Volunteering trip to Botswana and Zambia

April 19, 2012

Today I came across an interesting trip being offered by Groupon.  They recently created a new venture called Groupon Grassroots in which people can “discover local causes, rally together, and lend a helping hand.”  This unique travel opportunity offers the chance to get an amazing travel experience while also contributing to a worthy cause.  The trip is $2,000 and does not include the international airfare.  Figure another $1,500 for roundtrip int’l airfare and it brings the total to about $3,500 which is a pretty solid deal considering it includes all accommodations, travel within cities/countries, an excursion to Victoria Falls, and all meals.

Grassroots Zambian Volunteering with Cultural and Nature Excursions

In 2003, Charles and Margaret Mumba opened the doors of their Zambian home to a few orphans and today they serve more than 250 orphans through Hope Ministries. When Chicago natives Rich Johnson, Dan Marcus, and Scott Barbeau flew to Zambia for a volunteer trip of their own in 2006, the three friends were set on helping out the Mumbas at the orphanage. Johnson, Marcus, and Barbeau formed such a strong bond with the kids that they wound up dedicating years to helping them. Soon, the friends founded Spark Ventures, which partnered with the Mumbas’ Christian nonprofit to provide sustainable support for grassroots education programs in Zambia.

On a nine-day volunteering trip, Spark sets the stage for a transformative experience similar to the one the three friends once had. You’ll read with students in a schoolhouse, dine with Zambian families, and visit historical sites for an immersive cultural experience. Meals are included in the package, and they are a combination of common American meals as well as traditional local fare such as chicken, fish and the maize-based porridge known as nshima. You’ll round off the trip with excursions to the gorgeous Victoria Falls and Chobe National Park.

To celebrate the launch of Groupon Grassroots, Groupon will provide a $1,000 kickoff grant to Spark Ventures’ programs in Zambia. If you want to get involved too but can’t make the trip, donate to Spark Ventures directly.

Days 1–3: From Ndola Airport (NLA), guides lead the way to Twapia township, located about five kilometers outside Ndola in the Copperbelt, a region known for its copper mines. Here, Hope Ministries oversees Hope Village, a cluster of stucco and brick buildings. Hope Community School teaches more than 250 locals, and Hope House Orphanage is home to about 15 children, many of whom lost parents to HIV/AIDS. After taking a behind-the-scenes tour of the facilities and having conversations with development workers, you’ll help serve a meal to hundreds of malnourished kids.

Days 4–6: An Ndola motel serves as your home base before you head out to a few cultural sites. One of these will be the Zambian national monument known as the Mukuyu Slave Tree, which marks the spot of a 19th-century slave market. Nearby, the Masala Market sells fresh produce and chitenge, sarong-like fabrics ornamented with colorful batik patterns. Finally, you’ll take a day trip to Hope Ministries’ poultry farm, where you’ll witness the program’s work to achieve financial independence with the help of thousands of cheeping chicks. In between excursions, there will be plenty of time to fly kites or swap stories with the program’s kids.

Days 7–9: After saying goodbye, participants will hop a plane to reach the Protea Hotel Livingstone and see Victoria Falls, originally known as Mosi-oa-Tunya, “the smoke that thunders.” The Zambezi River roars over a basalt plateau and becomes a massive sheet of falling water, and through the cloud of mist you can see the arcs of rainbows. The gorgeous scenery has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Then it’s off to Chobe National Park in Botswana, where you’ll traverse rivers and plains alike in a customized safari trip. Here, elephants stomp around freely, hippos wallow in the water, and giraffes help rescue frisbees from treetops. Afterward, you’ll fly homeward from Livingstone’s Harry Mwanga Nkumba International Airport (LVI).

For more information, see the full itinerary for the July and January trips.

Read the Fine Print for important info on travel dates and other restrictions.

Groupon deal page

Spark Ventures webpage

Images of Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls Wikipedia

Botswana Wikipedia

Zambia Wikipedia