Together, We Can

Hannah's Post


Emotions travel in waves through my body as I observe the scene unfolding before my eyes. I stand quietly alongside Mama Kawatu under the shade of a large tree as I take in every aspect of the experience from the perimeter. I crave to join the crowd of people who wait in anticipation, but I stay off to the side, so that I can observe this beautiful moment with all of the detail and activity it presents.

The large semi-truck slowly backs up, and women shoo eager children away from the truck’s path. Groups of women sit in clusters, also watching the scene from a distance. Silence overcomes the area, as we all carefully listen to the sounds of the heavy metal doors opening to expose the seemingly endless boxes of books from the truck’s container.

All sizes and colors of hands clap in celebration or reach up to touch the first boxes of books that are unloaded. Swarms of children and youth fight for the chance to support just one corner of a box. It seems as if the eager people below are still unaware of the sheer number of books that will soon fill the Chilena library’s shelves. Twenty thousand books will be accessible to a population that is always seeking new knowledge and further understanding.

In the most disorganized and least efficient way possible, all 20 pallets of books find their way into the library building. The chaos of unloading books pushes me into a state of sensory overload, with sweaty bodies pushing past others in a rush to drop off one box so that they could transport another and an occasional team of eight young children who resemble a team of ants attempting to carry a fallen potato chip five times their size. Although I crave efficiency in this process, I recognize that the chaos is evidence of each person’s desire to have a hand in the culminating event. In fact, this overwhelming number of hands DID play an important role in the realization of a dream- a dream so profound that many may have thought it to be an impossible one.

Gonzaga’s partnership with the Chilena Basic School began in 2008, when Gonzaga students dreamt of creating a sustainable partnership in which organic forest honey from Zambia could be directly purchased from local beekeepers to be sold nationwide. The bursts of flavor coming from each honeycomb would surely provide incentive for thousands of people around the world to financially support the beautiful partnership that was budding. Zambia Gold, a student organization in partnership with the Zambezi community, was born. Although these founding students envisioned a golden future for the partnership, I doubt that they could have imagined this monumental moment. Years ago, Zambia Gold interns like myself sat down with leaders in Zambezi and asked them to identify needs in their community. For a community seeking improved education and literacy, access to literature was an important need.

Hundreds of pounds of honey, countless hours of students sharing their Zambezi experiences with people at home, years of construction to form the library, endless prayers by teachers and parents for their children to become educated, and months of books journeying to Zambia on a ship have led up to this moment. Finally, the many hands and hearts that have invested in this project can celebrate a culmination. Together, we have done this.

As I write this post from a shady spot on the front porch of the convent, I am overcome with gratitude for the immense blessings that Zambezi has showered me with both last year and this year. I tell my Zambian brothers and sisters that they are teaching me more than I can possibly teach through health lessons. Although I attempt to tell them, I am certain that they have no idea the ways that this community has enriched my life. The partnership that binds the Zambia Gold team to the Chilena community and binds the hearts of Gonzaga students to the people of Zambezi is the kind of connection that I dream of cultivating as I walk down the many paths that life leads me down.

As the Chilena community thanks us 100 times over for playing a part in the realization of this dream, I can only attempt to convey in words my thanks for the ways this community has changed my heart and mind. The practice of accompaniment has shaped what I know to be true about the world, and even who I know God to be.

I am thankful to know that walking alongside another, with the hope of further understanding the human experience and uncovering meaning in our lives, is the most gratifying and life-giving thing. I cannot express my gratitude to be walking alongside another ZamFam this year. It has been an absolute joy to watch 19 faces experience Zambia’s blessings for the first time, and I am already impressed by each person’s willingness to dive deep into authentic relationship with their new Zambian friends.

Friends, the future is looking very bright (or shall I say golden?). I do not yet know what vision the Zambia Gold partnership will work towards next or what other profound insights this ZamFam will gain through their experiences, but I do know one thing: together, we can. And together, we will.

Hannah Van Dinter, Class of 2016

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19 Responses to Together, We Can

  1. Carla Walls says:

    I am moved to becoming teary-eyed as I read these amazing stories. I know this will change each one of you and I look forward today meeting the new LaShantay when you return. God bless you all.

