A Fernie local’s experience in Zambia

Nick Vandenbogerd has just returned home from the trip of a lifetime.

Nick Vandenbogerd has just returned home from the trip of a lifetime. The Fernie local spent three unforgettable months working at Chavuma Mission Hospital in north-western Zambia.

Nick had applied last year with a charity to do construction work in either Haiti or Japan, but was never given the chance to follow through with it. It was actually a friend who was already working in Africa who let Nick know that the Chavuma hospital needed help. After one quick email with the onsite director, Nick found himself in Zambia.

“Not everybody has the health, time, and money to volunteer oversees but it came together for me this January,” remarked Nick. “I covered all my own expenses of about $3,300, which encouraged the churches and friends to contribute directly to the costs of operating the hospital complex and the cost of materials, as well as the salaries of the national maintenance workers which is about $200 a month each.”

It was a busy three months for Nick as he worked on various maintenance and construction projects for the hospital.

“The challenge was to do any job with the materials and tools available or not available,” he explained. “Improvise would be the word to use.”

He went on to say, “All the wood is milled and planed on the property. All the metal is salvaged from other projects. The table saw blade was so dull it was smoking like a diesel engine, so I made a table saw out an old circular saw, but at least we had a new blade for it.”

When he wasn’t hard at work, Nick was getting to know the locals. “In my spare time I made soccer nets out of scrap material,” he said. “I played card games with the kids and gave them away at the end of my stay along with anything else I didn’t need.”

It wasn’t until the very end of his trip that Nick got the chance to experience Zambia’s wild animals. “I never saw any wildlife in three months, but on the way back to Lusaka we saw elephants and buffalo, and in the campground just outside of the city there were giraffes, zebras, baboons, impalas, and kudus. You could pretty well walk right up to them.”

It’s back to Fernie reality for Nick now, but he may be planning another trip soon.

“I like the motto ‘live simply so others can simply live’,” he shared. “I’ll go back next year if the opportunity is still there.”