My time volunteering
Working for the Game Ranger in the Wildlife Park. All sorts of adventures over the dry and rainy seasons.
A group of VSO's arrived in Lusaka in September 1970 for a few days of 'in-country' briefing and learning languages at Dutch Farm. Among the various nurses and teachers was a very shy and rather innocent, newly graduated, wet behind the ears, civil engineer who liked to fix things and wanted to travel.
The Wildlife Department of the Government of Zambia had a requested an "Engineering Assistant for the Wildlife Ranger in the Luangwa Valley National Park" and I was there to fulfill that role. However, no one either in VSO London or the British Council in Lusaka really seemed to know what the role actually entailed! So I had to wait until I met Robin the New Zealand born Wildlife Ranger in person to find out more....
As time went on, I understood that my main task was to take charge of the (mainly) road making machinery used to keep the dirt roads open for visiting tourists. Also various projects and funding were found f or me,which included building a new culvert on a road running south outside the park (probably near Flat Dogs camp now), making a leopard proof pen for two baby rhinos, building an extension to the main Mfuwe Lodge, providing support for the contractors building the new President's Lodge throughout the 1970/71 rainy season and finally extracting a capsized petrol tanker and the main park access pontoon from the river in time for the re-opening of the park to visitors in April 1971.
The very big project I ran during 1971 divided the the park up into separate compartments by bulldozing many kilometres of firebreak tracks about 10 m wide to facilitate fighting fires lit by lightning or poachers. This was funded by a United Nations project supporting protection, development and diversification of wildlife within the park. The funds ran out at the end of 1971 so it was agreed that I should return home after 15 months.
To be continued.....possibly
The impact of my placement
I'm sure I answered this question many years ago and I certainly can't remember what I said then!
However, looking back with the benefit(?) of fifty years, I suspect that my direct impact was quite small. Several "counterparts" were appointed to work with me with the aim of "knowledge transfer", but neither I or they really understood what this meant, particularly as I was still trying to establish exactly what was the role of Engineering Assistant. Also they were from a distant tribe (Bemba) with little in common with the local Chichewa people and felt they had been sent to out a backwater far away from Lusaka. Consequently, they mostly returned to Lusaka very soon after they arrived.
My unforgettable moments
Camping out in the bush (with my fridge and a cook who put out a cold beer and warmed the shower water for my return)
Coming eye to eye with a lion in the garden as I came out of my front door at dawn...
Getting swept away by flood water in an unstable "swamp buggy"... and taking a neighbour to hospital through the floods - four vehicles and three river crossings by boat - in the middle of the night after a snake bit him in his bathroom (he recovered).
Being chased in a vehicle (backwards) by a cross male elephant...
Noisy hippos eating the grass all night in the garden..just outside the flywire screen
The relief from loneliness when visitors arrived to stay..
Reading all of "War and Peace" in the rainy season
Seeing Victoria Falls..
And some memorable projects as well
The impact my placement has had on me
Lifelong supporter of VSO
Matured (a bit) and wonderful experience
Understood a little about prejudice and privilege