  2. Sharon Franklin says:

    Hi Hannah, (and others)
    I totally understand your desire to “organize” the process…..and I can almost see your plans written very neatly in different colors and very strategic! I can’t even begin to fully understand the benefit of what you all are learning but I know that this experience will always be with you and bless you as you are blessing the people there! Thanks for being willing to do what many of us can’t. Hugs…..Sharon Franklin

  3. John Van Dinter says:

    Hannah, it’s good to hear from you. It is also exciting to hear about the arrival of books for the library. Enjoy your time in Zambezi and your visits with Chiwala. Love, Dad.

  4. Maggie Chamberlain says:


    HOW EXCITING! You never cease to amaze me with your words. I wish I was there experiencing this with you all! Your group is SO SO SO LUCKY to have you as their TA. You rock my friend!


  5. Conner House says:
  6. Monica Lyons says:

    Han, this post was beautiful to read. Your humility and love radiate through your words. Your presence as the TA this year is so amazing for the team and I’m sure you’ve touched others more than you realize. I’m so proud of you for being so strong in this experience. Can’t wait to hear more about your time in Africa! Love you so much Han!

  7. Taylor Ridenour says:

    wow your words, your heart…Hannah you are a beautiful human. I’ve read this multiple times already today. so beautiful. What an incredible moment for Zambia Gold and for Zambezi.

    SO thankful my friends have such an extraordinary TA to walk with them on this journey.

    sending so much love to you all!

  8. Katie McCann says:

    Hey Zamfam 2015!
    Just checked my phone to see a text from “House” that read: “The newest post is the final straw. I’m walking to Zambezi if you want to join.” Life has been a little crazy for me lately with work, school, and temporarily moving Christian and I into a small attic space until our apartment is available (I often find myself wondering how I was ever able to store all my essentials on one closet shelf for an entire month in Zambezi). Anyways, I’ve had a hard time finding an extra second to read your posts but I’m so glad I did.
    First, I just wanted to say Hi to Kenzie and compliment you on your beautiful writing! You have such a thoughtful and appreciative outlook on the world and it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest that you found so much meaning in something so simple- human contact. I miss those little hands grasping mine so badly…continue to let them comfort and guide you!! Love you beautiful girl. You are thought of and prayed for daily!!
    Hannah, you brought me to tears. Thank you so, so, SO much for narrating that experience for us all. Your words helped me to truly picture every detail, and my heart swelled as I imagined myself there with you all unloading each box at a school I once taught. I can’t tell you how much your post means for us at home. I appreciate it more than I could explain, and I’m confident it will be a moment that will continue to mark your heart from this day forward.
    What a humbling, eye-opening and inspiring reality to know that children in Zambezi and around the world hold the capacity to be that affected by the gift of knowledge. I am so proud that I was able to make even the smallest contribution to this gift, and I hope that you are all proud of yourselves as well. You are so right, Together we can and Together we will. Let us all continue to be in this together.
    Love you all very much,
    ZamFam 2013

    PS- the photo is perfect!!!

  9. Cindy Van Dinter says:

    My dearest Hannah. I loved the picture that your words painted of the arrival of the books. What a blessings to get to see the excitement and joy of your Zambezi friends. I am so glad that you get to experience Zambia a second time and that you are staying healthy. I can’t wait to read your journal and hear your stories. I know that God is using you in Zambia and that God will use Zambia to stretch and bless you. I love you, baby girl! You are precious!!

  10. Angie & Bruce Armstrong says:

    We are so thrilled that you are back in Zambia again this year. What great insight you have expressed about the whole Zambian experience — yours, and the many involved in past years. Look forward to hearing more!!!

    Give our love to Mama K…. And Josh, too!!

