Connections: Zam Fam 2024

I’ve always struggled saying goodbye, and as I have got older, sometimes I find myself worrying about saying goodbye to people before I took the chance to say hello. I have noticed that this fear leads me to hold people an arms length away, as leaving a gap makes goodbyes easier. However, distancing myself from others in avoidance of difficult emotions is not sustainable nor does it cultivate a joyful life. In Zambia these past three weeks, the word “connection” has been the staple of our group. Something I have always believed is that it is easier to connect to strangers, because at the end of the day you don’t need to see them again and words shared amongst strangers remain as simple moments or memories. I was excited to get to know the other students traveling to Zambia with me, however I still felt myself hitting a wall at points. My brain seemed incapable of closing the gap. However, during this last week, I felt my mind starting to switch gears as I watched fellow students connect to one another, and navigate the complexities of difficult emotions hand in hand. We did a reading the other night which stated that difficult emotions, including goodbyes, while individual matters, do not need to be private matters and it is possible to sit beside someone in their solitude without changing them or imposing your own fears, bias, and beliefs onto them. As I read through the reading, I realized these were the words I had been waiting to hear. I began wanting to sit beside someone in their self introspection, and more importantly I was opening up to the possibility of people I care about sitting beside me; finally finding a way to close the gap. As I looked around the room, I was in awe of the connections my peers had made, each of their own characteristics and personalities contributing to the group that I have called family for the past month. It is difficult to describe in words what I have witnessed, but let me just tell you the way this group operates with one another is extraordinarily beautiful. Given that this is the last blog I wanted to share more about the Zags who have made me want to close the gap between myself and others for the first time in a long while. 


Lucia’s name means “light,” and that is exactly what and who Lucia is. She is vibrant, kind, and genuine. Lucia’s excitement for life is contagious and her pure joy at the smallest moments brings smiles to faces. Lucia is also fiery, she calls life as she sees it, however she maintains an intense and inspiring optimistic outlook. Lucia has also taught me a great deal about spirituality and has taken time to help me understand a different religion than my own. When I look at Lucia it is clear to me that she exemplifies the beauty of spirituality. 


Emily has always been able to make me laugh. I love sitting next to her during meals and listening to her one liners that only the people next to her might be able to hear. Emily exudes strength and independence, something I know she takes pride in, but she is also incredibly well articulated, observant, and grounded as she connects to others. During our reflections, I always listened extra carefully when Emily would share, as her insight always made some confusion feel a bit clearer before bed. 


As I have gotten to know Charlie, it is clear to me that he is always thinking. He observes the world, people, smells, sounds, and details that I think others might miss. Whenever Charlie speaks, it is with intention as he adds incredible value and insight to even the smallest of conversations. As we navigated the human complexities of being visitors in a place far away from our own, I always looked over at Charlie when I felt nervous, and I was met with a calm and grounded presence. 


Julia is like a chocolate chip cookie, crispy on the outside and warm and tender on the inside. At first glance, she is one of the most honest and loyal people I have met. She is an absolute badass who I know has my back without question. Julia is always incredibly loving and genuine. Her love for her people radiates outward and her ability to care for others the way they individually need to be cared for is inspiring. 


Katie is like a warm hug come to life. She moves through life by singing and dancing, lifting people up as she goes. Something I noticed about Katie on the first day, is the way in which she listens to and supports the people around her. When someone speaks to Katie about both the hardships and beauty of life, her eyes carry an intense gaze that I have never seen in another person before. It is clear that she is listening to every word and understanding every emotion. She will truly be an exceptional nurse and has taught me so much about friendship. 


As I write this, Brynn is reading her fourth book in three weeks. Brynn is a grounding presence in the group. She is calm and collected and when I think of Brynn I think of someone who walks through life with grace. Brynn, while sometimes soft spoken, has an amazing sense of humor and is an incredible team player. Without anyone asking, Brynn steps into many roles and helps people with all of their daily tasks. She is someone you can rely on during significant life events because she is always willing to support during the small moments too. 


I had the pleasure of being Ellie’s roommate the first night we spent in Dubai and the three weeks in Zambezi. What I love about Ellie is how she wears her heart on her sleeve. When Ellie is excited about something new or is happy about life, it is clear throughout her entire expression. Ellie is one of the kindest people I have ever met and she is also incredibly genuine. Her ability to express her emotions and also support others in theirs will make her a wonderful teacher. 


