On Saturday, June 13, students who had participated in Lubuto Library’s and YOFOSO’s Motivational Mentoring program gathered for their final meeting. The program, which began earlier this year, ran for twelve sessions. Motivational Mentoring was designed especially for Lubuto with the assistance of Dr. Lawrence Mukuka of the Sky High Institute for Success. Each session was focused on teaching a specific principle, including purpose in life, honesty, faith, courage, perseverance, self-confidence, responsibility, persistence, self-motivation, self-empowerment, friendship, and self-discipline.
The lesson plans were unique, utilizing three positive examples, which combined traditional Zambian stories such as the elephant and goat (self-confidence) and internationally recognized figures (Nelson Mandela-self-motivation).
It was my first visit to the Lubuto Library, and I was instantly overwhelmed. Immediately surrounded by hordes of children, I could only smile and laugh. Their enthusiasm was infectious and shown plainly on their faces. It was evident that the kids who attended loved the program. This final session allowed the students space for reflection. As the only muzungu (white person) there, and sadly lacking knowledge of either Bemba or Nyanja, I was unable to understand exactly what the children were saying, but in the end, it didn’t really matter. When asked what value they thought was the most important, the students stood up one by one to give testament to all they’d learned, a visible demonstration of newfound self-confidence, empowerment, and motivation. The girls, especially, looked proud, and even a bit sassy, as they stood in the center of the circle, hands on hips and turning from side to side to address the audience: (note, I clearly did not do the translations)
Sakalunda: “Self-empowerment: Before, I had wanted very much to play football but I couldn’t. The story of Kalusha Bwalya changed everything as I am now the best player at my school.”
Ann: “Self-confidence: Having confidence is a very good thing. I have taught others and I have also set myself high standards, making myself a role model for my friends at school and in my community.”
Gift: “Faith, courage, and perseverance have helped me help my School…to do very well at NATA 21 Arts Festival.”
Precious: (on self-motivation) “I’ve come here to present myself on poems and I shouldn’t fear…but I have to motivate myself so I can speak my poems.”
Some of the students’ parents shared their observations of changes they’ve seen and felt within their children.
Parent 1: “Thank God for Fountain of Hope and Lubuto Library. My child has started to make me have faith-this lesson has raised her self-confidence. She has started to teach her friends as well.”
Parent 3: “A word of advice to the children: please be really honest with yourselves and the lessons you have been learning. Let us the parents see your actions be in tune with your lessons.”
Following a delicious meal of nshima, chicken, and cabbage (where I was duly laughed at for my inability to neatly roll the nshima into balls with my hands), the group of 200 gathered outside for a drama competition. I was fortunate enough to be given the role of esteemed judge from the United States. Using the ever-official criteria of creativity, voice projection, acting, costumes, and cast, as well as the scientific 1-10 scale, I was tasked with a difficult decision. Six groups in total competed, incorporating props and costumes, and not quite Oscar-worthy acting skills. Not understanding any of the action, I based my official duties almost exclusively on audience reaction. In the end, the group from Matero emerged victorious thanks to the efforts of one particularly amusing actor who played a kleptomaniac taxi driver (I think that’s who he was, anyway). Following their victory dance of jumping up and down screaming, the group received Lubuto Library Project/Motivational Mentoring t-shirts. I wish I had taken a picture of the kids’ faces when they found out what they had won. Words can’t adequately describe their glee.
The day lasted over seven hours, and yet the children remained excited and attentive throughout- a truly amazing feat. They listened to one another and showed respect for both their peers and the teachers in attendance; evidence the program had made an impact on them. The program gave the children a chance to express themselves, learn valuable lessons from peers and mentors, and spend time with their friends in a beautiful space. In the words of a boy named Jackson who participated, “This program should continue so that we can learn more.”