Reflections on zambia



Last week, Vedh and I visited Zambia on a full travel bursary from the Irish government’s aid org, Irish Aid. It was an unforgettable experience.

This was made possible because of our win of the “Science for Development” award at Ireland’s national science competition, with our project BloodBox.

I find the feelings I have on this trip pretty hard to grasp my mind around, but this essay attempts to summarize my current thoughts and leave some questions open.

Feelings pre-trip

Before heading over to Zambia, I thought of a few things that I wanted to keep focused on throughout my trip. Some of these are listed below.

  • I have genuinely no idea what to expect
  • 60% of Zambian’s live below the poverty line -> how does this come across in person?
  • Does aid actually work?
  • How insignificant will my problems become?
  • Questions for people I meet:
    • What are you looking forward to in the near(ish) future?
    • What was the happiest moment of your life?
  • Are people generally happier than in the western world?
  • What will remain the same?

I remember keeping my mind as open as possible before the trip and this was very intentional. I think these questions/thoughts respect that open mind.

Feelings post-trip

So much happened for me throughout the trip, and this really modified my internal frameworks for how the world works and feels. I’ve started to collate these modifications:

  • Complaining -> often the easy (but wrong) way out of a situation is to complain. After seeing the diversity of life experiences that exist, I am doing my best to minimize how much I complain. Not only because my problems are insignificant, but because complaining achieves nothing and is annoying to be around. Better for me, and for those around me.
  • Sincerity -> when in Zambia, I was asked “how are you” quite a bit. Every time this was asked it was looking for a genuine answer and it wasn’t an automatic exchange. I need to alter my autopilot in this regard, since it definitely makes for a stronger connection between strangers.
  • Sheltering -> I want to see as much of the world as possible. Meet people, see places, make an impact. I knew this before, but it’s even more concrete now. Uniqueness drives me.


I also made a few observations about Zambia. These are probably not fully correct/completely unique, and are subject to change as I diversify my life experiences.

  • Sport unifies across cultures.
  • Lack of “middle class” seems to be a large difficulty in Zambia. There are two sides of the wealth spectrum, but unfortunately not an income bracket that seems attainable for the “average” Zambian.
  • Link between peaceful country + economic growth -> see The Wealth of Nations

Future plans

After visiting Zambia, a few things are going to change immediately in my life. Vedh and I are pushing full steam ahead on BloodBox to get it deployed and saving lives. 10% of my income is going to the Anti-malaria foundation and adjacent charities. I am going to continue leveraging the opportunities I have in order to help others get opportunities as well.


© Will Carkner 2024

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