The REEL Project is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization.
We aim to connect people, share stories and change lives through
art, film, technology and opportunities.
We work primarily with refugees and displaced persons in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
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Tuesday, November 6, 2018
Joburg-Ndola waiting in the airport for flight...
Here is a little information about Zambia, Ndola in particular and following, my story on 'where it all started':
Ndola, the capital of the Copperbelt Province (and third largest in Zambia), is a prosperous, sprawling city that makes a good spot to break up the journey or spend the night en route to the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage. Once you get off its main thoroughfare, and hit its genteel, well-tended residential streets, there is no real evidence of its industrial base. Interestingly it's only 10km from the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
An important commercial centre in Zambia, Ndola lies some 320 kilometers north of Lusaka. It is the gateway to the mineral producing region of the country. Like Lusaka, the development of Ndola has been rapid and extensive.
There are many manufacturing industries here, including a major copper refinery. Although copper is still Zambia’s largest foreign exchange earner and the mainstay of the national economy, the city of Ndola has established itself as a commercial and light industrial centre of considerable importance, as well as being the junction and distribution centre for the Copperbelt complex. The oil pipeline from Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania ends its 1700 km journey at the Ndola refinery.
Modern factories, offices and shops line the Central Business District A big attraction in Ndola is the annual Zambia International Trade Fair in July. A number of newspapers and journals are printed in the city, two of which serve the country – the Times of Zambia and the Sunday Times.
Kawambwa Refugee camp, Kapdondo asleep on my back
In between applying for grad school and having just completed my BA in International Development Studies, I was at a crossroads. I knew what I wanted to do but was not sure which path and or direction to go in. I was quickly reminded of my passion for IDS when speaking with my (former) professor, Andrew Apter (current African Studies Director at UCLA). Prof. Apter enlightened me on many things- but most importantly, on Africa. He sent me an application to 'work abroad' with an organization (not worthy of mentioning....). I applied and must say, it was quite tedious. In fact, not many applicants 'got it' and it was even more of an accomplishment- and journey! We spent months in training sessions, getting to know one another (there were 12 of us). It was exhilarating and the anticipation of departure was forever exciting. We raised money individually to cover the cost of our expenses and once on the ground, broke into pairs and were given our 'projects'. Mine was primary education, in the Kawambwa refugee camp (home to over 8,000 Congolese refugees). I knew little about primary education though had a knack for getting things done and, my partner in crime is the kindest softest and most gentle of humans- we were a match made in heaven.
After meeting our translator, Willy Bonza, we began the daunting task of rehabilitating the primary school with EVERYTHING from; re-thatching the roof, benches and tables to replace the dilapidated 'desks' to hiring artists to paint curriculum around the inside of the walls and, painting the chalkboards accordingly. Daunting I say because working within the walls of a refugee camp limit you/there/THE access to, well, ANYTHING! We were taking trips into "town" to buy loads of lumbar, lacker, paint, all kinds of material. At times, we would get stuck en-route because of the rain, the roads or simple local politics.
The day Kapondo and I reunited
Finally, in record time, we completed our project and had the most beautiful of primary school completely safe and visually EDUCATIONAL. It was an accomplishment that took all of our breaths away. In addition to the proud moment of our project, I also met little 2 year old Kapondo. He is the son of refugees and was born in the camp. I was fortunate to reunite with Kapondo and his family again years later and, still to this day, support his (and siblings) education endeavors. Kapondo is now 12 years old.
I have so many more details that I would like to share but it is time to pack this up and get to my gate.