Seeing the light, even when it’s sometimes dark

Mama Katendi and Sierra make their personal pizzas.

Hello everybody!! I am so excited to be on blog duty today! This Saturday started with us all having the opportunity to sleep in!!! YAY! Breakfast was not until 9, so we all got to catch up on some much-needed sleep. I am a new woman now. We had eggs, toast, oats, and cornflakes for breakfast!! It was so yummy!

Today’s agenda is pretty empty. The only group activities we have are playing net ball with our market friend Ben and watching a Zambian futbol game. Many started their morning by going to the market. Megan, Dee and I decided to start the day by going to visit the lovely Kelly and Janet, Kylie’s and my homestay parents). We are having a dinner party on Monday where everyone gets to invite a special guest, so I picked them. They were so welcoming to Kylie and me during our homestay, and I loved getting to know them. While we were there, we met their daughter, Esther. She was so lovely, and I loved getting to talk to a young Zambian woman about her life and experiences. While we were there, even though we showed up unannounced, they still managed to give us some cokes, bread, and fruit. Their hospitality and giving nature are amazing. I even said, “You guys do not have to do any of this” and they looked at me with confused faces and asked “Why?”

Not being so lovely and hospitable is foreign to those who live here. Zambians have a culture of sharing and being incredibly welcoming. I think the United States could definitely learn from Zambia when it comes to kindness. I am going to miss their adorable family so much.

Next, we walked over to the home of Mary and James, who are tailors. Megan and Dee picked up some ADORABLE skirts, and then we headed back to the convent. For lunch, we had a fan favorite: fruit, quinoa salad, and popcorn. Some of us then set off to watch the football game, and the other half went to play net ball. I chose to watch football!  We went to a nice bar, drank some Cokes and Fantas, and watched quite the game. Zambia won 3-0!! Woohoo!!

The other group headed for the field at Zambezi Day School only to find there were no nets for netball. For a while, the group played football and learned that Mama Katendi was a fearless goalie. That woman really can do everything! Eventually, the group decided to play a makeshift game of netball without nets, and they were joined by several local kids. Mama Katendi, who played in secondary school, again showed off her amazing athletic skills.

Today is a very special day for our group because it is pizza and movie night!! Jeff was able to make dough and buy cheese, and we are all looking forward to some delicious pizzas. I am even excited for my no-cheese pizza. (It really sucks being lactose intolerant lol). Clare and Jeff were also able to work together to come up with a plan to get our projector to project a Netflix movie. I think we are going to watch Hitch. YAY!

Today has been one of my favorite days yet. It was very chill but filled with lots of time together and with the community. I cannot believe that we only have three days left in Zambezi. This beautiful place has left a mark on me that will never be forgotten and so have the people who have accompanied me on this wondrous trip. At this point in the trip, a lot of us are devastated to leave but also craving the comforts of home. We have had so many lows over the last few weeks. Whether that had to do with unwanted comments from a few creepy men, car troubles, personal struggles, exhaustion, or cultural shocks, things have been hard. This has made it difficult to be present at times in our last remaining week here. The overwhelming and conflicted feelings of wanting to stay but also wanting to go has made it difficult to cherish the dwindling and precious moments we have left. We have also had so many shining, positive moments. We have given out reusable period products to young girls, taught sexual health classes, allowed many to earn certificates in business and health classes, connected with students at Chilenga and Zambezi Boarding School, learned how joyous it is to talk and learn from the Mamas, met so many lovely people. We have had countless late-night laughs together.

We still have so much to look forward to as well. We have our accompaniment dinner on Monday, more time at schools, graduations for the health and business classes, and many hugs left to give. I have chosen to try my best to focus on the good because I think that is something that we all need to do every day in our lives. Bad things happen everywhere we go. It is sad, but true. You cannot escape the cruelty of the world, but you can always build a new mindset that does not let the bad take over the good. It is important to sit with the hard stuff, really reflect on it and have feelings about it before moving on. I have noticed that this group has been really good at facing our challenges, helping each other through everything, and then finding the light again. The light will always outshine the dark. Our cozy covenant here in Zambezi has become a safe haven and home away from home. I will oddly miss the cold showers, the squeaky doors, the mosquito nets, the laughs I can always hear throughout the halls, and the smiling faces that I see every time I come face to face with a Zaggy. I am so glad that this Zag fam has let a Coug like me tag along for this unforgettable journey. This place, the people, and our group have forever earned a place in my heart and mind. I love you all!! 

Here is yet another update for everyone’s friends and families at home: 

Kylie is so helpful around the convent and is constantly doing little things to make everyone smile. She is such a joyful person to be around. 

Kendall is consistently causing us all to laugh with her amazing impressions and also killing it at teaching the business class (especially any lesson that includes math). 

Maddie is still sick but sweet as ever. She is being so resilient, and I give her mad props for that. I can’t wait to hopefully see her back in the classroom on Monday or Tuesday doing what she does best. 

Bella is a dancing queen and continuing to keep the group energized and happy. I’m not sure what we would do without her. 

Grace E. is still blessing us with her stunning smile, and we have all loved connecting with her through great late-night convos. 

Megan is giggling her way through every day and doing whatever she can to keep our group connecting.

Sierra has picked up the CUTEST skirts and outfits from tailors and is rocking them all. She is also constantly making us all laugh, and her presence makes every conversation much better. 

Clare is such a servant leader, and her willingness to be there for anyone at any time is admirable. We love having her around. 

Grace S. is a joy to see every day. Her smile is contagious, and I love doing silly accents with her. She makes the group so happy! 

Hattie has been in the kitchen helping the mamas I think almost every day. She is also such a servant leader, and she has been such an inspiration to me on this trip. 

Dee is still a safe haven for many, and her sweet and calming energy is a life saver. We have all loved getting to know her more. 

Jeff continues to make his legendary sarcastic comments that we know and love. He works so hard for us, and we appreciate him so much. 

Kris has been so comforting for us all, and her wisdom has helped us all reflect on each day. She looks out for us and is such a momma bear to us even though we aren’t even her children. 

Lastly to my mom, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, friends, and boyfriend I am so looking forward to reuniting with you all. See you guys soon! I love you <3. 


Lauren Benham, WSU ’25

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2 Responses to  Seeing the light, even when it’s sometimes dark

  1. Kelly Hawkins says:

    So lovely! Well written and excited to have you HOME soon!!!

  2. Robin says:

    Love you my amazing girl and so ready to see your sweet face! So proud of you all and this amazing adventure.

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