Zambia is VSA’s newest programme, set up in 2008. We work with partners to improve living conditions, reduce poverty and create long-term sustainable livelihoods. We are located primarily in the Southern province with volunteers in Lusaka, Choma, Macha and Kabwe. Our volunteers work for NGO partner organsations in areas such as vocational training and education, primary health care, community development and HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. VSA has a field office in East London, South Africa, staffed by a Country Programme Manager and Administrator, who coordinate and provide support for the Zambia programme. Please note: As of March 2011, VSA is no longer recruiting for long term assignments inZambia.
Chandni Bedhesi worked as a Primary/Intermediate Teacher Trainer at the Kara Counselling and Training Trust in Zambia. She completed her assignment in August 2011. View Profile
Zambia is one of the most urbanised countries in sub-Saharan Africa with 44 per cent of the population concentrated in a few areas along major transport corridors. The country has numerous national wildlife parks, but the emphasis is on tourism rather than conservation. HIV/AIDS is prevalent in Zambia, with around16 per cent of the adult population affected.
Christianity is the most followed religion, but Islam and Hinduism are both popular. A minority of the population still follow traditional African beliefs.
Around 85 per cent of Zambians are subsistence farmers; commercial agriculture is mostly confined to a small number of large farms. The leading crops are corn, sorghum, rice, peanuts, sunflower seeds, vegetables, flowers, tobacco, cotton, sugarcane, cassava, and coffee and there is also a small fishing industry. Copper mining/refining is by far the country’s largest industry, concentrated in the cities of the Copperbelt.
The challenges for economic development are many with the vast majority of Zambians living a subsistence lifestyle. Unemployment rates are high and the country is struggling to support the strain of HIV/AIDS-related costs. There is a severe teacher shortage which is a fundamental challenge in education. The impacts of HIV/AIDs are extensive for both health and social development. Over 20 per cent of children have lost at least one parent to the epidemic and the health care system faces drug and equipment shortages and lacks qualified personnel, especially in rural areas.
VSA assignments usually last two years, so local language training is important, although volunteers often find that colleagues may converse in multiple local languages, particularly in urban areas. Volunteers are encouraged to learn the local language and formal language training can be arranged if necessary.
Understanding and respecting local customs is vital to a successful assignment. Zambia is a traditional Africa society and certain behaviours that are acceptable in Western countries need to be approached with caution.
We provide our volunteers with basic, furnished accommodation. Most houses have a flush toilet and a shower, and a few have a hot water cylinder. Some remote areas may have very simple facilities. We provide cooking facilities if they are not already supplied, generally an electric stove (for those who have electricity) or a gas stove. We’ll also supply an electric or gas refrigerator and a mosquito net. If there is no piped water, we, or your employer, will provide water storage barrels and a water filter.
Appearance for work is very important in Zambia, except for those working outside. Be prepared to dress in ‘office’ style rather than casual clothing. For men, this usually means a short or long-sleeved cotton shirt – open-necked – slacks and shoes. Ties are only worn for formal occasions. Shorts can be worn in casual, non-work situations
Women should wear skirts or dresses which cover their knees; women showing their knees and thighs will cause great offence. Trousers should be loose, partly to keep cool, but also to avoid offence. Sleeveless tops may be worn by women, however, short sleeves are considered more appropriate to wear at gatherings.
Malaria is endemic in many parts of Zambia and all volunteers must use malarial prophylaxis. Other precautions are still recommended, such as insect repellent and long sleeves / trousers in the evening if outside and a mosquito net if you are staying in villages. Skin infections can develop quickly so have a good supply of plasters, antibiotic cream and antibiotics. HIV/AIDS are both prevalent in Zambia and you’ll need to be aware of the necessary precautions. Health care is basic and you’ll need to be responsible for managing your own health while on assignment, although there are hospitals in Lusaka.
We provide all selected volunteers with a thorough security briefing and specific local issues are covered during your in-country orientation. Travellers almost anywhere can encounter pickpockets and thieves, so you need to be sensible and aware of the dangers.
The cost of local bank accounts in Zambia is excessive so at present volunteer living allowances are paid into New Zealand credit card accounts. Volunteers can withdraw money from ATMs in most towns along the main roads. The currency is the Kwacha. Visit XE.com for current exchange rates.
Zambia has several cellular providers and coverage is very good in urban areas. It’s best to take a GSM international phone with you and you can buy a prepaid sim card for the provider of choice on arrival.
Most partner organisations have internet so you should be able to access the internet/emails for work use at the office. In addition there are internet café in all major towns.