A young man’s perspective ( Alex Stevens)

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It’s always interesting to get the views of our visitors and it’s especially to get the perspective of a young visitor with all the insight, energy and enthusiasm that youth brings!

Here are the thoughts of one such young visitor,Alex Stevens who visited us with his colleagues from St. Fintan’s.
These are his, unedited and uncensored, views of his trip to Kabwe and we thank him for this thought-provoking article.
Alex Stevens – St Fintan’s High School, Sutton, Dublin.
Sables’ experience:

My thoughts of Sables from the very first day was that it was just beautiful, All round beautiful. I loved the set up, I loved the function, but most of all I loved the children and the sense of family they showed in Sables. And that is the most beautiful part from the very start.

A group of lucky- less fortunate children from all around Kabwe come together each day, put their backgrounds and sad realities behind them and just have fun in Sables all together, as a family. And ultimately that is the beauty of Sables.
But as you go to Sables, day after day, you notice that it goes deeper than all that. And that the children really do live in one of the worst conditions in the world, without the materials and the daily ‘necessities’ of our lives in Dublin and you begin to form a bond and genuine attachment to the whole set up of Sables and just how much it helps these children’s lives and childhood.

When you’re in Dublin, everything is grand, you live in a comfortable middle class background, surrounded by facilities and opportunities that you just take for granted every day, you don’t even regard most of the time where the worst thing that can happen to you is you lose your I-Phone or get a stain on your shoes! When you go to Sables you notice that your priorities in Dublin are just backwards, and it gives you an example of, regardless what part of the world you live in, the attitude you should have towards life. True happiness, you don’t always need the latest model I Phone, or the best shoes out there just to be happy, (it’s a bonus) but once you notice that these materials don’t and can’t, no matter how much you think it make your life better or happier, then, you can truly enjoy your life.
Honestly, while I was in Sables not once did I see a child moan or even cry. And it proved to me the simplicity of life. A simplicity that I think we should all aspire to. As well to put it bluntly these children do have a genuine reason to cry, but they don’t, at all, that’s why you must ask yourself the question, Why is this?

The more I went to Sables, the more I learned about all the children in Sables and the closer I grew to them, but also more about the cruel and unfair life around Kabwe, which just so everyone knows is not the people of Zambia’s fault. From the minute I arrived in Zambia one of the first things I noticed was the lack of investment from the government into communities and to provide jobs. It’s also clear that there is no set basic standard of living around Zambia and basically this all points directly back to unfair distribution of the country’s wealth. The best example of backwards priorities that I noticed was seen an hour into our journey from Lusaka airport to our hostel in Kabwe. As we drove through the terribly impoverished villages and the dusty roads of Zambia, through all this poverty a giant, state of the art football stadium emerges, as if you’ve just suddenly stepped into a different country. And while the stadium is beautiful and well built, you can’t help but question, what is the overall significance of this stadium being here amidst all the poverty and harsh conditions of Zambia. To be honest it’s a joke.
This growth of background knowledge just made me love the school ran by ‘Mr.Pat’ even more, and everything it stands for. Also showing me that everyone should try fight back against this inequality and try make Zambia a better place, as Pat Fanning has done in the past few years through his forever improving Sables which has brought so much happiness to hundredths of children around Kabwe. For many this school is simply a home for the poorest children around Kabwe, but once you have been there and bonded with the children, you quickly learn that the school stands for a lot more than just shelter and food. Sables is a force field, for very unfortunate children around Kabwe who have simply pulled the short straw in life. But the only thing that is holding this school back is it’s budget. It is absolutely dependant on donations and volunteers in order for it to function, which leads on to the other problem. While it helps over 200 of the poorest children around Kabwe, it is already over filled, meaning that there are literally thousands of children around Kabwe with literally no chance of getting the same opportunity as the fortunate children in Sables. These children face real world problems every day, problems that almost everyone in Ireland and myself do not have to even come near to on a daily basis in Ireland. Yet every weekday in Kabwe over 200 children walk kilometres to the warm doors of Sables, and for those 6 hours all their for problems go away. In a way once those gates close, the real child that has to be hidden a lot at home is able to come out to play. Sables does this, a simple school in the middle of an impoverished village in Zambia.

As I learned this it made my experience of driving out to Sables everyday that much sweeter. Everyday that I sat on that tiny bus with the lads and the legendary driver Able Chanda I looked forward to seeing the children and playing with them, but also to just really take in the sense of community around Sables, that really, is hard to find around the world in this day and age. I fell like the reason that it’s seldom you find a real sense of community around Ireland these days is due to the new found greed and materialism brought in from the effect of the western world, people care more about having fun and enjoying themselves on their phones, on the television and the Internet than actually enjoying themselves without these materials.

The one thing about that Sables that went against these traditions however, was, the new found materialism of the children. Pat told us from the very first day that if we brought clothes or presents to give to the kids, that we were strictly not allowed to hand them out individually. This was a crazy thought for me on the first day, the fact that I was being disallowed to help these unfortunate children. Although, I soon noticed why Pat was saying this and that he really was right in making this a strict rule. From the very first day, I noticed that some kids were constantly begging me for presents and my sun glasses etc, And to be honest, on the first day as that was my first real culture shock and first time witnessing full scale poverty first hand, I wanted to give it all away. And I could tell the rest of the lads wanted to, as you just feel so guilty when you think of everything you have at home and how little these children have here. But it’s not as simple as that, the children, now that they are used to the ‘Mzungus’ (white people) coming every year they have noticed how they can benefit from this personally, and so some of the children have started to try manipulate the Mzungus into drowning them with presents. But I really couldn’t blame those who do try manipulate us, I’m sure that if I was in their position I would do the same. I also feel that maybe, in a strange way, we’re all doing something wrong with charity these day’s. Around Ireland at the moment there are 100’s of charities, such as Trocaire, who just basically ship out money to people in these poor African countries. And while this money helps them so much, and they depend on it so much, maybe that’s the problem. These people have grown so overly dependant on these charity to help them. Which ultimately is helping them short term, but in a way holding them back in the long term. I just feel like handing out this help to these poor people every now and then with no strings attached is in a way working against the cause.

I know that the work we did around Sables is not suddenly going to put an end to poverty around Zambia and Kabwe, but it definitely had a huge affect on me and all the other students and teachers involved in the project.

Overall, I’m absolutely delighted that I was picked to go on this trip and part-take in this amazing project. I’d like to thank Pat Fanning and the whole team working around Sables, the work they do over there is absolutely selfless and all round brilliant. And I definitely look forward to being involved in other projects like this in the near future and returning to Kabwe.