In late August, a Clean the World team traveled to Zambia on a joint trip with Children International. Clean the World Marketing Coordinator Kristin Rucker documented the trip.
Jamil Rodman, Jennifer Kolb, Pamela Theriault, and Bianca Madrid volunteered to join us on this mission to prevent childhood disease and death through soap distribution and hygiene education. These women are partners of Clean the World, volunteers, donors, and ambassadors that connected one way or another.
They joined us and Children International (CI) to distribute 15,000 bars of soap and teach healthy habits to the people of Zambia. The country has a population of more than 14 million, with 60 percent living below the poverty line. Soap is all too rare in developing areas of Zambia, where choosing necessities often does not include soap.
CI is a vital part of the betterment of these communities. The organization supports health and education needs, providing long-term care for children to increase their success in living a better life.
Sing. Dance. Love.
After a visit to the CI headquarters, we departed for a life-changing day in Kanyama. The facility there opened in 2005 and was CI’s first location in Zambia. We received an overwhelming welcome from 300 children dancing, laughing, and cheering for our arrival. The love was apparent, a great deal of hope resonated in all of us as the children clamored to meet us and ask our names.
As all 300 children stood around the central area, our volunteers performed a hygiene education skit featuring Super Soap and Super Water. Jamil came boisterously through the stage as strong and helpful Super Soap. Bianca whirled around as vital Super Water. Jen and Pamela came teetering through, tearing around as bad-guy germs. The children were ecstatic for Super Soap and Super Water to save the day, overtaking the germs with their strong teamwork.
After distributing 500 soap kits to the children at the Kanyama facility, we visited a sponsored family that receives support from CI. They graciously invited us inside their home, which is a two-room, cinderblock dwelling – a rare luxury.
The floor is dirt, doors consist of tattered cloth blowing in the breeze, and the bathroom is a large ditch in the distance. The family was genuine and kind, truly happy to have each other and the support from caring people. One young man was 19 years old and has been in the CI program since he was 7. His testimony bolstered the fact that success happens when non-profits work together as a team.
We were sad to leave the community. The children followed us back to the caravan. At one point, I had 30 children surrounding me. We moved as one multicellular unit, holding hands, each holding onto the next so we would not have to be apart.
Chibolya was our next stop. We experienced the now-familiar greeting of dance and song at this center, which opened in 2007. Children International’s mission is to provide the tools for children to be healthy, educated, and self-reliant, to create lasting change for children in poverty. Clean the World provided soap to reach the goal of health and hygiene for each child.
At this location, the performers invited us to perform with them. They taught us dances, and our attempts amused the group. We played a game where we coated bouncy balls in glitter and played catch with many of the 200 children. We explained how the glitter transferred to our hands and then on to other people just like germs. We shared the importance of soap and showed how to wash our hands properly.
To the tune of “Happy Birthday,” the congregation joined us in singing “Happy Hand Washing.” The lesson is that the length of time it takes to sing the song equals the length of time you should wash your hands: 20 seconds. Children lined up to receive soap. They were joyous and thankful to receive the gift. It was very meaningful to see how they appreciated our visit.
Our final visit was to the town of George. The 300 sponsored children from the village arrived an hour early, and they patiently waited for our arrival. Again the thoughtful greeting of song and dance followed. Mothers told us how our donations of soap are a blessing, how their children do not get ill as often when they can wash their hands.
A volunteer brought stickers, which was an extra treat for the children. Word spread fast outside the facility. Children ran down the road in droves. Within 30 minutes, 100 children gathered for the treats. Some of them ran a half-mile for the chance to receive something fun and colorful. What a fun time it was giving those out and seeing how special it was for the children. We forget how materially blessed we are at home.
Health is Wealth
We made fast friends wherever we went. The true gift for us was the chance to learn and understand a culture beyond our own, to give love and receive it. We experienced the common goal all humans share, living beyond surviving, living in the moment, and sharing the understanding that health is wealth.
Beyond our visits to connect with the people who benefit from Clean the World’s soap, we toured the beautiful countryside. We saw wild animals everywhere, walked to markets, spoke with locals, and learned of daily life to better understand a different lifestyle. We visited the world’s largest waterfall, Victoria Falls, and canoed down the Zambezi River.
What a wonderful world we live in, what a meaningful trip. We all agreed, that it was an experience of a lifetime, We learned more and felt more love than we ever anticipated. Though we reached many children, there are so many more who need help. We saw how continued support makes an impact in these children’s lives. This trip only created more purpose and drive to continue the Clean the world mission of reaching children everywhere, to reduce disease, and promote hygiene habits for a better future. Our lives were touched and forever changed.
I cannot wait to see where Clean the World goes next. I hope you can join us!