By Joy and Ken Hoffman
As Thanksgiving approaches, we feel sad that we cannot be home with family and friends. Instead, we’re in a country that does not have a Thanksgiving holiday to celebrate.
Then, we reflect on the past year here in Zambia and at RHO Appleseed School, which has been open since 2011. It is a school for orphans and vulnerable children and was named in honor of Richard Hiroshi O’Brien, a Davis youth who died in 2010.
Over the past year, the students and staff at RHO Appleseed have been fortunate to have many volunteers help at the school. Many volunteers have been people who live in Lusaka, but there have been five young women who have direct connections with Davis, four of whom were friends of Richard’s. Even in death, Richard continues to impact the lives of his friends.
In the summer of 2012, two UCD students, Angela Guidici and Emma Shandy — sponsored by a grant from the UCD Blum Center for Developing Economies —traveled to Zambia and volunteered at the school for one month. This past summer, three more Davisites and friends of Richard volunteered. April Esser was able to stay for one month and Ally and Emma Hoffman volunteered for three months.
Long-term volunteerism has proved invaluable to RHO Appleseed students. The learning that happens with the focused, one-on-one instruction is truly amazing. This summer, our math teacher had to leave suddenly and we were so fortunate that Emma Hoffman was there to take over the teaching of the class!
Just as important as the academic gains brought on by this volunteerism are the lasting personal bonds that are made. The young women grew so close to the students that they often would spend their weekends in the Bauleni community just hanging out with the kids.
Bauleni, where RHO Appleseed is located, is one of the poorest housing slums in the area. It is unusual to see Mazungus (the term for white person) there at all. These women became welcome and appreciated community members during their stay.
We have already been contacted by another young woman and friend of Richard’s and a friend of one of the other volunteers, to come next spring to continue the tradition of volunteerism at the school. We believe the volunteers gain as much as the children of the school from the experience.
Although we will not be surrounded by the love of friends and family as this Thanksgiving approaches, we continue to feel the love and are so very thankful to everyone who keep RHO Appleseed School in their thoughts.
Please visit the website, www.rhoappleseed.org, for more information about the school or to help by donating to school projects.
— Joy and Ken Hoffman are founders of RHO Appleseed School in Lusaka, Zambia