Zambia Day 3

Today was the day of the truck tour… WOW! What an amazing day. Unbelievable. Exciting doesn’t cover it! We started the day like yesterday, toast and a malaria tablet! Although I did upgrade to jam on toast! Off we went to Hilltop bus stop, it’s the nearest stop to the house. Note there’s no official signage or shelter or anything like that! It’s an area on the side of the road where you wait for a bus to eventually stop. The conductor shouts “town” or “townieee” repetitively, that’s when you know it’s the one you need. We got the bus to Long Acres where we then had to get off and on to another one called “hospital” or “SDA”, either of those head in the same direction. We then had to jump off at Kwacha which is just across the road from Sport in Action. It’s funny to get the driver to stop you have to tap the bus, or catch contact with the conductor who then bangs on the side of the bus to tell the driver to make a stop.

We arrived at Sport in Action to meet Gift who was taking us on the truck tour of the placement sites. First stop was Kabwata. It’s a newly opened site that will be a Wallace Group placement next year. It has a beach football and volleyball pitch, basketball court, swings, slide, roundabout and climbing frame, plus a free space for generic games and socialising.

Next up was Fountain of Hope. En route to Fountain we were being paraded on the back of the truck like we were celebrities. “Mizungu, Mizungu” shouted at us with smiles and waves. It means rich white person. I mean I’m white but not rich. Or so I thought, I guess my life in England is richer than I realised. I’m so lucky to have my family, shelter, and opportunities. All things I take for granted way too much. Whilst on the truck Claire received a marriage proposal and Corey received some kisses. Safe to say we had such a laugh about it all.

When we arrived at Fountain, straight away it stole my heart. It’s a space to take the most deprived street children and young adults off the streets and provide them with shelter, health, and education. It was such a heart breaker moment when the realisation of the facility and its multi purpose function of a shelter, education,sport, sanitation, food, protection that was previously exclusive to boys and young men being housed there, to the new dormitories that would allow the most deprived girls and young women to also be housed there, helping them escape the troubles of the streets. To know this could be a place that could save so many women for the first time was truly incredible. Hearing the stories, and hearing the plans, we all were silent.

Seeing the dorm almost ready to be moved in was so amazing, although we all really want to help hurry up the process.  We as a group have been given a task to help clear the rubbish and rubble near the dorm and transform it into a sustainable vegetable patch to allow the women and girls to produce their own fruit and vegetables for themselves, and to sell. They also hope to build a bakery, which will provide more opportunities for women and girls to become more employable, and self-sufficient, escaping their previous realities.

If you wonder how Fountain of Hope started, well luckily, we were told! In the style of Sir Isaac Newton (minus an apple falling), a man who wanted to make a difference sat under a tree (which is still there) and the idea came into his head and he never looked back. Let’s hope we as a group keep the momentum going and transform this place into the place they want it to be.

The third site was the Olympic Youth Development Centre (OYDC). A whole new world! This site was unbelievable, so unreal. The development was something that contrasted with the poverty that was very much present across the road. It kind of made me feel uncomfortable knowing how developed and incredible this space was whilst opposite there were people living in cardboard shacks, and very small buildings.

We went on a tour around the site and this included the new football pitches, sports hall, hockey pitches, swimming pool, athletic track and a range of courts. It was all very impressive. Jokingly we laughed about how we should all jump into the pool because it was so hot. It was no longer a joke. We all queued up and ran and jumped into the pool, it was freezing yet refreshing. First team bonding exercise completed! We didn’t stay wet long as the African sun dried us!

Next to OYDC is the National Heroes Stadium and it just seems so surreal. It’s stunning, the whole place is so inspirational. It’s a definite escape from the reality which most face within the areas we visited.

Then, we went to Chipata which was just across the road. This was definitely not an affluent area. I ended up playing football with the children whose faces lit up as soon as we all got involved. None of the children had shoes, and the pitch was covered in glass. It was heartbreaking to see, yet for these children, its normal and they really didn’t care. They got so stuck in, and the level was impressive…even if it was just meant to be a kick about!

