and disappointment. Most people realise that money and fame don't solve these problems. Meditation, counselling and mindfulness seem to be sought after. Perhaps because of what I’ve seen, it seems crazy to me that God and prayer is a last resort. For me, it's my faith that has got me through this time of change and will continue to, whatever the future holds. I don't know the future but I do know who does.

Fab friends

I hope you continue to enjoy your time living and working in Zambia. Although it is not always easy, it is such a privilege to have the opportunity to live in different cultures. So embrace your two lives - all the positives, challenges and everything in between!

Lots of love 


Friday, 23 June 2017

Money, possessions and ‘stuff’

Living in Zambia, the supermarket that I most often shopped at was called Shoprite. For some reason, it always has old cheesy songs playing in the background. I heard Chris De Burgh's 'Lady in Red' more times than I care to remember, and Cliff Richard’s ‘Mistletoe and Wine’ often blasted out throughout November and December. During one particular visit towards the end of my time in Zambia, Dido was playing and for some reason the lyrics from that particular song stuck with me.

Ndola supermarket

'Nothing I have is truly mine…' echoed in my head as I drove home.

I thought about this for a moment. I was driving a vehicle that wasn’t mine; it had been donated to Arise. The apartment I lived in wasn’t mine; it was built for the Bible College by volunteers. Obviously I had clothes, food and other things (both useful and useless) stored there but I planned to donate a lot of it when I left Zambia to move back home. After all, it’s just ‘stuff’.

The apartment block where I lived

Living in Zambia as a volunteer has certainly challenged my perspective towards money and possessions. I’m sure this sounds very typical of someone adjusting to life in the UK after spending a length of time in Africa! But it stands out to me because it’s difficult to convey the enormity of the poverty there, compared to our wealth here at home. In the UK, the culture tends to be about working towards owning more and more, and getting bigger and better things. It’s easy to prioritise convenience over cost and treat lots of things like they’re disposable, just because we can buy another one if we need to. I wonder if it’s this kind of thinking that can lead us to feel like we never have enough and even wonder if we will ever be content.

Children in Kaniki

I used to cringe when I would hear children being told, "There are starving children in Africa who would eat that!" in order to make them finish their dinner. It always seemed a silly thing to say because it doesn’t mean that meal would be transported all the way across the globe for someone else to eat it! However I do think that there really is a link between the choices we make and how other people live. It is very easy to waste food and be excessive about what we buy. (Tearfund's 'Renew our Food' campaign is worth reading about in connection with this.) Just by being a bit more conscious about how we spend our money, we can have more left to give away to help others. Thousands of charities like Arise and Kapumpe can use a small amount of money to support people who are much more vulnerable than us, but who we’re unable to directly help ourselves. 

Meal for children in Arise

I used to think that a few small decisions made by one person could not make much of a difference, particularly when we consider the scale of the problem. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation there are 795 million people in the world who are suffering from chronic malnourishment. The work that Arise and Kapumpe are doing in Kaniki and the surrounding areas is just a very tiny drop in a massive ocean. For each individual who is helped, there are many more who are not.

But I’ve seen that it still makes a difference to some. You might be aware of the starfish story; this is something that I was reminded of again and again whilst I worked in Zambia. It helped me to focus on what we can do and the people who we can make a small difference to. 

Being financially supported by my kind family, friends and church for more two years whilst I lived in Zambia might have made it easier for me to view money, possessions and stuff differently, as if it were not truly mine. But I don’t think that way of thinking is simply something to apply there. The Bible says that we are enriched in every way so that we can be generous on every occasion (2 Corinthians 9:11). So my challenge is now to work out what that looks like now that I’m back home and living in the UK. 

Sadly as I ponder that, there’ll be no more Cliff and other cheesy songs to sing along to in Sainsbury’s!

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

All change

It's now been a few weeks since I moved back to the UK so I will be posting my final few blog posts that I have written about my experiences. This one shares how I was feeling about leaving Zambia before I moved back…

Saying farewell at Kaniki

I'm not sure if it makes me a bit strange but I quite like change. Not horrendous life-altering difficulties of course, but I believe that lots of changes can be positive and bring about new opportunities.

Moving back to the UK will definitely be a big change for me. Although I’ve been back to visit, it was two and a half years ago since I was settled there and in the few years before that my life had changed a lot as a result of going through a divorce. When people ask how I’m feeling about the move back home, it’s tricky to answer.

Overall I am feeling positive and expecting the transition to be good. I’m also excited about it in fact. I am really looking forward to spending time with lots of friends and family who I have not been able to see much over the last couple of years. I’m looking forward to being part of family celebrations and friends' birthdays and all kinds of other events that I’ve missed. I am also looking forward to living on the same continent as my boyfriend.

Catching up with friends in the UK

I recently watched a movie which was set in London and it reminded me lots of things that I love about British culture and the UK. I’m looking forward to eating good cake and puddings, enjoying light summer evenings and barbecues, sitting in front of a cosy fire when it’s cold, going for walks in the countryside and even having decent WiFi. I am glad there will be less bugs, snakes and power cuts at home. I look forward to the convenience of being able to walk to places or drive on smooth roads, and being able to pop to the shop or order pretty much anything online.

Welcome home cake - my friends know me well!

However, there are numerous things that I will miss about Zambia. Most importantly I will miss the people who have become my friends and I will be particularly sad to leave the wonderful children from Kapumpe and Arise. They are such fun to be around and never fail to bring a smile to my face. I will also hugely miss the constant sunshine, beautiful sunsets, swimming in the outdoor pool, a more relaxed attitude to life, and the friendliness of people who take time to greet you whether they know you or not. I will also miss my little dog who I adopted in Zambia and will have to go to a new owner here when I move home.

With colleagues and friends 

Archie waving goodbye 

I imagine it will feel quite strange not having petrol attendants at petrol stations waiting to fill up the tank for me, or people ready to pack my shopping for me in the supermarket like there are in Zambia. I know I will find it hard to say goodbye to the amazing children and staff I've worked with here, and living so far away whilst knowing some of the challenges they are facing will be hard. But just because something is hard doesn't mean it's not what you should do. Living in Zambia has had many challenges. Life is not as straightforward here, but the initial adventure that has become my normal life has been a wonderful, life-changing experience. 

Some of the lovely children at Kapumpe 

Having thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of working for a charity in Zambia, I’m now looking for a job in the 'third sector' (charity). I’m motivated to try something new, find something I’m passionate about and hopefully use what I’ve learned, to make a difference in a different setting.

When I get home, will things continue as they were? I don’t think so. Hopefully I will follow a different career and I’ll live in a different house, possibly even a different city. But not only that. A friend told me to remember that everyone else’s lives will have moved on as well as mine. Because of this and because my experiences have changed me, things will be different. But change can be good! I have been hugely challenged about my attitude to the poor, to be generous with the resources I have, to consider ethical issues more and about the importance of empowering others. These things will definitely be on my conscience as I settle into another ‘new normal’ life. 

At Ndola airport 

I hope this blog post gives you a flavour of my mixed emotions. Yet I know in it all that God has a purpose for the things he leads us to do. When we look back we often see opportunities that 
particular situations brought about. And just to add word of warning…for those I see when I have moved back home, I may talk a lot as I process my amazing experiences. I hope you will be gracious and allow me to reminisce about Zambia!

As one chapter closes, a new chapter opens. And with every ending there is a new beginning.