Giving of oneself in Zambia and not counting the cost

October 19, 2006 in Education, International

Reflections on volunteering with Slí Eile Conor Gannon went to Zambia with a group of Slí Eile volunteers and worked there with sisters of Mother Teresa’s order. He was deeply impressed both with the sisters and with the Zambian people he met.

This summer I was privileged to have the opportunity to put that phrase from St. Ignatius’ prayer – “to give and not to count the cost” – into action. This was because I was able to spend some time volunteering in Zambia with the help of Sli Eile, an organisation established by the Irish Jesuits to encourage young people to get involved in matters of faith and justice. The trip was one of a wide range of opportunities that Slí Eile offers, other activities including the Gardiner St Gospel Mass and volunteering work in Colombia.

While in Zambia, I worked with the Mother Teresa Sisters in Lusaka. We helped out in the orphanage and the hospice that they run for those affected by AIDS. It was a most enlightening and enriching experience to work with them. They dedicate their lives with such generosity and humility to the service of those most in need. Working there brought home to me the devastating effect which AIDS has had on the Zambian population.

Before I went to Zambia I had a lot of preconceptions of what it would be like. Along with many of the other volunteers, I had images of an African country ravaged by poverty and sickness. Admittedly, this is a reality which, because of its severity, you can’t miss. However, there is much more to Zambia. The people are overwhelmingly generous, and their relaxed attitude was a refreshing change from the hectic life at home.

I was also delighted to have the opportunity to visit the awe-inspiring Victoria Falls in Livingstone, which are appropriately named “the smoke that thunders” in the local dialect. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and much of that is due to the hard work of the group leaders and the camaraderie of the group itself.

I think it’s interesting that amongst many people of my age it appears to be quite fashionable to volunteer abroad. The increase in applicants to voluntary organisations is a testament to this cultural phenomenon. Perhaps this is because we live in an era where volunteering abroad is just another chance to tick off one of those boxes of “must do” experiences. Going with Sli Eile, however, made it much more than just that. They offered me the chance, through their unique preparation and guidance throughout the trip, to reflect on the notion that a faith without justice is equally as empty as justice without faith.

For more information about Sli Eile’s volunteering opportunities, contact Debbie Moore, 8880607 / 0868487708 or at [email protected]