“Where is it?” Not a great start to what turned out to be the most fabulous three-year placement in Zambia. Shortly after qualifying as a chartered accountant in the 1980s, I joined the accountancy firm Deloitte, making it known that I would like the experience of working abroad should the opportunity arise. It did.
Zambia is an extremely beautiful country with some breath-taking scenery, from the mighty Victoria Falls to the rolling game parks. To a 27-year-old from South Yorkshire, even one used to the beauty of the Peak District, the contrast could not have been more marked and I was smitten.
As with most places, due care had to be given to safety and security, particularly since neighbouring Zimbabwe had recently experienced a period of extreme turmoil, but the Zambians were a marvellously warm and welcoming people and the country had a very stable political system.
I had decided that although I was an ex-patriot and was fully participating in all that community had to offer, I would try to involve myself in some way with the local Zambian community also. The best way to do this was through football and I joined the Ndola Wanderers.
The team was a mixture of locals and English and Italian ex-pats. We joined the local football league and proceeded to play our games wherever and whenever required, visiting townships and villages which were most definitely not on the tourist trail.
My first work assignment was to audit the accounts of the flying doctor service. The audit took place in an office within the aircraft’s hangar.
To my horror, at the end of the day I found that everyone had forgotten me, locked up and gone home. The only option was to crawl through a tiny open window and hope that any security guards present would not shoot on sight.
In the 1980s, HIV aids was beginning its deadly spread through parts of the Zambian population, and death was very much an everyday occurrence.
Since then, I have been closely involved with The Zambia Society Trust, whose principal aim is to provide support to children orphaned through HIV aids, keeping them, as far as possible, within their own extended families.