From Chipata we went on to Kalingalinga, also known by the Wallace group as K-Town. Again a similar story but different faces. We managed to organise a mini football game in the short period we were there. My team vs Cieran’s team. The children were so lovely and they said I was always welcomed to come back. So I guess that means I did alright! Especially when I nutmegged Cieran amusing a group of lads “ooooh.” Nutmegging has now turned into a running house game between Cieran, Mark and me!

We then went to Munali. It appears so structured there. We witnessed a peer leader session of basketball. The coach looked competent and appeared to have an engaged group who was loving his drills. The facilities here are huge, loads of open space. It was quite quiet there, with only basketball taking place today.

The final placement site was Mtendere. We had to walk through a market, where flies were flying onto meat, and the stench of the meat in the heat was something my stomach was starting to feel slightly dodge about! Through a gated area into a school grounds, we were presented with a concrete court and a small gravel area. Warning, cute moment coming…. A group of children distracted me during the talk peeping through a hole in the gate, so naturally, I went over and ended up playing with them. They were giggling and saying “Mizungu” then giggling some more.

Finally, we went to Kabulonga Mall where the KFC, Pizza Hut etc is located to get food for the night. Mark cooked us all up risotto. It was lovely. I was also picked up a chocolate bar. They have so many Dairy Milk variations here, so much more than at home, it makes me slightly jealous! I had a Top Deck, which is white chocolate on top of milk chocolate and wow…. I’m addicted!

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Volunteer Zambia Day 2

The first morning in Zambia started off with some toast with a side serving of a single malaria tablet. Today was the day we found out more information regarding our placements. I am based in Sport in Action on Thursday and Fridays and I’ve newly been given EduSport on Mondays and Tuesdays. I have the day off on Wednesdays where I’m free to get involved with the coaching placements or go off and explore.

The induction was at the Sport in Action office. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but I’m unsure whether the feeling was a positive or negative one. I think I was still nervous about the unexpected to really take in my surroundings. The office is cute. It has electricity, WIFI, table, chairs and a toilet … what more could I need!

We played some Zambian ice-breakers, this included singing a song; “I am Hannah coming from Loughborough without fear” to which everyone else responds “she is Hannah coming from Loughborough without fear.” We went around everyone, I was second up and being more the introvert than extrovert, I gave it my best in my awkward out of tune voice. Singing does not come naturally.

We then met the peer leaders had a chat about the placements and general information outside in the glorious sunshine. I was particularly interested in hearing about Girls in Action, which is something I hope to get more involved in.

Next up, we went on our first bus journey to a place I cannot currently spell! When I say bus, I mean mini bus. A 12 seater like you used to have at secondary school when you had after school away games. Now that image is in your head, think about the 12 seats, now multiply that by two and that’s the reality of the Zambian buses. Three seats… nope! Squeeze on four, if not more! Crammed doesn’t quite describe that first bus experience. The bus features a driver and conductor who screams the location out the window and stops whenever someone looks remotely interested on getting in the bus. This includes going off road to ensure the bus gets full! Or, to bypass traffic. At one point we went off the road and I honestly thought we we’re going to topple over. Crammed against the window, we somehow managed to get back up the mountainous curb and back onto the road.

From there we went to get Zambia phones sorted so we could contact each other and stopped to get some food. Who would’ve thought it there’s a Spar in Zambia (well there’s several), I’m not sure what I expected, but it wasn’t mainstream shops. I later found out in just a 30-minute walk from the house there would be a Subway, Nandos, Pizza Hut, and a newly opened KFC… I just didn’t expect that to be here at all! The Spar was huge and you could get chips off a deli counter. And damn they were good!

Once everything was sorted with phones and food, we arrived home to our first BBQ made by JP from group 2 who wouldn’t be leaving until the Wednesday. It was such a delight!

Volunteer Zambia Day One

I’m not sure whether I was more nervous or excited to board my first solo flight from London to Dubai. Nonetheless, I did it! Although an hour delay on an hour layover was too tight for comfort, I was escorted to the gate and just managed to make the only connecting flight to Lusaka. A thankful team were anxiously waiting at the bottom of the stairs before the bus to the plane. Such a relief it was to see all of them! It was the first time I’d seen them all since the amazing Durham induction.

