It all started with the simple question “Where did you go to high school?”
We were doing Rise N Shine, which is when we get up at 5am twice a week to jog and do exercises. This week we were in Samfya and as the straggling group of students jogged and walked along the road in the early morning light, we could glimpse the glittering lake between the trees.
I found myself out in front of the group as I jogged, falling into stride with one of the students named Anthony. He is a quieter one, so I just asked where he went to secondary school. He said he had gone to school across town.
“But you lived at Joyful Village right?” (Joyful Village is an orphanage down the road from GLO) “That must have taken a long time to go all the way to town and then back out to Chifubu"
“Yes. And there were also the other kids to look after in the morning since I was one of the oldest students at Joyful Village. I got up at 4 every day.”
I honestly wasn’t trying to dig—my brain was only half awake after all—but one question led to another.
He told me about how after secondary school, the orphanage can no longer keep them so he had to go stay with a family member across town. That was when he got into drinking alcohol.
“I would leave at 7pm and not come home until 3am,” he said remembering with a sigh.” I tried to work but I couldn’t keep a job.” There was a moment of silence where we could only hear our feet on the asphalt. “But then there was one day that I thought ‘Is this how I want the rest of my life to look?’” He shook his head. “So I decided to try to stop. But you know it is hard. Gap year has really helped me with that. Even the talks I have had with [another student] have helped me. And I am thinking about the future more.”
“That makes me so happy, Emmanuel! Tell me: What would you like to study?”
He smiled his gap tooth grin at me: “Mechanics. I love cars.”