Day Two – Hope Community School, January 24th, 2017

Day Two – Grave Sites & Slave Tree, Introduction to Play-based Learning

We started our day so energized to take on what was ahead of us. We did our Bemba lesson (I’m still just saying “Muli Shani” with confidence at this point, hopefully I’ll get better as the week goes on!)  Part of this trip is understanding the context and culture of the Zambian people, so we can better serve them, support them and stand beside them. What we saw yesterday was in stark contrast to what we saw today. “Ba” Charles (Ba translates to “elder”) took us through several different neighborhoods and townships in Ndola, ultimately arriving at the city’s grave site. What we saw was immense, devastating poverty. The children were barefoot and hungry, and not at school. It made me think of the thin line that exists for those with access to education, and those that do not.

We had a very difficult time wrestling with the sensitive nature of two cultures, and the juxtaposition of wealth and poverty was most clearly on display in the grave sites, where marble etched grave stones laid beside a mound of dirt, piled high so it could be seen someone laid to rest there, with the cup or water bottle of the deceased placed a top the mound in their memory, their family unable to afford a more elaborate marker of their grave. Following the grave site we arrived at the Slave Tree, where Ba Charles provided us with a thought provoking account of how the slave trade took place in Ndola. On the drive back to Hope, I thought about the sensitive nature of our being in Ndola.  We might have the desire to teach, but we have so much to learn. While might have the desire to provide, but we are meant to be a partner.

We are off the bus and all of a sudden… it’s time to play! Perhaps the most important, joyful moment of our time in Zambia was introducing the preschool children and teachers at Hope the play-based approach we use at LPP.

We started our with a reading of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, introducing the letters of the alphabet through storytelling and interactive felt board illustrations. To slowly integrate the concept of centers, each LPP director took a manipulative: Waffle blocks, Sorting toys and bowls, Felt storyboards with felt characters and pieces, and we had the children broken into three groups. For this particular day, the teachers rotated, and the groups of children stayed put, allowing us to come to them to introduce each toy.

Along with the children, my eyes grew as I watched them put the waffle blocks together. In that moment my heart stopped and I thought: “I’m watching a child play with this toy for the very first time.” And they were off! Building, sorting, creating, laughing, labeling… you do not need to teach a child how to play. It’s instinct. There is no greater vehicle to learning and curiosity than play. All that is needed is the tools, they will do the rest. After we finished up our rounds of centers, we danced with the students as they thought us new movement songs in a big circle together.

My heart was so full, it may have burst.