Barbadian Youth Advocate Liesl Harewood’s Journey – Stolen From Africa (And How to Return)
The anticipation of a journey is as exciting as the arrival to the destination itself. I am sitting in my hotel in Lusaka, Zambia almost a week after the historic 2011 tripartite elections. After twenty years of one ruling party, the people have voted for change and a new President under a new party has been sworn in. For me, I will always remember fondly “Don’t Kubeba! Shhhh!”, as one of the images of this experience.
I have been here almost two weeks now and what a historic moment to be a part of. Now that all the campaigning, voting and Presidential inauguration has passed – there is a calm that has descended on the city. I was fortunate in the two weeks to move around the capital city as well as travel as far as Mansa, in the Western Province and close to the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo! Now that the work part of my trip is over, I am on to another adventure. Sometimes I am a clueless traveler who happens to stumble across things and opportunities.
I really thought for this trip I was more organized than usual. I even booked a few extra days through Kenya so I could catch up with two friends I met in 2008 in Durban, South Africa as part of the non-governmental organization (NGO) called Baobab Connections. It is always nice to reminisce with persons you are thrown together with and say “We will meet again someday”. It is even more exciting when that “someday” happens just over three years after meeting! I’m looking forward to my time in Kenya hanging out with friends and just being in a new country.
This is my third trip to the continent – and I will tell you a secret, I have never paid to travel here! My first trip to Durban, South Africa was in June 2008 and I was fortunate to write a short play that was selected and my expenses were covered to attend a UN-Habitat Conference. This is where I met my two friends from Kenya who both submitted rap songs which were also selected.
My second visit was more of a thought out plan in February 2010 – well sort of! I always wanted to volunteer and the Canadian NGO, Youth Challenge International (www.yci.org) was offering scholarships to volunteers so I applied and was successful – and there I was in Ghana for four weeks working with over one hundred students and facilitating workshops and training with two other persons on Sexual and Reproductive Health, Gender Development, Active Citizenship, Business Skills including CV writing, interviewing and entrepreneurship.
So from South Africa to West Africa, I was able to get a glimpse into the vastness of this continent – by now I was falling in love. I managed to stay on two weeks after my volunteering stint was over and I travelled across the border to Togo and Benin by car, motorcycle and other forms of transportation not recommended for the faint of heart! I had done four African countries on the smallest budget!
Fast forward September 2011 – invitation to Zambia, all expenses paid, for work for two weeks. Sold! What? My flight passes through Nairobi for nine hours? Can you extend that to about ten days instead? You can – at no cost to me? So looks like my third trip out to the continent I will cover both Zambia and Kenya. This means in three years I have visited the continent three times and will have been to six countries. Not bad, but still a long way to go to reclaim my understanding of this beautiful and dynamic continent. Hot Foot Harewood is on the move!