ACE2Zambia 2022 – The first few days

The ACE2Zambia team landed in Lusaka on Friday 8th July and we have spent the first few days settling in to the house, exploring the city, and getting our first look at the Sport In Action (SIA) hub sites.

Landing in Lusaka

The ACE2Zambia 2022 team on arrival in Lusaka

The new terminal at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka made entering the country a breeze. After a short wait at the immigration gates our passports and visas were stamped and we were through to meet our SIA colleagues and University of Bath liaison. Visas can be applied for online in advance (highly recommended!) or bought at the airport.

After packing our bags on to the SIA bus we headed straight to Munali to see our first hub site. SIA works on a hub site model with locations across Lusaka and the rest of Zambia. These sites are set up to provide local children a safe space to play and develop life skills. The sites are administered by local volunteers passionate about their community under the guidance of the SIA Zambia Project Manager.

Straight from the airport we headed to one of the hub sites, Munali, which was a great introduction to the trip as it was a previous ACE2Zambia project. The court still looked to be in good condition and the kids seemed to love it. We toured the area, watching football and basketball as well as viewing the changing rooms and meeting the hub site coordinator. After that it was back on the bus to our home for the 6 week project.

Settling in to the house

The ACE2Zambia team were the first to move in to the SIA house, so we grabbed all the best beds…

Everyone volunteering on the project lives in the same house. There are roughly 20 sports students out in Zambia up-skilling the hub site coordinators and coaches and the A2Z team lives side by side in the house, along with the SIA Zambia Project Manager JP and the university staff volunteers.

The house is always full of fun and games and everything is done together. From impromptu games of rounders in the driveway to cooking dinner each evening, there is a real sense of community and that this really is home for the next 6 weeks.

After welcoming the rest of the students in the the house we spent the first few days exploring Lusaka and getting our bearings. One major event was getting our phones set up with a Zambian sim card and number (+260 for those that are wondering). It was a relief to find out that you can put a zambian sim in to pretty much any phone (regardless of whether you are on a contract or not) and even keep your UK WhatsApp number. This comes in handy for contacting family and friends and the data packages are surprisingly cheap. 25GB for K250 (or about £12.50) is an absolute bargain and the coverage is excellent. The initial process of buying a sim is a little time consuming (who knew you needed your passport to buy a sim card?) but after that it was plain sailing. With the weekend over it was time to get to work…

The real work begins

The ACE2Zambia team at the University of Zambia with our university contacts

The first stop was a tour of the University of Zambia (UNZA) with our University of Bath liaison and Joshua, Head of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UNZA. After a tour of the campus and the labs we met up with Richie and Dorica, our two Zambian student partners, to talk about the project. We also learnt that UNZA is massively over-subscribed for civil engineering, with only 50 places for 1000 applicants… and we thought UCAS applications were bad!

After the tour we grabbed a bite to eat at a local university fast food place and talked about of motivations for studying engineering and our experiences of studying at university.

The next day we all jumped on the SIA bus to tour all of the SIA hub sites in Lusaka. It was eye-opening to see the range of sizes and conditions of the courts and facilities that were being used. We recieved warm welcomes everywhere we went and it was great to see the courts built by previous A2Z teams still in good condition and being used to their full extent. We took some pictures and started to put together an asset register to inform future A2Z teams on the need for construction and remediation at the various hub sites and made notes of easy interventions that we could make to improve the facilities. At Munali, for example, there was a basketball court with backboards that were damaged and with no hoops. Fabricating and installing replacements should be a straightforward and relatively cheap task to do and will effectively reopen an entire court.

We also spent some time at Chitanda Primary School where we have been asked to build the new netball court. The site was very different to what we had gathered from the pictures we had been sent and what we could see on Google Maps. The undulation of the ground in the court area was nearly 1m and there was drainage leaking in to the proposed court area among other issues. As our plan for the court arrangement was well developed at this point these points didn’t raise too much alarm, but future cohorts should be aware that delays and unforeseen circumstances are the norm out here and being adaptable and resilient is key.

This takes us to Tuesday evening where we are putting the finishing touches to our proposals for the netball court at Chitanda Primary School in Matero before meeting our contractor tomorrow on site. This will be the first time we have met the contractor and the first time the A2Z team, contractor, and SIA staff have all been in the same place at the same time.

Looking to the future

Our plan is to keep this blog updated throughout the project with at least one post per week. This is partly so that we can look back on our project and our sponsors and supporters can keep up with our progress throughout July and August 2022. But it is also so that future A2Z cohorts can get a feel for what the experience is like and what you need to be prepared for. We will try to record an honest account of the highs and lows of the project and include any helpful tips along the way.

Stay tuned for our next post on the commencement of works!

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