Sharing burdens

Mama Kawatu unloads books for Chilena Library

Mama Kawatu unloads books for Chilena Library

Unlike quite a few members of our team, this is my second time back on this beautiful continent. Three years ago I went to the rural town of Nyerii, Kenya, with a non-profit from my hometown, Reno. Our purpose for this trip was to help set up a tutoring system and distribute shoes and water filters to poor children and families in Kenya. There were some incredibly meaningful parts, but in many ways it felt like we came as rich Americans to help the poor and needy Kenyans who would be plagued by diseases from dirty water, unable to attend school because they didn’t have shoes, and in need of love from our group because they didn’t get it otherwise.

The water filters probably helped a few of the individuals who could actually understand our demonstrations, and if the children had school fees and no shoes, now they could probably attend school. Although we had good intentions, we were still the “saviors” that came in and left believing we did so much to help those in need. Looking back, I feel like much of the trip was flawed in what we did and how we did. Regardless, this trip still had an incredible impact on me and influenced the type of work I hope to do with the rest of my life.

I wanted to come to Zambezi because I expected this trip to once again bring me to a culture and people that I love, but this time we wouldn’t come as “saviors” ignorant to the strengths of the people we are there to help. This time we would come as equals, loving and serving one other as “mutually indebted” friends who believe in a shared humanity.

The very first moment we arrived here, it already seemed different. Getting off the plane yesterday we were greeted with excited smiles and a big welcome sign from our Zambian friends who waited in the hot sun for hours for our arrival. It reminded me of how my grandma picks me up from the airport when I visit her in LA—eagerly waiting, with an excited smile, and a sign welcoming me in her home. It felt like we were family or long-time friends even though it was my first time here.

When we come, we teach classes and bring expertise valued by the local community. But we also receive help from a dear friend, Mama Kwatu. She helps us shop, prepare, and cook meals for us with our limited supplies and knowledge of Zambian cuisine, while also sharing conversations about her life with whichever student is lucky enough to help her make meals that day. Authentic relationships are built not based on free handouts from strangers but on the idea that we are “mutually indebted” to one another and delighted in getting to know one another more deeply.

Although classes don’t start until Monday, I hope and imagine I will form a deep friendship with some adults in our class. Just the letters that past Zambezi students send back to dear Zambian friends shows me that these relationships are built on vulnerability and love for each other. Although I haven’t made such relationships yet, I know that if I give a small gift when I leave it will be because I am showing love and appreciation for a friend rather than giving something to someone with less than me.

It is challenging for me to recognize and admit that the trip to Kenya that impacted me so much had some important flaws, but it also encourages me to seek and prioritize accompaniment, reciprocity, and “mutual indebtedness” with both my new Zambian friends and with whomever I end up working in the future, as I am considering Peace Corps after graduation and even possibly a vocation promoting rights for marginalized women (hopefully in a country like Kenya or Zambia).

I am so thankful for this experience and for our faculty who are committed to challenging the view many people have when they come to developing countries. Although it is impossible to practice accompaniment and reciprocity perfectly, I can now see how to strive for it in the next two and a half weeks and long after I leave Zambia.

To all my family and friends, I love and miss you! Can’t wait to come home and share all my stories from Zambezi with you. Thanks for the love, support, and prayers!

Love always,

Lindsey Hand, Class of 2017

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9 Responses to Sharing burdens

  1. Taylor Ridenour says:


    Such growth is reflected in this challenging post. Thank you for sharing those moments with us.
    I remember the first time we sat on your couch(feels like ages ago) we talked about the dear friend you made in Kenya. You never once described what you did there but rather you described the relationship you developed and how she showed you the deepest love you had ever experienced from another human. You could not be more right that the gift you will both leave and receive will be one that comes from vulnerability and love. Much like the gift you have left those of us back here who love you so deeply.

    love you so much.

    Thinking of and praying for you, Katie, Venezia, MuuurClure, Joel, Peter.
    love you lots dear friends!

    Hi Jeff. Just taped some of our paintings from Denver on my new wall. Miss you too!

  2. Savannah Bukant says:

    My dear Lindsey and the entire Zam Family,

    I am so so glad to hear you’ve made it safely to Zambezi. My heart is reaching out to you all as you begin your journey in this new and peculiar place. I’ve finally sat down to catch up on blog posts, and what a ride it’s taking me on. From the various plane rides to the glitz of Dubai to the dusty, sweaty, little hands of Zambezi, you are all bringing me right back. To think that a year ago I was in your shoes is mind-blowing. And even more, it’s craaaaazy how deeply I long to be back, when last year after a month I was so ready to return home. Reading your posts brings me back to the convent, back to the sandy roads, back to the smells. Despite how insignificant those details seemed at the time, they are everything. Cherish the small things. Look fully into the eyes of those you are with, and realize that each meeting, each encounter, is an incredible opportunity to know and to love.

    Lindsey, why am I not surprised by the thoughtfulness, honesty, and love in your words? Wow…after only one day in Zambezi you’re setting up the group for success through your mindset of mutual indebtedness. I’m not sure where you got that phrase (I don’t remember reading it during class…) or if it’s your own, but it so beautifully describes the loving relationships we are able to build in Zambia. I pray all of you are able to find one or a few individuals who are willing to spend time to build that kind of relationship with you. One word of advice I would have given to myself: be generous with your time and attention; it’s all you have to give. Lindsey, I miss you my friend and am beyond excited that you’re finally here. Know that you are where you’re supposed to be, and take each moment as a gift. Love you.

