- Written by Hannah Jones
- Category: Featured News
Spending two months teaching children and caring for endangered lions, Lindsey Morris and Billie Porter expected they would help the Zambian people. They didn’t plan on the Zambian people being a greater help to the Hinckley natives.
“I went there thinking I could help them, but they really helped me,” Morris said softly.
Both 25-years-old, Porter and Morris traveled to Livingstone, Zambia for a twomonth volunteer trip through the African Lion and Environmental Research Trust in early September. The trust focuses on lion conservation, school development projects and environmental conservation. The friends worked with the school and lion projects.
This was Morris’s first trip, Porter’s third.
When they set foot on Zambian soil, it was as if they were returning home, Porter said.
“There’s something funny about it,” she said. “You get over there and feel you should have been born in Zambia.”
Porter compared Livingstone to the setup of Millard County with a main town with shopping surrounded by smaller towns.
Porter and Morris lived in a lodge in Livingstone with a few other volunteers where they raised a large garden that provided food for the residents and extra for the Zambians.
“Population of the lodge: eight humans and 400 million mosquitoes,” Porter said, rolling her eyes.
Schooling became the duo’s main focus of the trip. They lugged a portable library from village to village to offer the children an opportunity to improve their English skills. Zambian children are required to be fluent English speakers by grade 7. If they cannot pass the English test, they cannot progress in school.
Many of the volunteers bring English books from home to boost the library’s stores. Deb Greathouse, the Delta librarian, heard of the program through her daughter, who is Porter’s friend. She donated extras from the city library’s stores with plans to donate more next year. She welcomes any donations for the program.
“The library books that were donated were like diamonds out there,” Porter said. “For us to bring in new books was so fun. The Wizard of Oz was a favorite, funnily enough.”
In addition to the books, Porter and Morris often acted as the teachers for the village schools. The schools will go for months at a time, Porter said, but the children still arrive daily, hoping for a teacher. Two students walked three hours every day for school.
“That was always fun, being the one to show up,” she said smiling.
Morris said one of her favorite parts of teaching was a sight rarely seen in America – bare feet. Due to the poverty and the climate, shoes are not necessarily considered a necessity in Zambia.
“That’s one of the things I miss,” she said. “You would look at the school floor and see little footprints everywhere.” While poverty was widespread in Zambia, its impact on the natives was different than the Americans expected.
“They’re satisfied,” Porter said after a pause. “They have their families and a roof over their head. They know that’s enough.”
Livingstone did have access to clean water, a luxury many Zambian villages are struggling to attain, but getting water from a pump took a 15-minute walk at the least. With average temperatures of 104 degrees, drawing water could be taxing work.
“They never complained,” Morris said. “They were just grateful.”
Gratitude became a mantra for the two while in Zambia and was a striking contrast to American culture, Porter said.
“If people could live their lives the same way the Zambians do, their lives would be so much better,” Morris said. “They care about people, not things.”
Porter recounted an incident where she was shocked to see her friend’s child scream for several minutes after missing a few minutes of his television show.
“It’s hard for me to empathize with some things here,” Porter said. “And I know that’s my problem and not everyone else’s. But after seeing a man push himself in a wheelchair 15 miles to town, it’s hard to have as much compassion on the smaller things.” Porter and Morris found commonality with the Zambians in a very specific aspect: their faith. Both are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but they did not plan on being missionaries in Zambia.
They kept quiet about their faith for a while but found they could relate to people better when they talked about God.
“The best way to get along with people is to ask if they believe in God. That’s one way you could be on the same level with them,” Morris said. “You would ask them about God, and they would say, ‘God loves all of us, and we’re all the same because we believe in Him.’ Many times, we were the first white person to say we believe in God.”
One of the most frustrating aspects of the trip for Morris and Porter was a superior attitude toward Zambians that would sometimes rise from other Europeans or Americans. Porter said misunderstandings swirl around African culture. One of the most offensive to Porter is the assumption that all African peoples are stupid and violent.
“It’s wrong,” she said, shortly. “And it happens a lot.”
Morris said she could still sense a superior attitude lingering from the British Imperialist period in the 18th and 19th centuries.
“Racism is still there, it’s just in a different disguise,” she said. “Now, it’s Europeans telling the Zambians that they don’t know how to live, that they need to stop having children. The fact of the matter is, it’s none of their business. We don’t need to tell them anything. They teach us.”
Traveling to Zambia took a lot of financial commitment. A two-month stay costs $6,000 and covers only room and board, not plane tickets or additional costs. They each paid for their trips out of savings funds.
“I saw it as a good opportunity. I’m not tied down with a husband or kids,” Porter said. “If it’s something God wants you to do, he will provide the money.”
“I never regretted spending the money to get there,” Morris said. “My family was pretty nervous. But I really wanted to go, so I just said, ‘I’m doing this.’ They supported me. When I came back, they could see the changes in me and saw how happy I am.”
Coming back home was more difficult for the friends than they had expected. Culture shock set in quickly.
“The lights,” Porter said, laughing at Morris’s grimace. “The electricity is so bright here.”
“I still have my phone on the dimmest setting, and it’s almost too bright for me,” Morris added.
While they readjust to the culture, Porter and Morris spend most of the extra time together because “nobody else really understands.”
“Last time, it took several months to get past the culture shock,” Porter said. “I had anxiety attacks last time. I went to the doctor, and he told me it was because I was having trouble adjusting to the fast pace. The attacks did go away after awhile.”
Still, they have appreciated being home. Morris recalled two employees of a plantation owner who were abused.
“We wanted to help them, but we couldn’t,” she said. “Here, you can do something about things that are wrong.”
Will they ever return to Zambia?
“I feel like it’s something that would call my name, but I’m not sure I could go permanently,” Morris said. “I have thought about the Peace Corps.” “I would be interested in getting a job there,” Porter said. “I feel like I need to be there when I’m there, but it makes me appreciate home.”
The impact of Zambia will not be forgotten by either of them, however.
“It was a privilege to be there,” Morris said quietly. She looked at Porter who smiled and nodded in agreement.