What do pig farming and growing maize (corn) have to do with literacy?

By Betty Trummel

Today was an awesome opportunity to visit a 10-hectare piece of land that is owned by Shine Zambia. This parcel is located in the Rufunsa District, about 96km outside of Lusaka. There are approximately 1,500 households out here in the local bush villages.


(The local women gave me such a warm welcome.)

So how does this relate to literacy? The importance of this land is that Shine is developing several operations in this rural area that will help support the school in Lusaka. And, they hope to build a school on the property as well. In fact, there’s a spot of land already set aside for this purpose.

Students who currently walk 10-12km  round trip to get to a government school each day would have a much shorter “commute,” and more time for learning.

Besides growing corn, the newest operation out at the property in Rufunsa is the construction of a pig farm. A gravel and concrete foundation has already been completed.


Bricks are being made from the local red soil. These bricks will be used with the concrete blocks.


A local Lusaka expert, Mr. Sinoya Phiri, was on hand today to give all of us the details on how to start up this venture. I learned so much about raising pigs! Bridget, who works in the office and does the accounting at Shine, and I took tons of notes to document the process. I can’t wait to come back and see this pig farm in operation!



And someday soon I hope A to Z Literacy is not only sending boxes of books to a new school out here to create a library in Rufunsa, but I hope we can also provide professional development and support for another school in Zambia!

Thank you to Rev. Banda, Mr. Phiri, and the people of the village for a great day!


Zambian Hospitality

By Alia Hammerstone img_1556.jpg

I got a crash course in Zambian culture sitting in Teacher Mafuta’s civics class. One word came up again and again: hospitality. I listened and met with small groups of students who discussed the cultural value of hospitality- the importance of being welcoming which is woven into the very fabric of Zambian society. From walking hand in hand with new friends the first day we traveled to School of Hope, to the reception we were given complete with a song of welcome, hospitality is ubiquitous in Zambia.

Each time I walk into a new classroom, students and teachers greet me enthusiastically, standing and saying, “welcome” in a way that truly makes you feel at home. I love being welcomed and included into these classrooms- from teachers asking me to share my thoughts on educational strategies to students asking me to participate in class and help them with their work. Zambians truly strive to make you feel at home and welcomed in such an authentically genuine way.

One of the most touching moments of the trip thus far was the opportunity to travel to a government school. We were greeted warmly the moment we arrived, and welcomed into a variety of classrooms where teachers were eager to share their lessons and ideas with us. After our observations, we enjoyed snacks in the head teacher’s office and were sent home with chickens as a thanks for our visit. To have been received so warmly and given so much from a school which has so little is indescribable, but so very typical for Zambia.


In a country where so many challenges persist, and so many have so little, one thing is sure: a Zambian’s number one resource is hospitality.



Field Trip Day…Lilayi Elephant Nursery!

Field Trip Day…Lilayi Elephant Nursery! By Betty Trummel

Some of the students and teachers from Shine Zambia had an amazing experience today, visiting an elephant rehabilitation center just outside of Lusaka. Excitement was in the air as they boarded the bus for our field trip. Experiences such as this don’t happen often, and judging by the engagement with our guides, with me and with their teachers…I’d say our day was a huge success!


Students were quiet and reluctant to ask their questions at first. But as the day went on, students gained confidence to ask those important questions that help with comprehension, whether it be in an oral presentation or written text. Questioning skills are such a critical part of literacy.

Children  took time to read displays, help me record a list of facts, and they were mesmerized by the baby elephants when they came in for feeding and “play” time.


When we got back to school this afternoon we had a debriefing session where the students enthusiastically shared what they had learned. Hands were shooting up in the air to be called on to give information.  It was an incredible day for them, and for me…seeing them engaged in active learning and hearing them sing with joy all the way on the long bus ride.


Watching those orphaned baby elephants be fed 2 liter bottles of formula/milk, eat leaves/sticks, play in the water, and interact with each other was a real treat for all of us!




I will extend their learning tomorrow when each student will create a mini book to highlight facts about the elephants and the rehabilitation facility. They will include some of their own drawings, and write about their feelings and impressions from this special day.


The Shine Community Photography and Writing Project

By Betty Trummel

Last week the level 2 students at Shine Zambia walked with their teachers and I through their community. The purpose of of walks…a photography project that will inspire them to write about their community…through their eyes.



Each night I have printed out photos on a small portable printer so I can them with the students…so they can see their community come to life through their eyes—their photography! This week…the writing begins, and hopefully doesn’t end. I want these children to tell their own stories about their lives and the community at the crossroads of Mutendere, Valley View, and Kalikiliki…the community surrounding Shine Zambia Reading Academy.

I can’t use the student photos yet due to limits in my technology on this trip, but I stood alongside students as they took the same pictures as you’ll see here from my camera.

We asked people if it was okay to take their photo…most people said “yes” to our school project. Teachers were invaluable interpreters, sharing the purpose of our community photo walk with residents of the compounds.

Thankful for the people of these compounds and the children and teachers who shared so much with us on our community walks. This is a busy part of Lusaka and as in many places around the world, there are both joys and challenges. I can’t wait to do our writing lessons this week and to hear the student voices shine through! Enjoy a few more photos from our walks.