    Love and blessings,
    Angie & Bruce

  11. Marieke & Steve Fealy says:

    Wow Hannah what an exciting day for you. To be an intern for Zambian Gold and to see the fruits of labor from a partnership started in 2008. To actually be in Zambezi and see the books arrive and be unloaded had to truly be inspirational. Your reflection was so vivid of these moments.
    This had to be a thrilling and yet overwhelming day for you all. To actually be part of this amazing day for the Zambezi people had to be touching.
    While we don’t know you all individually, we are getting to know you through your reflections and we hope to meet you all at some point.
    By now you are in the midst of this journey that you have all worked so hard to get to. Life is quite the adventure as I am sure you are all seeing for yourselves. Remember every adventure has its ups and downs. Ups can be life altering and downs can hopefully be something that you can laugh about someday!
    We look forward to getting to know more of you through your blogs.
    A big hug and kiss to our daughter Bree. Also, Aunt Lucy, called and said a big hug from her too. We love you and miss you. We hope you haven’t needed any “Sprite”!
    We are looking forward to your blog and your perspective on EVERYTHING.
    Mom & Dad
    Marieke & Steve Fealy

  12. O'Brien-Wilson Family says:

    How blessed you are to be there at such an exciting time. How blessed are we that you so lovingly share the story. Continue to live in the light and embrace God’s generous love. We keep you close in our prayers.

    Love to MC – Dad, Mom & Lauralyn

  13. The Polachecks says:

    Thank you to each of you for putting into words your visions and feelings. I find myself re-reading each post, waiting for the next one. It looks like the weather has been perfect too. Hugs to Katie! We miss you!

  14. Brady Essmann says:


    Words can’t express what this post meant…yes, I may be crying 😉 To have such a beautiful & vivid description of a moment long in the making is a gift you have given to so many back home. Thank you.

    Josh, take it all in, man. You are at the heart of the Zambia Gold mission and I hope YOUR heart is filled.

    To all those experiencing the Gonzaga-In-Zambezi adventure — take it all in, slowly and fully. You will be remembering, missing, and contemplating these small moments for years to come.

    Kisu mwane,
    GIZ (is this acronym a thing? Maybe there’s a reason why it’s not…) 2012

  15. Sarah Tharp says:

    Hi all!
    This was such a beautiful post– thank you so much for sharing. I was lucky enough to travel to Zambezi in 2008 on the maiden voyage! I have been coming back to the blog every year since to read about all the new adventures. It amazes me to see how much the program has expanded and how many other students have been able to experience Zambezi and create relationships with the wonderful people there. I went back to Zambia in 2010 and honestly, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about Zambia. It has (and still does) shaped the person I am. I am a better person because of the people I met and the time I spent there. I am so jealous of all of you and there is nothing I’d love more than to watch the sunset over the Zambezi river or take a stroll to the market for a Fanta (with a trail of kids!). Enjoy your time. I look forward to reading about it all!

  16. Sarah Tharp says:

    Scratch the 2008, it was 2007! Sheesh, time flies!

  17. Brittany Van Buskirk says:

    Wow! Beautiful post! Wish I was there with you guys. Enjoy every moment and treasure ever memory! This is an eye opening, heartfelt , happy, and sad journey that you will trrasure forever.

  18. irene Hyland says:

    I am so HONORED to have had such an amazing and beautiful young lady in my home! Your words on this blog bring me to tears..your love for life and your work in Zambezi reaffirm our love for the ZAG Family!! It is a gift to relive an experience with a wiser and different perspective..what a blessing for you! What an amazing experience that you get to re-live for the “first time”…please tell my Venezia that a day does not go by that I don’t tell someone with such great pride that she is in Africa with the most amazing people! All the pics posted are on Facebook! xoxoxo Mrs. Hyland

  19. Constanza Ponce de Leon says:


    Thank you for sharing this beautiful moment with all of us! I am filled with joy knowing that all the hard work paid off. It’s hard to trust an idea that is intangible, but but this is the perfect example of what an inspiring vision and hard work can do.
    When I was part of the Zambia experience, I struggled with conceptualizing the extent and significance my teaching, conversations, and accompaniment would have on the community. Thoughts like “they give so much to us, and what am I giving back?”, “am I making a difference?” would often cross my mind. Truth is, we will never know the quantifying effect of our experiences in the Zambezi community. However, let the experience of unloading those books be tangible symbolism of what we, collectively, can reciprocate and give back. YOU ARE making a difference. It might not be immediate and it certainly isn’t always measurable or tangible, but it is significant.

    Expose your brains, hearts, and souls to all the Zambezi community has to offer! Whether the effects of that come in books back to Zambezi, or in conversations with family and friends that will expand understanding and tolerance– there is significance!

    Kisu mwane!


    Josh– Thank you for making all of this possible.
    Don’t get malaria this time.

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