    To the health team, I am SO eager for your adventures to begin!!! Don’t be afraid to fly by the seat of your pants, and don’t shy away from stepping up to the challenge when the need presents itself to you. I look forward to seeing pictures of you/your students/the new kits and hearing about your travels. Ahhhhhhhhh!!!!! Give Mama Love a big big hug. H

    Sitting on my grandma’s couch in north Spokane, I’m living through y’all right now. Be safe but take all the risks. Now is the time. Allie, Hannah, Reilly, love and miss you guys. Josh and Jeff, I miss being there with you two and I thank you for pouring your hearts into this journey once again.

    (sorry, this was longer than expected!)
    Kisu mwuane,

  3. Eve Knudtsen says:

    What a truly thoughtful blog! I love the idea of “mutual indebtedness”. You are all so eager to truly understand rather than save. I pray that as some of you practice this around the globe, that others will show this kind of leadership in understanding each other at home. Stay safe, stay happy, and keep writing.

  4. Ally Crha says:

    Lindsey that was a glorious reflection!
    Thank you for your words of wisdom, this lesson is such a great one for me to remember as I am beginning my post-grad service plans! The words “mutually indebted” an bouncing around the sides of my brain this morning. Thank you for helping me reach this point of reflection!

    Lindsey, although we have only met a few times, I was struck by your calming presence. Behind those twinkling eyes, I can just tell their is a burning passion and strength to love others. Praying for you on this journey Lindsey! You seem like such a wonderful addition to the team!

    Kenzie, I’m missing your smile and grace. I keep porch sitting at 1005 and I’ll stair over to your house. I am imagining you talking with Mama and how well you two will get along. Know that I’m thinking of you! I’m sure your hands are rarely empty because the children are always holding them! Headed back to Seattle today and saying one last goodbye to campus and Spokane! Excited to read your blog reflection when the magical chore wheel feels it is your turn!

    Medical team, good luck on Monday! Excited to see how the health class works out! Sounds like a beautiful addition to this experience!

    Shout out to Hannah and Riley! Sending love, hugs, music, and yoga your way this morning!

    Kisu Mwane,


  5. Conner House says:

    Thank you for your honest and vulnerable reflection, Lindsey. Sounds like you are all diving into the idea of accompaniment head first! I hope you are all settling in nicely and are already discovering where to buy the best chocolate and biscuits in the market.
    Josh and Hannah, the Seattle Times article was awesome!! Hope round 9 (or 10?) and round 2 of Zambezi are treating you both well.
    Dodd, hope you enjoyed your flights. I also hope you’re back in your element with fresh food at the market! Can’t wait to hear about what you cooked up.
    ZG interns Katie, Peter and Joel-this is it!! You’re here!! All those “let’s talk about how excited you are” questions from the rest of the interns has culminated in this. Can’t wait to grab coffee and hear all about your experience.
    Reilly, Excited for you brother! Can’t wait to hear all about it. (Btw-how are you keeping your beard so beautifully sculpted? It’s a question I forgot to ask and it’s just killing me trying to figure it out..)
    Bree, my dad has mentioned a few times that he has run into your dad at work. I’m sure these awesome blogs are giving all the Fealys reassurance of your experience! It sounds like Lake Tapps won’t be filled until August, so no rush getting home.
    Allie, I have no doubts your friendly smile will connect you to many people in Zambezi. Looking forward to our follow up.
    Everyone else, remember to live in the moment! Time is going to start flying by for you all. Embrace every moment of this roller coaster experience.
    Someone please give Mama a big hug for me. Also please tell everyone at Chilena House wishes he could be there for the library opening.
    I promise this will be my longest post. I’ll try and keep it to two sentences and emojis from here on out.
    Peace and love to you all.

  6. Emily Handy says:

    Lindsey what a beautiful reflection! I am so excited to see all of the growth and follow all of your adventures. Nez, Katie, Peter, Lindsey, Maryclare, Riley, Bree, and Shelby I miss you all so much and I hope you are stretching yourselves and doing great things. Love you all, can’t wait to keep reading!

  7. Scott and Susan Ramage says:

    This is such a wonderful reflection Lindsey! We are so excited for all of you to begin your adventures with the Zambezi community on Monday and we can’t wait to hear how everything goes. Even though we haven’t had the chance to meet everyone, we are so proud of all that you are doing and all that you bring to the people of Zambia. Enjoy the experience and we can’t wait to each new post. A big shout out to all of you and special hugs and kisses for Riley from her family. Enjoy your first day of class tomorrow!

  8. Katie Barger says:

    You have such a powerful and beautiful way with words Lindsey! Your reflections are so deep and meaningful, and that is one of my favorite things about you! I’m so happy to hear you are doing well and having such a great adventure in Zambia! I can’t wait to hear all your stories and see all your pictures when you get back! Love you lots and I hope you have an amazing rest of your trip!

  9. Tine says:

    Lindsey and Zam Fam! Sorry for a late response! I am catching up on the blog posts.

    As already stated above I want to thank you for your reflection. It is a difficult one to admit after years romanticizing one view. I had a similar experience when I was young and visiting family in the Philippines. I took what I saw as a mission that I needed to ‘save’ them. My time in Zambezi is helping me to take a magnifying glass to my previously held beliefs and question what I believe and where/how I am being called.

    You have beautifully reflected on your experience and I can tell you are in a place of great learning opportunities. Continue to question and challenge yourself every day there and continually when you come back to the states. Most of all be patient and compassionate with yourself. We are all still learning. Each day.

    Kisu Mwane,
    Zamily 2014

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