Teaching in Africa life changing for student

Lisa Lapina
Student PSEA Member
Senior, Bloomsburg University
Early Childhood & Elementary Education, Language Arts Concentration

Published December 2010 Voice

My summer “vacation’’ this year took me to Zambia, a country in the Southern region of Africa located above Zimbabwe. The goal when I left the United States was to gather research for my honors independent study project at Bloomsburg University that is focused on the effects of poverty on childhood education. But the trip ended up affecting me personally more than I could have ever imagined. 

For the entire month of June, I worked at the WellSpring of Faith and Hope Community School.  The children who attend this school range in age from 5 to 19 years, in grades 1 through 7.

The children at WellSpring are almost all orphaned, either having lost one or both of their parents to diseases like malaria and tuberculosis. The school was started by two missionaries, Charles and Sarah West, after Sarah witnessed a young orphan girl being passed from family to family in a community because no one could keep her for an extended period of time due to food shortages. The little girl’s plight broke Sarah’s heart, and she decided to start a community school/orphanage project in Zambia. Her dream became a reality in the form of WellSpring.

Currently, the school is situated in Kalikiliki, a region outside of Zambia’s capital city of Lusaka. Sarah and Charles have obtained land in the village of Chongwe, two hours away from where they live. A permanent orphanage and school eventually will be located there.

During my stay, I taught mainly grades 1, 5, and 7, focusing on English and reading. I taught other subjects, including mathematics, science, and social studies. The children in the younger grades knew little to no English, so this experience challenged my teaching abilities a lot more than I had ever expected.

The most difficult part of my teaching experience in Zambia was coming across so many children and adolescents who wanted to read, but who simply had never learned. I met a girl, 16 years of age, who approached me on my last day and begged me to teach her how to read because she was never given the opportunity to learn before. 

The children I worked with taught me more about my career as a teacher than I will ever learn in any class.  They showed me that being a teacher is all about passion, and caring about your students no matter the circumstances.  We didn’t have expensive textbooks, smart boards, overhead projectors, or an abundance of school supplies in Zambia.  I taught using donated books and a few pieces of chalk and a small chalkboard. 

The children and I immediately connected and I finally was able to understand the perspective of being the minority, in an area of the world I was unfamiliar with, surrounded by a language I had never heard before.  I understand now what it is like for students coming into the American school systems unfamiliar with English, and how difficult it must be to learn a new language.  The children tried their best to teach me their language and I shared with them about my country.

They taught me about their families and daily lifestyles, and I taught them songs and games. I got a firsthand look into living in abject poverty, and my life has forever been changed.  I’m sad to have left Zambia, but a part of me will always be with the children I met this summer. It was incredibly hard to say goodbye to people who unknowingly affected my life forever.

It is my hope to share this story with every person I come across, so that we can work together to give children around the world hope for a better tomorrow.  After all, every person deserves the chance to succeed and I know that the children I met this summer can achieve all of their dreams if only they are given the opportunity to do so.

Financially, the children and their families alone cannot support their educational needs, but if everyone who hears this story just gives a little, it would truly go a long way and give these children the hope that they need to make it out of poverty.  Please contact me at lml26203@huskies.bloomu.edu in the event that you or your church, business, or organization would be interested in raising funds for the orphans at the WellSpring of Faith and Hope Community School.  



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