The flight to Zambia was a further seven hours to the previous seven hours spent on the plane from London to Dubai. After 14 hours of traveling we made it to Lusaka where Jon the project manager greeted us. Into the 4×4’s, we set off to the house. Wow! The house was bigger and better than I expected.  Four bathrooms, an extra toilet room, spacious kitchen, dining room, living room and the rooms aren’t too bad either!

In group three there’s seven of us, three from Loughborough; Cieran, Jen and me. From Durham; Mark and Hannah and from Northumbria; Claire and Corey. It’s a small group, but it’s quite nice like that. As we arrived we managed to meet group two before they headed off to catch their flight home. They seemed like they had the best six weeks of their lives! They gave us such a warm welcome hosted us with some spaghetti and story sharing before they reluctantly said their good byes. Some peer leaders also popped by to see them off and wish them the best!

Note to self, I cannot put up a mosquito net. After several struggles, the girls helped me! The four girls are in the same room, and the three boys are in another. We have bunk beds. Although, I’m on the bottom bunk and it’s not the most stable of bunk beds…

Graduation 2017

People always talk about graduating but what exactly is it?

On the 19th July 2017 at 3pm , I found out exactly what graduating is all about! Nervous, doesn’t quite describe how I felt!

Was my dress appropriate? Shoes okay? What about my hair? How formal is formal? Oh God, parents, what are they going to wear? Please Dad don’t wear your black and white checkered suit! Oh and Grandad…

Yet again my unnecessary stressing was not needed! Having managed to secure 5 tickets for graduation (you’re guaranteed two, and then they’ll email you to let you know if more are available. You simply reply back stating how many you would like and they are allocated on a first come first served basis). This meant my grandparents, parents and boyfriend could all attend the ceremony.

Unsure of what the day entailed, we arrived at 1pm for the 3pm ceremony. As we arrived all I was thinking about was am I early? Or was I late? Can I walk around in flip flops ? Or is that bad? I mean people walk around in flip flops all year here… Just a few of the many thoughts that encouraged my nerves! (p.s I did wear flip flops until we went into the ceremony, yes people were judging, but guess who’s feet didn’t ache!)

Nonetheless, 1pm wasn’t a bad time to turn up, it allowed plenty of time get from the Holywell carpark on to the bus to James France, and of course take hundreds of photos. At James France you could buy a whole load of merchandise, get the all important photographs, and of course the allmighty gown.

I honestly cannot describe the feelings you feel when putting on the gown. There’s something quite magical about it. I’m not sure what words to use, but when the time comes when you, yourself gets to wear the gown, you’ll know exactly what I mean. Elated with pride, the proudness I felt was clearly beaming from my smiles.

The realisation and reflection of three years concluding, all that hard work, late nights, emotional evenings, and manic mornings all for this one moment. The realisation, that you’ve done it. You’re about to get your degree certificate and no one can take that hard work and achievement away from you.

I dreamt of graduating Loughborough University since 12 years old. Looking back to that little girl, sat in her English class googling different universities, after a talk from nearby Exeter University. I discovered Loughborough, English and Sports Science, and from that day onwards it was always my goal. It was the goal I have finally achieved, 10 years later!

The day was so smooth, I didn’t queue at all for anything (apart from going across the stage), not even the photos. ( Tip: before your graduation ceremony the queues for professional photos are looooong! Go after your ceremony and you should slip straight in!). I was treated to a Loughborough pendant by my nan, something I’ll always treasure.

