The Science of Happiness, An Experiment in Gratitude

By Alia Hammerstone

While I sit and reflect on my time in Zambia, what I am struck most by is a deep sense of gratitude for the entire experience. There are countless things to be thankful for- the people, schools, sights and sounds, smells and emotions. So this is my own experiment in gratitude.

Thank you, Zambia.

Thank you for the warm welcome from the moment we stepped off of the plane. From your warm hellos, accompanied by a hearty handshake, to your thoughtful goodbyes, I am so appreciative to have been hosted with such hospitality. You made my stay feel like a home away from home. I loved the way you invited us into your homes, classrooms, and lives with a humbling hospitality.

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Thank you for the inspirational teachers- those that work hard to better the lives of their students with little more than a passion for education and an inspiring amount of creativity. I so loved sitting in your classrooms, watching students excitedly engage in the lessons that included more than just content; they included life lessons that will help your developing nation continue to grow and improve the lives of Zambians.

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Thank you for the sights and sounds. Every. Single. Day. From waking up to the chorus of roosters, chickens, turkey and Guinea hens, to the days at school spent enjoying the laughter and constant songs of your students, I loved the perpetual melody of your nation. Waking up to the gorgeous sunrises over the bush and sitting on the porch while the sunset in fiery hues of pinks and oranges, the views were as breathtaking as the sounds.


Thank you for the meals- and not just for the delicious nshima and soya chunks- but for the sense of community and togetherness they provided. From sitting and reflecting mid-day at school, watching students congregate and discuss their lives, to the daily dinners at the Schwartz’s home full of reflection and conversation, I enjoyed the camaraderie that each meal brought.

And most of all, thank you for the lessons you have taught me. It is not, in fact, what we have that makes us who we are. It is, rather, how we use what we have that makes us the phenomenally unique individuals that we all are. Someone told me that while the currency of Zambia may be kwacha, the currency of the Zambian people are relationships.

To quote the gentleman on the tarmac of Kenneth Kaunda International Airport just before departure, “I’ll see you when you see me next.”


A Little Free Library and More!

By Betty Trummel

4EFDC65D-0988-4443-8CE5-E452A9FEBEC4.jpegI’m back home now on Cape Cod in Massachusetts but the pull and impact of our work in Zambia is still strong, and the people we just left behind are on my mind.

I went to the beach yesterday and as always, stopped at our local “little free library” and looked for a book to read. As I straightened up the books and browsed the current collection, my mind drifted immediately to Zambia.

In so many places in the world, people cannot just walk up to a library and borrow a book. Whether it’s a little free library or a public library, bookstore or online purchase, so many children and adults do not have access to books.


I’m enormously proud of the efforts of A to Z Literacy Movement. We provide books locally for at-risk children and students with special needs, and we send four separate shipments of books (each shipment contains 6 boxes of books) to impoverished communities/schools. We hold book drives, take donations of books, and use monetary donations to achieve our goal of shipping books.


We help create libraries where none have existed before.


We send possibilities to communities of learners…young and old alike.

EF03303D-ED40-4608-BA18-EE5EEF2FDF47.jpegWe build partnerships in literacy and learning.

To help us reach our goals, visit our home page at and explore ways you can help us make a difference.

I never take for granted the great privilege I’ve had to surround myself, my family, and students in my class with BOOKS! The gift of books is the gift of hope.


Woken Up By a Cast of Characters

by Mal Keenan

Living out in the village while in Zambia always provides sights and sounds not typical of my suburban life in the states. Each morning, there is a cast of characters that like to start their day anytime between 2:00 AM and 4:00 AM.


The usual suspects include Turkey, Rooster, Duck, and Guinea Hen. And as they make their way around the yard, these feathered friends chatter about the weather, where to find the best bugs to eat, and whose babies are growing up way too fast. Cow sometimes adds to the conversation from her pen out back. Chicken tends to migrate through all of the yards, sprinkling juicy tidbits of gossip like who’s feathers are most ruffled.

As for me, no alarm clock is needed here—Rooster has got my back.

