This summer, I had the incredible opportunity to journey to Mphande, Zambia, witnessing firsthand the impactful work Tevel is doing. As the inaugural volunteer to reside at the training center for an extended period, I played a key role in expanding the project and fully immersing myself in the vibrant life of Mphande village.
Living without running water, electricity, and a reliable cell signal presented its challenges, but the warmth and acceptance from the community and Youth Service Program members made me feel at home. In my capacity as an intern, I conducted daily English classes, imparted lessons on ecological agriculture, and lent a helping hand in the field. Additionally, I contributed to furnishing the newly built center, fostered connections with local Zambian NGOs, and managed social media posts for Tevel.
One standout experience was my journey with David, a YSP member, deep into the bush to film the charcoal-making process. Hiking four kilometers, crossing a riverbed, and climbing steep mountains, I gained firsthand insight into the challenges villagers face in reaching their primary source of livelihood.
Encountering an elderly couple sorting charcoal and a group of young workers cutting trees for production, I gained a profound appreciation for the labor-intensive process. Returning to the village, David graciously invited me to share a meal of Nshima, the staple food, with his wife and adorable six-month-old baby. Despite the villagers’ hard work and limited income, their generosity shone through.
The experience of witnessing the demanding work of charcoal production, followed by an immediate invitation to share a meal, exemplified how poverty in Mphande is met with generosity. Tevel’s efforts to combat deforestation aim to provide Mphande with a sustainable, alternative livelihood. I am hopeful that, Mphande can transition to a future free from long hikes into the bush for tree-cutting and instead focus on becoming a thriving breadbasket in the region.
Jesse Milman, Tevel Volunteer April-August 2023