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Under the Big African Sky, part 2

By Robyn Openshaw, MSW | Jan 11, 2011

In the village of Muukuni, everyone lives in huts made of mud and straw. The “palaces” of the female and male chiefs are just BIGGER straw-mud huts. Virtually everyone drops out of school at age 15 because their families cannot afford to send them to secondary school through age 18.

I am fascinated by this very large village comprised of smaller villages–with fenced compounds for each family. I believe I was there for a reason, and I intend to find out what that is. They don’t seem to have any help in sending children to school. Only 3 in the village with 3,400 school-age children have had the chance to go to college, which makes them local celebrities.

My guide, Philip Muwba, is 32 and wishes he could study to become a math teacher. Instead, he has a part time job giving tourists elephant rides. My other guide, Lumba Simulube, is a single mother of a 4-year old daughter, and she would love to study to be a nurse. I asked how many children would LIKE to go further in school, and they said, “Many! They just can’t afford to.”

But after age 11, parents must pay for uniforms, exams, and tuition. The exciting thing about this village I found in Zambia (formerly Northern Rhodesia), different than working with villages further north in Africa, is that Victoria Falls (one of the 7 natural wonders of the world) is just minutes away. So the large town of Livingstone has grown up around it, with secondary schools and a college where young people from the village can be educated. I am gathering more information to find out how directly I can work with those schools and the University of Zambia four hours away.

It’s very inexpensive to send an African child to school. I am hoping to put together a great way to sponsor the students who excel in school but have no way to access higher education. I have a contact in the village who is highly motivated to help ambitious, smart kids who have a desire to help their people, become educated and return to help their people. I hope to put something together that’s really cool and tell you about it, but first I have to research how you get money directly to the educational institutions to sponsor kids, etc. I’m talking to my full-time humanitarian friends.

Check out my photos of the children in the village fascinated by the photos we took of them. (You could entertain them for hours by taking their photo and showing it to them, as they have no mirrors and have never owned a photo of themselves.)  

We took four of the kids from the village (with their adult chaperon) to our five-star resort for the day. I can’t even describe how fun it was to watch 12-year old Precious, 6-year old twins Austin and Herbert, and 2-year old Kala, swim in a pool for the first time. Eat in a restaurant. Play with my two iPods. Watch soccer on TV. Kala couldn’t stop stroking my white skin and hair. All firsts for them.

They were completely fascinated by ice floating in glasses of water, and couldn’t eat enough of it. Ditto shaking salt on food. Shaking it on a plate and dipping their fingers, or their food, in it. It was an experience I will never forget.

Posted in: News

12 thoughts on “Under the Big African Sky, part 2”

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  1. Anonymous says:

    What beautiful faces! I love the little girl squeezing your face, it’s absolutely adorable! I showed my kids your blog as I sent them off to school and reminded them that they are blessed to go and learn each day. I admire the work you are doing and would love to help your efforts. Good luck to you and keep us posted. Lots of love! Holly

  2. I am reminded once again of how excited I am to be able to see the world! I know right now its not possible but later on in life I’m definitely getting out!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Beautiful children. Great post. 🙂 I wish I could afford to take all my children to visit this village. (or one similar) Help the realize how blessed and privileged they are. And hopefully open their eyes to the simple joys of life.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Touching post, my best friend is from Mali and has told me so many crazy stories. I’ll be reading the rest of your blog…

  5. Anonymous says:

    What a fantastic privilege to share in your adventure. What did you do with your own children while you were traveling in so many countries? I think that I would have refused the Malaria drugs as well. Thanks for being so generous with your pictures and blog. Loved it all.

    Be Well, Vikki

  6. Anonymous says:

    Hi Robin,

    You’re trip sounds fantastic. I thought you might be interested. My brother just retired from assistant director of the Ezra Taft Benson Institute. He now is donating his services to several people with a foundation that helps villages in Africa and all over the world , teaching them how to be self sufficient,etc. He and his wife just returned from Africa after a 2 month service project for a very large well known company in your area. My sister-in-law taught school and my brother organized and taught the people in the village about digging wells, growing their own food, etc. If you want more information, please let me know.

    So glad you had a wonderful time. The pictures are great. Thanks for sharing

    Amber Smith

    1. Robyn Openshaw, MSW says:

      Amber, emailing you now, thank you…..

  7. Anonymous says:

    Hi Robin,

    A friend of mine just forwarded me your blog on Africa because she read about you wanting to find sponsors to educate the kids…which is exactly what we do in Central America and this year we’re hoping to expand into Africa. My husband and I are the founders of YUDA Bands…an organization that raises funds for the education of kids in developing nations through a service learning project in high schools all across the country. I’d be happy to tell you more if you’re interested. Our site is yudabands.org. Looks like you had a wonderful trip! There’s nothing like being in a 3rd world country to make you want to do something help!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Robyn says:

    “We took four of the kids from the village (with their adult chaperon) to our five-star resort for the day. I can’t even describe how fun it was to watch 12-year old Precious, 6-year old twins Austin and Herbert, and 2-year old Kala, swim in a pool for the first time. Eat in a restaurant. Play with my two iPods. Watch soccer on TV. Kala couldn’t stop stroking my white skin and hair. All firsts for them.”

    End of quote.

    Yet what you are describing are the things that corrupt, destroy and enslave so-called civilized societies, swimming in pools which contain chemicals is unhealthy compared to swimming, as some do in rural Africa, in healthy rivers and lakes with clean, alive water.

    Eating toxic, cooked so-called food in a restaurant can’t take a candle to eating fruits and raw vegetables while standing barefooted receiving both sunshine and vibes from Mother Earth like some in rural Africa do.

    Playing and using electronics, which are a major source of harmful electromagnetic radiation, is lethal to your health the opposite of playing in fresh air and in contact with nature. Watching television: one of the worst mind control, numbing device ever invented: the opposite of working or playing barefooted near natural bodies of water, playing with other kids, or busy creating handcrafts and clay vessels.

    Let us bring the natural rural Africa way of life to so-called civilized countries, but never the opposite.

    Thanks for all the pictures and the information.

    1. Robyn Openshaw, MSW says:

      Hey Michael. Not everything in the village is healthy–just as not everything in the American lifestyle is ideal (fun, though–and something new for them to experience!). They cook in lots of refined oils, for instance. But they do grow their own vegetables and they eat much less than Americans do of course.

  9. Good thing you have here! I reallydo love how it is easy on my eyes as well as the details are well written. I am wondering how I might be notified whenever a new post has been made. I have subscribed to your rss feed which really should work! Have a nice day!

  10. Anonymous says:


    Our 4 daughters have been going to Africa with the organization “Reach The Children”. It is a great organization and could perhaps be a resource for you and your desire to help. See them at http://www.reachthechildren.org.

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