When you are in need and you feel that you are in the right place: a training program that changes your life
Sara Herran’s letter, a Spanish student who spent 3 months in Zambia with the Rainbow project. An experience that helped her to grow professionally and as a person: “I was away from my country, but I felt at home”.
Our life at Teddy is so rich (it is full of challenges and achievements, defeats and victories), this is the life of the people who work with the social projects that Teddy and the Gigi Foundation support every day to create our Dream. This is why we will try to dedicate a space to the experiences that they tell us about. It is an extra chance to get to know them and to remember them in our daily working lives.
The first letter we receive comes from Zambia, where for over 20 years the Rainbow project has been helping children who are victims of AIDS, and families who are oppressed by structural poverty and the lack of food. Sara is a Spanish student, and she wrote a letter to share her experience of her three months in Africa, because “ this experience has changed my life, opened my mind, and has made me notice things that deserve respect and that are really important, leaving behind the silly worries that sometimes fill our thoughts.”
Imagining myself in Africa had always just been a lovely dream. “Maybe one day”, I would think, with my head in the clouds; but I have always liked to believe that things happen for a reason.
To start with, I’d like to tell you that after studying Human Nutrition at the University in Madrid, I felt the need for a change, so I applied to do an Erasmus in Italy, where, thanks to some help and a little luck, I ended up in the right place at the right time, and met the people who work on the wonderful Rainbow project.
Thanks to them, I had the chance to do a training course in Zambia after I finished my exams, at a time when, as we all know, we are in the midst of nothing with a degree in our hands, but we don’t know where or how to get our professional lives started.
So I got onto a plane, and went on a 13 hour flight with dozens of vaccines in my body and powered only by my curiosity. I have always like travelling, maybe because in a plane you are moving, and that is when you realize how fast life is, and that everything makes sense.
Honestly, I only had a vague idea of where I was going, where I was going to live, and what I was going to do once I landed, but when I arrived I realized that I had done the right thing. The first week was hard; it is not easy to absorb so much information with a mind that has lived its whole life with the opposite mentality. But we are human beings, and in the end we are all the same and we are able to adapt.
Every day I spent in Zambia was like a whole year of personal development, because every minute and every second that went by I learnt something new, or I found out something about myself. You are like the water of a stream; you simply “flow” with the world. The best thing for me was seeing this personal change take place: you get there with a set of ideas and convictions and every day you have to reconsider who you are, what you want to do, and how you can give the best of yourself.
In the project I discovered how much I love spending time with children. For some years, I have been crazy about photography and seeing how different the gazes of people in Zambia are through the camera is a wonderful thing. Their gaze never changes, even if you spend two hours looking at them! You are captivated by those eyes, because they speak to you. They tell you their terrible stories, and lovely ones as well.
It is also thanks to this experience that I have met good people; people who have decided to devote their lives to a cause they believe in, and people who fight for their dreams every day; dreams that have nothing to do with big houses and nice cars. And it is also simply because of this attitude, that you don’t often come across in our western world, that it is worth going to Zambia.
I must say that when I was studying at university, even though I always loved it, I never felt that I was “in the right place”, because I never found a cause which I could identify with and to which I could dedicate my life. Maybe the kind of nutrition they teach you at University is a different kind of nutrition that can only be applied to the present problems of the western world. I would never have thought that I could find a different path to follow, as I was so concentrated on malnutrition, a path that would involve me so much in a land unknown to me like Africa. The best thing for me was seeing this personal change: you get there with a set of ideas and convictions and every day you have to reconsider who you are, what you want to do, and how you can give the best of yourself.
This experience has changed my life, opened my mind, and has made me notice things that deserve respect and that are really important, leaving behind the silly worries that sometimes fill our thoughts.” And it was with these good and bad experiences that I harboured inside me that I had to come home. I have never cried as much when leaving something behind. But you aren’t crying because of the injustices in the world, but because you know that these people aren’t even aware of how hard life is here, and maybe they won’t ever want to realize it. You cry because you have met real, honest people who do not pretend to be someone else. You cry because you are far from your country, but you feel at home. You cry because you are going back to a world where people spend their whole lives looking for happiness, but they will never know how wonderful it is to find it in every step of the way.