Issue 2 (November 2007) Thandiwe Mweetwa, 19, is currently enjoying her second year of an International Baccalaureate at Hastings College in England, sponsored by the Pestalozzi International Village Trust. This unique school takes talented but disadvantaged pupils from developing countries. Thandi’s story is a remarkable one: after losing both parents in 2001 she moved to Mfuwe to live with her uncle. Life in a household with no electricity and 15 other children was hardly conducive to academic success, but her talent and dedication shone through. ‘There’s something very special about Thandi,’ says long-term sponsor Anna Tolan of Chipembele Wildlife Trust, ‘and I know she’ll go far.’ Mike Unwin caught up with Thandi during a break from her studies.
Is the UK how you imagined it?
In many ways it is, but at first the pace of life completely shocked me. I found that there was something to do for every minute of the day. And although I had heard about ‘English punctuality’, what I found was nothing like I had imagined. Coming from a country where 10:00hrs was actually 10:45hrs or later made adjusting a bit of a challenge. Being late by just one minute meant missing the public transport.
What do you most enjoy about lifein the UK?
The opportunity to meet people from all walks of life. They have taught me a lot of things that I would not have learnt otherwise.
Do you ever manage to go home?
During my two years here I get to go home only once – in the summer, when college closes. In fact, I have just returned. The break was six weeks long, during which I had to fit in tons of course work and seeing my family.
What do you miss about life back home?
The food. I live in a multicultural community, with people from all over the world. There are as many tastes in food as there are people, and it gets kind of hard for the care staff to prepare everything to everyone’s liking.
How much do your friends in the UK know about Zambia?
I have to say they know quite a lot. Meeting people from other countries has deepened my understanding of other customs, and at the same time has made me enthusiastic to share my own.
What would you most like to show your UK friends about life in Zambia?
It would be one of the most important aspects of our culture: the strong sense of belonging and collective responsibility that is emphasised in every community.
Where else in the world would you like to visit?
I would love to go to lots of places but my number one choice would be Kenya. I think it’s a beautiful country with a rich and unique cultural heritage.
What are your plans for the future?
After completing my IB, I hope to read veterinary medicine at university. Living in the Luangwa Valley has given me a strong interest in the area’s diverse animal species, while becoming aware of the problems they face as a result of injuries from poachers’ snares and bullets. I hope to work with the wildlife authorities in saving the lives of animals that are not only of economic value but also ecological and aesthetic importance.
Find out more about the Pestalozzi International Village Trust at www.pestalozzi.org.uk