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First Impressions, by Noel Carroll (EIL)

As part of the first article on the exchange of 2011, Noel Carroll from EIL's Development Education Committee shares his experience. Noel took part in the exchange in 2010.

'First Impressions'

"I am a member of the EIL Development Education Committee. Representing EIL, I was part of the Irish delegation that travelled to Zambia on the 2010 youth workers' exchange. The exchange took place over a period of one month. On the first leg of the exchange four youth workers form Ireland travelled to Zambia for eleven days and then five Zambian youth workers travelled to Ireland for two weeks. The four youth workers from Ireland were all from different organisations and had different levels of youth work and development education experience.

When I first arrived in Zambia, the heat was amazing as I had just left the cold shores of Ireland for this almost forty degree heat. Within hours of arriving we were givien a tour of the capital city Lusaka and then taken to our orientation session with 80.20 and Lucas our coordinator. We heard a culture lesson on Zambia and its diverse but united country.

We also got to see Lusaka by night on our first night and this really opened my eyes to the awareness of HIV/AIDS. In almost every nightclub and social gathering area there were murals or posters hanging around raising awareness.  This was completely different to what I have experienced in Ireland. Following that we visited some compounds (which are what could be called the 'slum/shanty town' area) where people live with primitive sanitation facilities and little access to education. This opened my eyes to the level of poverty people lived in so close to such a gleaming metropolis that is Lusaka.  From visiting the compounds I was wrestling with my feelings about my place on the exchange and would I be able to see much more of this kind of poverty. However this all changed when I got to some of the youth organizations and met some of the real people who live in compounds. This cemented my feeling about the exchange and how worthwhile it really is.   

This exchange involved a work placement where I would spend two days working with an organisation instead of just brief visits. Africa Directions is the organisation I was placed in and is in the biggest slum in Lusaka called 'Mutendere' where estimated 96,000 people live.   On entering my placement I was very excited and was given a tour of Africa Directions and the surrounding compound. Africa Directions provide sex education and areas in which young vulnerable people can play, dance and watch TV and also be screened and tested for STDs and HIV/AIDS.    

 Noel Carroll of EIL visiting an organisation in Lusaka, Zambia 

Noel visiting an organisation in Lusaka, Zambia

After our placements the four youth workers from Ireland got to visit each others work placement and I was impressed with all the organisations involved and I was amazed by the dedication and hard work each person put into their organisation and made it successful with little or no funding. Other amazing aspects of the exchange included getting to taste and experience some of the real culture of Zambia through their food and traditional dance. We also had the chance to visit Victoria Falls and see some of the natural beauty and wildlife of Zambia. I felt this exchange is something very worthwhile as not only did we get to visit Zambia but our Zambian counterparts visited Ireland too. 

In taking part in this exchange I was able to gather a wealth of knowledge and information I can now share and use with the development education committee such as new ways of interacting with young people with games, ice breakers and drama and I feel I am now better informed around the area of HIV & AIDS having had first hand experience of the situation in my placement. This exchange allows all participants and the youth sector to access a wonderful resource of information and experience via the youth organisations in Zambia, and to develop long-term relationships with all participants of the exchange. I feel we have stronger links with the other organisations that have taken part in the exchange."

Noel has also written an article which appears in Comhlamh's INDEX magazine about the difference between participating as a volunteer overseas, and participating in an exchange.

For more information on EIL, click here.

For more information on Africa Directions, click here.