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The Ceremony 

  1. You enter with the seating card allocated upon registration
  2.  Sit in your designated seat
  3. Feel like you’re sat in the Great Hall, Hogwarts Castle. (Did anyone else feel like Lord Seb Coe was  Dumbledore about to place the sorting hat upon your head…please be Gryffindor)
  4. Some really random music will be played and the proceedings commence. It’s almost like someone is about to get married.
  5. You catch sight of the “procession” it’s all your lecturers in fancy outfits…seriously I have no idea what any of the colours or hats meant, a photo catalogue explaining would’ve been helpful. Note, still felt like something off Harry Potter!
  6. The emotional video gets played. Don’t cry.
  7.  The first lot of students go and get there degrees! Called out one by one. Someone grabs you so you no need to worry about getting up at the wrong time! You follow them, walk past the parents… Hi, mum! Stand in the queue. Confirmation of name before you go up (could be embarrassing if you went up in the wrong order!)
  8. You wait at the top of the stairs ( I had to do several deep breaths, I was almost certain I was going to fall… I didn’t…thankfully!)
  9. Your name is called. You strut confidently (or if you’re me, you just walk as quickly as possible hoping not to fall. Awkwardness on point!)
  10. You meet the Chancellor, Lord Seb Coe in the middle of your strut. You shake his hand and continue (insert nice thing said by Seb).
  11. The head of the department hands you your degree certificate. You exit down the stairs and go back to your seat. (It feels like a life time, yet realistically it’s about 5 seconds…3 years for 5 seconds!)
  12. You’re now a graduate. The weird music plays, you follow the procession and exit the hall, super proud. 1 hour 30 minutes of your life, yet symbolic of 3 years hard work.

So that’s about it really. It’s a weird feeling, indescribable. That’s your graduation done! You return the gown back to the hiring company in James France and leave. It will be one of the proudest days of your life, so make sure you make the most of it!

 

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University…. Completed it!

For the past several months the 19th July has been at the front of my mind… Graduation.

It seemed so far away for quite some time. After January exams…or a lot of coursework for me, I was averaging 70.2. After last years 69.5% (0.5% off a first class) I thought, wow if I keep this going I’ve done it, a First Class Honors. Beyond my wildest dreams!

Anxious and nervous going into semester two, I knew I had to work hard. Easier said than done, whilst juggling the demands of football (getting to a BUCS Final), my internship at British Basketball, editorial duties on two magazines, Kids Olympics Project leader, HeadsUp communication officer role, Media Lead for the BUCS Midlands Conference Cup clocking up over 50 hours outside of my course planning media and marketing strategy for the event, and of course running the event itself. There’s probably a billion other things I ended up doing when I should’ve spent more time on the workload I already had.

I know I made my final year hard, balancing all those commitments but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I met so many inspirational, talented and amazing students, that if I didn’t decide to get involved with all of the above, I would never have met. These people gave me so much confidence in myself, providing me with opportunities I have enjoyed, but opportunities that have developed me into a leader, a graduate with a voice, who can work under pressure, slightly more organised and definitely more determined to succeed.

Although, final year didn’t come without its struggles. The pressure of the course, alongside the extra-curricular and trying to find a social life… ( the latter rarely happened), took its toll during the final few weeks of writing my dissertation. Finding myself in a cycle of stress, writing, more stress, more writing. Earlier mornings and later nights, the dreaded dissertation was a process I can only enjoy on reflection.  Days before the deadline with my dissertation shaping quite nicely, I found my data could potentially be academic misconduct ( long story), to this day I still do not know whether it would’ve been or not. Regardless, at the time I couldn’t take the risk. Four days before the deadline I had to re-transcribe episodes of the Olympics but BBC coverage, not NBC coverage (An American TV Channel). That took practically a day just to get the data. At this point, I had to change the whole of my introduction, data analysis, discussion, and conclusion. That’s a whole chunk of my dissertation that had to be redone. Four days.  The time was ticking down, the panic increasing. I can’t possibly express the stress and pressure I faced. The BBC data analysis provided me with a whole new argument, a weaker one, positive for the BBC, but disadvantaging my dissertation. My dissertation focused on the subtle (often not very) sexism presented in gymnastics at the Olympic Games. Somehow, just don’t ask how. I managed to turn around my dissertation in four days, I completed it. I had no time to edit it, I completed it with a couple hours to spare and at this point, I was exhausted. 4000 words were written in the final 12 hours. No sleep, just writing.  I couldn’t look over it having not slept, and… the embarrassment I felt. I was so embarrassed by my work, still to this day after submission I have not read it, nor did I print it off and do the traditional photo with your dissertation at as many infamous Loughborough locations.

Emotionally drained, I thought that was it, I’ve ruined my degree. It was probably the lowest point of my university experience. I honestly thought that was it. I was working out how high I’d need to get in my modules to save myself. For some reason, I was obsessing that I would get 48 in my dissertation. Frustrated knowing how close I was and how hard I worked in semester one to average a 70.2, my new goal was to achieve a 2.1. This I thought was going to be the hardest challenge to date. I put so much effort into my final pieces of work, battling my brain telling me there’s no point I’ll be lucky to make a 2.2. I was shocked to see my results.