Common Denominators

By Alia Hammerstone


There are certain aspects of teaching and education that have proven to be universal. Sure, the differences between a Zambian classroom and an American classroom appear stark at first glance. One affords little comforts or resources- desks, chairs, and a whiteboard. The other overflows with technology, books, and creature comforts. But after pulling up a chair, sitting and observing, I have noticed several similarities that I find to be more important than anything else.

  1. Good teaching transcends continents. School of Hope is fostering phenomenal teacher talent- I am getting to observe and learn from some truly phenomenal educators. Giving students the opportunity to discuss and think critically, work with small groups, problem solve with real-life projects, and empowering students to feel a sense of independence and accomplishment are universalities of good teaching. I have witnessed the teachers at School of Hope doing all of the above, with a fraction of the resources available to teachers in the U.S. No resources are required to get kids up and moving, talking in small groups, acting out the scene of a novel.
  2. Teachers want to make a difference. While observing teachers in Zambia, it has become evident that teachers here are just as passionate as teachers in the U.S. when it comes to making a difference in the lives of their students. The teachers I have met demonstrate their commitment to teaching regardless of the obstacles they face- teaching children who have been orphaned by the HIV/Aids crisis, walking an hour to and from school, teaching 90+ students in a classroom quite literally open to the elements. One teacher put it best when he said that we educate children because we know they will build the future.
  3. Students want to feel respected and loved. A few of my favorite questions to ask students are “What makes a good class?” and “What makes a good teacher?” These have proven to be just as enlightening in Zambia as they are in the U.S. Students here all reiterate the love they have for courses where a teacher demonstrates a passion for the subject and a respect for the students. A teacher who shows patience and compassion is equally important abroad as it is at home. Though they come from drastically different circumstances, students in the U.S. and students in Zambia value the same qualities in their teachers.


A Professional Development Day!

Written by the A to Z team here in Zambia…Mal Keenan, Alia Hammerstone, and Betty Trummel


From Mal…

What a GREAT day!  The teachers who attended the Shalubala Inset today inspired me as they traveled to School of Hope from all over the zone.  The men and women arrived ready to participate in a day of professional learning with workshops presented by both Zambian and American teachers.  I truly feel honored to have been included in this opportunity to gather, share ideas, and collaborate on how best to serve our Zambian students.  As for me, I hold literacy close to my heart, so to share strategies on reading and writing was fulfilling and heartwarming.


From Alia…

Today afforded me another phenomenal opportunity to grow professionally while here in Zambia.  The teacher inset hosted by School of Hope brought together hundreds of teachers from all over the zone.  I was truly honored by the educators who participated in discussions with me that centered around social/emotional learning and students engagement.  Not only was I able to share suggestions on the two topics I hold near and dear to me as an educator, I was also able to continue to learning from the brilliant teachers seeking to strengthen education in Zambia.  They do so with the mindset that these students will build the future of the country.  I am continuously amazed at the hospitality and warm-welcomes, and forever thankful for the new friends and colleagues.


From Betty…

As I looked out at the sea of teachers attending today’s inset (another word for workshop) it reminded me of all of the times I attended professional development sessions throughout my career. Opportunities like this don’t come along often enough for these educators, who are dedicated to bringing the very best to their students, despite sometimes very tough odds. Many of the students and teachers in this zone walk long distances to go to/from school each day, and the teachers are often asked to do their job with large class sizes and very few materials.  But, I saw positive faces in this crowd, a hunger for learning, the desire to bring new ideas and methods into classrooms, and a wonderful sense of commeraderie.

I thoroughly enjoyed presenting my three sessions and interacting with the teachers.  As always, it was such a joy to be at School of Hope, and I only wish it had been for longer.  Back in Lusaka now and gearing up for week 2 at Shine Zambia.




Favorite Quotes Heard This Week in Zambia

In no particular order . . .

  • Teacher: “When you are learning new concepts, it makes teaching easier.”
  • Student: “I am pushing myself because I want to be somebody in life.”
  • Head Teacher: “This country will be built on these children and one day things will open up.”
  • Teacher: “Challenges tend to trickle down.”
  • Student: The benefits of being educated is to know the dos and the don’ts in life.
  • Teacher: “I walk 10 kilometers to school every day, and if I walk fast, it takes me 45 minutes.”
  • Teacher: “Teaching is a true profession in Zambia.”
  • School Director: “The AIDS epidemic took the strong and left the weak.”
  • Teacher: “This is math but comprehension is involved.”
  • Teacher (asking for another idea from class): “Calvin, add your voice to that one.”
  • Student: “I appreciate what I have.”
  • Student: “A lion will eat grass if he doesn’t have meat . . . I will do what I have to do now to support my family.”
  • Missions Director (discussing the effects of AIDS in the country): We are dealing with generational bookends.
  • Director: You can’t fight what God has in store for you.
  • American missions pastor: “This experience makes you look beyond your own belly button.”
  • Teacher: “Speak up so your friends can hear you.”