Sarah has been like a older sister to me throughout our time here. She is sarcastic and funny, intelligent, and always gives good rational advice. She makes seemingly big problems feel small after talking them through. Sarah has had some difficult moments here, especially after the loss of her grandfather, nonetheless she has showed up every day willing to take on each new possibility with curiosity and excitement, something I know he would be proud. I have loved watching Sarah dance while in Zambia, she is so clearly full of pure joy as she dances and it is beautiful to watch. 


Jackson was the first person I worked with in the group. The first time we met to work on a project, we ended up sitting and talking for 2 hours. Jackson has a special presence that brings people together. He is selfless, generous, and wicked smart. Watching him in the hospital I saw him light up with curiosity and passion. He has a unique ability to articulate even the most frustrating moments and emotions. My favorite thing about Jackson is that he always leaves me grinning ear to ear after any conversation and is the living definition of what it means to be a friend to all. 


Will has the best jokes and brings the “dad” sense of humor to new heights. Will is full of questions about life and wants to learn every opportunity he gets. I have loved watching Will’s inquisitive nature as he meets new people and asks them about history, politics, life stories, family, friends, and much more. By asking the right questions, he is skilled at getting others to open up and encourages their vulnerability. Will is also a great dancer and I have loved watching his new nickname “The Dancing Man” come to life. 


I have had such a privilege getting to know Ana on this journey together. Ana and I have similar senses of humor and are always laughing together. Ana is very intelligent and has answered many of my nursing questions during our visits to the hospital. The thing I love most about Ana is her confidence in herself. She is going to be the best nurse practitioner and I look up to her for her knowledge, patience, and intelectual abilities. Ana is simply a wonderful friend and the lessons she has taught me and the joy she has brought me are unmatched. 


Josh is the most present person I have met. Even his jokes are delivered with the perfect timing and tone. He is an exemplary leader and has looked out for all of us throughout this journey. Josh is a complete teddy bear who is full of love which radiates outward when he speaks of his family, friends, and his home away from home, Zambia. Watching Josh step off the plane in Zambezi I was emotional observing how much he meant to the community here, a true testament to his character. I am profoundly grateful for everything Josh has done throughout this trip to ensure our own personal growth and collective connections. 


Jeff is someone I respect immensely. He is a realist at heart which is apparent in his somewhat tough exterior and sarcastic jokes. At the beginning, Jeff shared with me that when he was younger in some way or another he had a difficult time opening up and showing vulnerability to others, something I struggle with myself. During our time spent together, Jeff has opened up and shared moments in his life that are emotional to him and also incredibly meaningful for me to have heard. If I were to use two words to describe Jeff it would be intentional kindness. There is a difference between being nice and being kind, as kindness runs deeper and chances the tone of a group and community. Something Jeff does not know is that watching him show vulnerability is really inspiring to me and his kindness and connectivity to others is something I aspire for one day. 

I want to take a moment to send prayers to Jackson’s grandma and family as they take on a tough new chapter in their lives. Please keep Colleen, Kathryn, Doug, Jackson and the rest of the Schmidt/Ryan family in your thoughts and hold them close to your heart. 

All of these people have truly impacted my life. Our time spent here in Zambia bonds us all and my gratitude for each and every one of them runs deep. My heart breaks saying goodbye to Zambezi and all of the people who, in only three weeks, I have come to consider my chosen friends and family. This trip has opened my eyes to a different part of the world, one that is rich in community, love, partnership, and knows the value of human connections. Thank you all back home for your unconditional support, your daily comments which we shared every day during breakfast brought us all so much joy and filled us with happiness as we set out each day. 

To my family, I cannot wait to see you in the next couple days. My time here has been one of the greatest pleasures of my life and I am indebted to your generosity, love, and care for allowing me an experience of a life time. 

Signing off from Zambia for the last time,

Ani Posner 2026

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3 Responses to Connections: Zam Fam 2024

  1. Klaire Powers says:

    Thank you Ani for sharing with us the special connections you’ve made during your time in Zambia. I truly believe this trip has been life changing for all of you. And we are so thankful that Ellie was able to experience it with such an amazing group of people. ❤️

    Klaire (Ellie’s Mom)

  2. Bryce Kreiser says:

    Extraordinary! Thank you for your kind reflection. Beautiful words. And that last photo is breathtaking. Cheers.

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