It was about 12:30 in India, maybe slightly earlier. We were just in a souvenir shop when I logged into the free airport wifi and received an email titled ‘your results’…I panicked. I was shaking. After the nightmares of failing my degree, the truth would load in a click of a button. Or, several attempts later.  It finally loaded. I looked straight to my dissertation mark. There was no 4 involved, it was a solid 2.1. My dissertation was ok, it was more than ok… I was elated. I was so happy I forgot to check my degree classification overall. At first, I couldn’t find it, a tilt of the phone later, landscape. There it was a First Class Honors.

Despite, my cycle of stress and my brain telling me I wasn’t good enough, I should pack it all in. I didn’t, I stuck with it and got a First Class Honors. Over the moon doesn’t describe it. For the village girl from Somerset, who always lived by the cringiest motto I’ve had since childhood ” never gonna give up, gonna aim high and reach the sky”. The girl who didn’t come from a background of wealth, nor privately educated, labeled into categories, like we all do,  I’ve surpassed expectations… my own expectations. I’ve achieved something that became possible, even when I thought I’d lost sight of it.

To me completing a degree is one of the most incredible achievements. Regardless of the mark. My message here is despite what you think, you never know how well you’ve actually done, and there is no point stressing over it. I honestly could’ve given up, and as much as I wanted to, thinking I had failed my degree just because my dissertation didn’t go to plan, I didn’t. I worked hard in my other modules. I did the best I could be and I tried to ignore the voice inside my head as much as I possibly could. That voice was stupid, my dissertation was fine, a mark to be proud of.

Even though I still can’t find the courage to read it, I have learnt my lesson. To believe in myself, my ability and to not stress over marks, or matters outside of my control, full stop! Life’s too short to be stressed!

I’ll now be starting my MA in Global Media and Cultural Industries at Loughborough University in October, so let’s hope I continue the success of the past three years, and have a bit more self-confidence going into my MA!

 

Loughborough University Employability Award

Ooooh this certificate says I’m employable…..

But am I…

Well…

Yes, employ me…

Right, in all seriousness completing the Loughborough Employability award has opened my eyes to the skills and achievements that I have gained through my time at Loughborough University.

The award constitutes several sections of skill reflections, achievements and benefits of participating in activities, societies, work, sport and volunteering. Through completion of the award, I realised I had more skills than I originally thought, likewise, I developed so many more skills through reflecting on everything I have achieved this year! As Dewey (1933) claimed ” you do not learn from experience, you learn from reflecting on experience.”

I’ve worked part-time in the Union Shop from assistant to eventually supervising. The transition and leadership experience this provided was more than just the responsibility of locking up and telling people what to do. Being a supervisor gave me skills in team management, organisation, motivating a team, whilst increasing my own work ethic and understanding. The confidence it gave me, although scary at first, was truly remarkable. I found myself more confident in other activities feeling confident to take the lead, and allowing my voice to be heard.

Now, that’s just one example, this year I have worked tremendously hard to round off my final year at Loughborough (or so I thought until I’ve recently decided to stay and do my masters) the best year I possibly could by gaining as much experience as I possibly could. I am so proud of myself for doing so because it opened my eyes up to so many different positions. From being a peer mentor to being an Action project leader to social media consultancy, sports editor, lead editor, marketing lead and so much more!

The award has allowed me to think deeper about all of these experiences, whilst achieving a certificate for future employers to hopefully recognise and realise the effort I have put in to achieve my dreams. I have learnt mahoooosive amounts about myself and the different activities, so thank you Loughborough for the opportunities, now I’m staying on to do a masters, I’m pretty sure I’ll be getting involved some more!

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AU it’s been a BALL!

Excuse the pun! AU Ball was absolutely fantastic, from the decorations to the food! I can’t wait for my role on the AU Executive team next year as the Media Officer to start! I’ll be controlling all of the media, promoting all 56 clubs, ensuring all of our athletes are celebrated, all with my amazing sub-committee!

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