A Look Back: PWOB in Zambia

Posted by Lauren Rochholz on Friday, September 20, 2013 at 3:52 PM PDT

Working in Zambia has become the core of PWOB’s service trips, so take a walk down memory lane with us as we relive past trips to this amazing country.


PWOB’s first ever trip to Zambia was inspired by the work being done there by Fr. Bert Otten, SJ, who is never at a shortage of worthy projects. Professionals Without Borders worked with Fr. Otten and several other organizations to establish a network of priests and administrators in Zambia to carry out Seattle University mission-related projects.

Four staff members and three students traveled to Lusaka, Zambia to begin the primary project of the trip, the renovation of restrooms, showers, and waterworks at the Munali School Special Unit for the Deaf and Blind. The group also assisted the Engineers without Borders group of students in Chirundu, on the Zimbabwe border. Steve Szablya led a project to build a human-powered electrical generator at this location, and the rest of the team helped to construct a waterwheel that is now used for lifting water off the banks of the Zambezi River for washing and bathing.


In 2010, the PWOB team devised an open-source wind turbine design that could be easily built and operated on location in a developing country using solely components, materials, and tools found locally. The wind turbine would be used to bring electricity to users that are disconnected from the power grid.  

After a combination of lucky breaks and clever improvised engineering, one hurdle after another was cleared. After six days of intense woodworking, measuring wind speeds, and putting together the generator parts, the wind turbine was complete. The eight-foot diameter wind turbine was spinning proudly in a strong African breeze atop an 18-foot borehole pipe located on an earthen dam.


PWOB’s third trip to Zambia included 12 members who worked on two main projects during their two weeks in and around Chikuni. Working with the Jesuits at the Mukanzubo Cultural Center, the team spent the first half of their trip building a storage unit for Mukanzubo’s artifacts and the second half building a medical clinic in Chipembele. These new projects allowed the group to work side by side with Zambians learning new skills and having unforgettable experiences.


The Seattle U PWOB volunteers were on the ground for two full weeks on our third service trip to Zambia; half of them left for Zambia in mid-June and returned at the end of the month, the same day the second group left, resulting in one month of total work in Zambia from PWOB volunteers. Joyce Allen led the first group of students to install shelving in the Mukanzubo Cultural Center; they also documented and stored the center’s collection in order to preserve the heritage of the Tonga people.

Steve Szablya and his team recomissioned two large water towers in Chikuni to provide water to the local hospital. This will allow the hospital to open their new natal clinic and surgical theater. Steve and his team also continued to work on the brick wall in the Chipembele community that the first group started constructing, as well as removing the cross connect between the reservoir and the well at Mukanzubo.


This year will mark our fifth trip to Zambia, and PWOB couldn’t be more excited to celebrate this anniversary. We have built amazing connections with communities in Zambia, and hope to continue to build a better future there and everywhere PWOB has service trips for years to come.