Zambian group makes stop in Fraser
Sky-Hi News Intern
Three Grand County families hosted a group of Zambians last weekend as they took a brief break from their six-week “Peace, Social Justice and Leadership Training” tour in the United States.
Jane and Robin Tollett, Marilyn and Reed Anderson and Doug and Kathy Gilbertson, all from the Fraser area, opened their homes May 15 to 11 Zambians, ranging in age from 20-60.
Sandy Beddor, who lives half the year in Zambia and also has a house in the Fraser area, led the group.
The Zambians arrived in Chicago about four weeks ago and traveled by bus to Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota and Regis University in Denver before arriving in Grand County last Saturday.
The six-week training program emphasizes issues such as disabilities, child warfare, sex trade, modern slavery and gender violence. The group also is studying nonprofits, the kind of work they do and how they function.
Each person had a favorite part of the training.
For 25-year-old Kaunda, it was learning about disabilities. She said she wants to advocate for more early intervention in disability cases in her own country, providing more opportunities for people with disabilities.
Angela, 60, agreed. She said that people with disabilities deserve the same rights as those without them and do not deserve degradation and name-calling but rather, respect and opportunity.
John, a priest, said that to many Zambians, a person with disabilities does not count as a human being. Some aren’t even counted as members of their own families, he said.
Talelele and Paul most enjoyed learning about modern slavery. “People think its eliminated, but its not,” Talelele said. Paul referenced the injustices committed against the Latino community in the U.S., especially in the agricultural field.
Talelele discussed exploitation in general, talking about how people are deceived by tales of opportunity. While both said that slavery is not an issue in Zambia, they were each concerned that the practice still exist worldwide.
Others focused on human rights in general. Paul and John both said they want to help the people of Zambia know their rights. Aaron brought up politics, saying that corruption was on the rise in Zambia and that people are often elected to office by bribing the poor, rural population, which makes up 80 percent of the country.
Once a candidate is elected, Aaron explained, you often don’t see them for another five years, until it’s time for the next election.
John focused on the inequality between the wealthy class and the poor majority in his country, stating that the government needs to share the wealth with the country’s population rather than continuing to filter it back to the rich minority.
Angela, a marriage counselor, and Collins, a priest, valued learning about nonprofits and management. Angela found it admirable and inspiring that people would provide services without pay, enjoying that people do things because they are generous, not because they expect anything in return.
Collins liked his management classes and is working on a project where he teaches people in the community to raise pigs and other livestock.
This was the group’s first visit to the U.S., and each person had certain stereotypes about Americans. Many of them based what they knew of Americans from movies. Talelele talked about mean cheerleaders who rule in the high school hierarchy, saying that she found, in fact, that that was not the case when she visited an American high school.
Collins expected all Americans to be gun-toting gangsters and had also heard that white people were “stingy,” but found the exact opposite to be true, given the generosity and kindness exhibited to him by his hosts.
While everyone concluded that they had a lovely experience in America, there was a general consensus that, in the words of Kaunda, it was “very … white.”
A few specifically expressed that they wanted to meet African Americans, and they also agreed that next time, they would like to see different social classes in America.
“I want to go to the ghetto!” Aaron said.
They also mentioned how customs differed between Zambian and American culture. Kaunda and Talelele, the youngest members of the group, claimed that Zambians upheld much more respect for their elders and that, in Zambia, “family comes first.”
Kaunda said that parents had much more legal right over their children, and Talelele explained that parents had a very significant say in their children’s life plans, much more than in our “individualistic” American culture.
In contrast, 60-year-old Angela proclaimed that she loved how open and informal children were with their parents in the U.S., saying that “if children are free, more independent, they learn more … we as adults should be more open.” She also said how friendly Americans are.
“They have a big smile,” she said.
Host Marilyn Anderson enjoyed her experience so much, she said: “Well, I’m going to Zambia!”
For the Zambians, the best part their Grand County detour was the chance to touch snow for the first time.
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