September 5, 2014

Hi. Max here, writing from Addis Ababa airport.

We left this morning from Lusaka having had a hearty breakfast with the academy teachers, followed by a brief farewell before rushing to catch our flight home. I don’t think that I have been away long enough to be able to see our trip in a rounded sense – we both still feel as if we may be in transit to Zambia, ready to start our work there! – but this is probably a good opportunity to relate my immediate impressions of the trip as a whole.

The purpose of our venture was to provide support to music teachers, bolster the teaching provision for current students, and to expand the outreach programmes. The Muze Trust’s primary focus in Zambia is through the academy, providing musical tuition for people in Lusaka, while the Estelle Trust currently has a much broader scheme of social development in Zambia, aimed at supporting communities in a more general sense. The collaboration of these two charities results in a wide-reaching programme using music to help support impoverished communities, particularly through outreach projects with school children, and working to nurture a society that values music as a creative art form.

To that end, our programme in Zambia realised its purpose in the last few days with the introduction of William Ham to our group. He was brought on board by the Estelle Trust and with his presence, the collaboration between the work of the two charities started. It is likely that in the coming days, Steven, Alex, and William will have a far more varied programme than we have had until now; many interesting outreach projects and concerts have been proposed. That is not to say that our work at the academy was fruitless, or monotonous – quite the contrary. It is already clear that our time has been spent well at the academy. The teachers have started using some of the useful aspects of our teaching that they noticed during observations, and we have been able to play with, and for, the teachers and also helped to teach them, preparing them for exams and upcoming concerts. The children have also benefitted from our presence at the academy, as was exemplified by a sweet letter written to Anna by one of the children she taught. But it is probably a good time to start to expand our presence beyond the academy and collaborate closely with the Estelle trust and the projects that they have in the area. The intention is that in the coming week Steven, Alex, and William will work with schools in Lusaka, and perform in various events.

I think that the collaborative work of the Muze and Estelle Trusts provides a fantastic opportunity to encourage musical development in its broadest sense in Zambia and, perhaps more significantly, promote social development within the country.



And now to a rather sleepy Anna! 

The last couple of days have proved a real highlight of the trip for me. At about 10 o’clock on Tuesday morning, we received some exciting news; we were to go out to stay in a rural village for the evening and following day, in order to teach at the local village school. We were all extremely excited, and set off shortly after lunch. About 2 hours out of Lusaka, we left the main road, embarking down a dirt track in the direction of the village. The further from the road we got, the more remote the scenery, the only accommodation being mud huts. What was particularly notable was the sparse distribution of huts; spread out over about 10km, there were small clusters of huts every now and then, but no area of increased concentration as you would expect in a village. As we learnt the following morning, children walk as far as 6 km to get to school ready for a 7:15 start, often barefoot. 

As soon as we arrived, we were instantly aware that we were going to be working in a very different Zambia to the one we were used to. We were met by Pete, an ex Peace-Corp volunteer who has been in Zambia for several years and works closely with the school. He very kindly invited us to stay in his house; possibly the biggest wake up call of all, the house forced us to adjust to no electricity extremely quickly, and attempt not to count the number of huge spiders crawling around! We soon settled in though, and cooked a delicious meal over the camp fire, before heading to bed. 

In the morning, we were up extremely early; compared to the 9/9:30 starts at the Academy, arriving at the school at 7 proved to be a bit of a shock to the system! At the school, there were approximately 100 students assembled of various ages, from preschool up to about 16. Whereas normally the young students would come in for 4 hours in the morning and the older ones for 4 in the afternoon, on the day we were there they all came in at the same time to work with us. In assembly, they sang us several of their traditional songs. The natural sense of rhythm and harmony that they possess is incredible; some of the songs were in 5 part harmony, and despite the early hour, they were keen to show us what they could do. We followed this with whole group warm ups, before splitting off to do separate workshops on different things, such as rhythm, body percussion and singing. We ended the day by singing them William Byrd’s ‘Ave Verum Corpus’, which felt surprisingly restricted and stiff in comparison to the music that they had performed for us. However, they all seemed to really enjoy the day; the majority of the children spend their entire lives in the village, and so they were fascinated to catch a glimpse into a different culture. 


The other highlight of the trip arrived unexpectedly this morning. As we were saying goodbye to the teachers, Catherine gave me a note and a small package, which she said was from the girl I had been having some trouble with earlier in the stay (see the blogpost ‘Challenges and Rewards in the Classroom’). Reading the note brought me close to tears, as it made me realise just how much of an impact we could actually have on these children. This girl had gone from walking out of the room several times in my class and refusing to play, to making me 3 bracelets and a necklace, and saying how much she would miss me. To me, that one letter meant more than any other experience from the entire trip.

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