Haley Mahan is a 17 year old young woman who went to Zambia from June 20th to July 15th with 18 other seniors from her school, Bishop Guertin High School in Nashua NH. I was fortunate to be able to speak with Haley about her “life-changing” experience.
“For the majority of the trip we stayed in a small, remote village called Malole where we refurbished and painted a band hall so that the high school boys will have a place to practice their incredible musical talents. The extreme poverty I saw in Malole and the surrounding areas was a culture shock I was not prepared for. It took me several days to adjust and even then I spent many nights laying awake in bed wondering how the most underprivileged children I had ever encountered could be the most grateful and loving.
Every free moment I had I was out in the village playing with the children. On the first day we met them, we all fell in love with them. They waited outside our compound and came to where we painted, and just watched us and hugged us and held our hands. Most of the younger kids only spoke small amounts of English, if any at all. The local language in Malole is called Bemba and the high school boys that befriended us tried very hard to teach us some!
The parts of the trip that I will remember most are just being with the kids, holding them, listening to them, and playing games with them, going out to the fields at night to look at the stars and sing with the high school boys who were some of the kindest and gracious young men I have ever met, and attending the church services with music so beautiful it brought tears my eyes.
The last week in Zambia we did tourist stuff such as visit Victoria Falls, ride elephants, pet lions and cheetahs, and go on safaris! That part of the trip was also amazing, but my time in Malole is what meant the most to me.
The picture I have included is me and a 5 year old boy named Manuel who I made a special bond with during my time in Malole. I found him one day crying with a wounded foot and took him inside of our compound so that one of my chaperons could help me take care of it. Even though Manuel could speak no English, I felt an instant connection with him. I held him and played with him for as long as I could every day, and one day had an older boy who spoke English take me to where he lived. I met his beautiful family and when his mother hugged me I immediately started crying. Meeting Manuel’s family was the most powerful moment of my trip. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him.”
” …I saw things that really upset me and sometimes I wish I hadn’t witnessed them. But if this trip taught me one thing, it’s that in order to promote change and the betterment of this world, we must place ourselves in situations and places that are distressing or disturbing. Ignorance is not bliss….I fell in love with the kids in African and how they have an unfaltering love and respect for humanity and God. They taught me that the only way I am going to be able to find true happiness in my life is if I scrifice some of my happiness for the happiness of others.”