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28 October 2014

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Making a difference in Zambia
Written by Christopher McAloon
One of the students on the SKIP project in Zambia
The SKIP project in Zambia

Chris, a medical student from Birmingham, spent a couple of weeks working in Zambia.

It was the most exciting experience of my life."

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SKIP - Students for Kids International Project.

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The most common question that I was asked when I returned to University this term was "What did you do this summer?"

Normally I would answer "I chilled out and worked". But I had an original answer to that question this time: "I spent two weeks of my summer working in Zambia with children".

I am a 2nd year Medical Student at the University of Birmingham and during the summer I wanted to do something different.

I was looking at projects that offered the chance to travel and teach in other countries, but none had really appealed to me as a Medic.
However last Easter a project came up in my own back yard - a charity called SKIP (Students for Kids International Project) based in Birmingham had just been set up.

Children in Kanakantapa
Children in Kanakantapa
It aimed to send 60 Healthcare students (medics, nurses, dentists, physiotherapists and other healthcare students) out to a place called Kanakantapa in Zambia for the summer.

The 60 students would be divided into 5 teams, each spending 2 weeks each out there.

The project we were to be partnering "Kanakantapa Vulnerable Children Rehabilitation Centre and Community School" was just starting off, which meant we could really help by providing personal and financial support.

A pilot project

The project made me really excited, but nervous. This was SKIP’s pilot year and the project in Zambia was just beginning.

It was specifically aiming to provide healthcare education for the children and the community, which meant it was the first real opportunity to practice the skills we had learnt over the previous year.

The footy team!
Some of the footy team!
Setting up a footy team!

Furthermore it allowed real flexibility with what we could each do individually; I collected 77 football shirts from my local area and set up two community football teams at the two sites in Kanakantapa we were based at.

I was in the first group to travel to Zambia and it was the most exciting experience of my life. We got such an enthusiastic welcome, and that enthusiasm did not change for the two weeks I was there.

The children were so disadvantaged, but they always smiled (especially when I played football with them!).

Kanakantapa meant so much to each of us that went out there.

One of the children in Kanakantapa
One of the children in Kanakantapa
Future involvement

The project was such a massive success that SKIP is going national and hopefully will be based at several other Medical schools this year.

SKIP Birmingham will be working in Zambia for the next few years, providing even more healthcare promotion for the community and the children. We also aim to build a new clinic for the Kanakantapa area.

My alternative summer was one of the best experiences of my life and I got so much from it. So in my mind there is no question, I will definitely be out there next summer.

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