Volunteering in Zambia
Zambia has a population close to 12 million living in a country more than 10 times the size of Ireland. Lusaka is the capital city and has a population of over 1 million. It is a bustling city with a central commercial district surrounded by sprawling shantytowns. The country is divided into 6 provinces with a number of regional towns and hundreds of rural villages where amenities are poor and electricity and running water are rare. The copperbelt in the northern part of the country is the main powerhorse behind the Zambian economy providing copper and nickel for world markets. Zambia has huge agricultural and tourism potential which is not used to its full capacity.
Zambia is a peaceful country and apart from a short civil war following its independence in 1964 it has remained war free. It has provided a safe haven to refugees from neighbouring Angola, Congo, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. More than 50% of people live below the WHO defined poverty line of living on US$1.50 a day. The majority of work available is piece work in the form of manual labour. Zambia suffers greatly from a brain drain and there are less than 10,000 doctors and nurses providing healthcare in the country. 1 in 200 women will die during childbirth and 18% of children will die before 5 years of age. The average age of death is 42.
Zambia has a rich cultural heritage with over 72 languages being spoken in the country, Nyanja and Bemba being the most common. English is also spoken widely Singing and dancing comes as easily as walking and talking and traditional dress is colourfully worn with pride. Zambians are by and large very friendly and not afraid to make friends with visitors. You will be welcomed warmly in Zambia and your efforts and time will be gratefully appreciated.
Getting there : There are many options for getting to Zambia. There are international flights into Lusaka International Airport and Livingstone International Airport. Probably the easiest route is to fly from Ireland (Cork, Dublin, Shannon) to Heathrow and connect with British Airways to Lusaka (3 times a week). You may get cheaper flights via Amsterdam, Johannesburg, Nairobi, Addis Adaba or other airports, but be sure that you do not need a visa for the period that you are in transit and be mindful that the more connections you use the more chance of lost luggage and flight delays.
Visa :You will need 2 full clean pages on your passport and it must be valid for 6 months after your trip has finished. Currently Irish people do not require pre-authorisation for Holiday/Tourist Visas. They are available at the immigration desk in Lusaka International Airport at no cost. You will be ushered here once you disembark your airplane. You must fill in an immigration card which are available in the airport and may be given to you by the airline you travel with. A usual tourist visa will last one month. Volunteer and Business visas are also available. Costs vary.
Money: The Zambian currency is the Zambian Kwacha. The rate obviously varies but is usually around €1 = 6,000 – 7,000 Kwacha. You can change Euro, Pounds Sterling and American Dollars into kwacha at the airport or most of the banks. Some hotels will change small amounts of money at their own rate for their patrons.
Credit Cards: Both Visa and Mastercard are accepted in Zambia but Visa is the more widely accepted. Some businesses may only accept one type of card and some will not accept either. You will be able to access cash using a credit card at Barclays ATM (Visa only) and Standard Chartered (Mastercard). Fees may apply. You should advise your bank prior to traveling that you will be using your card in Zambia as they may cancel your card if they see suspicious looking transactions.