Putting Books Into The Hands Of Vulnerable Children

By Betty Trummel

It’s early here in Zambia, and I’m taking a few moments to reflect. Wrapping up another 2-week A to Z Literacy teaching experience in Zambia fills me with joy and hope for the future.


One of A to Z Literacy’s key goals is to put books in the hands of vulnerable children…both locally and abroad. I have thought about this constantly every single day of this trip.


As I walked around classrooms yesterday, I focused on the hands of Shine’s students…holding books and enjoying the opportunity to read, and holding pencils…working hard on writing about their community.



These are the hands of literacy, of the future, of hope, of joy. These are beautiful hands…hands of learning.



As an educator I know that reading opens doors. It creates hope. It is a great joy to see children holding books and reading.



I’m proud of our A to Z team here and back home…a dedicated team that is working hard to promote literacy.


It was a great honor to be here in Zambia helping to encourage literacy and to have the chance to provide professional development for Zambian educators. I have so many memories that are etched into my mind forever. Grateful beyond measure for these experiences.



Top Ten

By Alia Hammerstone

There have been so many experiences that have impacted me from the moment I stepped off of the plane and onto the tarmac at Lusaka’s airport, it is hard to narrow them down into a list, but I thought I would give it a try.

img_1598.jpg1. Watching the sunset: There is nothing quite like watching the sun set over the grassy plains in Zambia.

2. Shaking hands with Zambians: Typically accompanied by an enthusiastic smile, they are yet another example of Zambian hospitality.

3. Walking to school with the kids: Having students from the village run to greet you and grab your hand as you walk to school makes the trip that much better.

4. Playing with kids: Seeing the creativity of kids daily, and the companionship they exhibit while playing with one another is heartwarming.

IMG_1648.JPG5. Hearing people sing: On the way to school, while doing chores, in classrooms- hearing people sing fills my heart.

6. Eating Zambian foods: From nshima to kapenta, there is no shortage of phenomenal foods to try.

7. Spending the day touring Zambia with a teacher: Getting to see where her family’s land is, picking corn, and being welcomed into her home was a humbling experience.

IMG_1638.JPG8. Watching great teaching: Being inspired by teachers who use their creativity and talents to engage and empower students is beyond measure.

9. Talking with students: From their lives outside of school to their career aspirations, it is evident that so many universalities abound between Zambian and American students.

10. Taking things slow: Zambian time; where hospitality and relationships take precedence over rushing or sticking to firm timetables.

Writing = Hard Work!

By Betty Trummel

Throughout my 35 years of classroom teaching I watched young writers struggle  year to year. “What should I write about?”  That was a common question. Through carefully planned lessons and instruction I helped them grow in confidence and they realized that they were indeed writers. Some grew slowly, some in leaps and bounds. Main ingredients…lots of opportunities to practice their writing skills, exposure to types of and purposes of writing, a classroom that surrounded them in books and other types of text, and lots of feedback and discussion.


Writing is much more difficult here in Zambia, where lessons are taught in both English and the local native language of Nyanja. I am working with bilingual students who often need things explained in both languages. The students here in Zambia do a lot of copying from the board, and are not often asked to write on their own. This means that independent writing opportunities do not come around often.


Writing = super hard work! I’m very proud of the Level 2 students who I’ve worked with the past two weeks. I’ve been asking them to do something completely different…to tell their stories…to write independently…to push themselves a lot!


Today the two classes who attended Monday’s trip to the elephant nursery/rehab center finished their nonfiction elephant books. We had had several discussions reviewing our field trip and processing all we saw and learned before we even started the writing process.



All four Level 2 classes are finishing up their personal narratives about their community. Although the myriad of photos they took were on display…scattered on their tables to give them some inspiration and ideas, it was still SO hard to get started. With heaps of encouragement and constant support from me (and some of the Shine teachers) as I was circulating around the classroom, they had a lot of success to celebrate.


I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to work on writing skills with the students at Shine. Their stories need to be shared and who better to tell them than those who are living the experiences.


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!