By Lynsey Palmer

Last night when I was cooking fajitas at the mission house, I started to dance to a familiar tune. I quickly realized that I was dancing, not to any sort of local Tonga or Zambian beat, but to Justin Beiber. This sparked a lively dinner debate on the successes and shortcomings of “Beiber fever” around the world with the others we dine with for our evening community meal.

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Laura asked Father Andrew, who runs the Chikuni Community Radio Station, if he frequently played Beiber on the radio in Zambia. Father Andrew explained that the students that chose the music on the radio tried to have a blend of Zambian traditional music and popular music from around the world, including Justin Beiber.

The Chikuni Community Radio Station not only broadcasts music from the outside world to the people of the Chikuni Parish. All sorts of different radio programs are played. I have listened to everything from 50 Cent to a debate on Zambian farming techniques.

As part of our questionnaire for teaching mentors in the Learning at Taonga Market program, we ask them what their favorite radio programs are. The top programs are the agro-forestry, Taonga Market and the news.

Along with the agro-forestry programing in the schools and the gardens that accompany the schools, there are programs on the radio for everyone about the importance of keeping a healthy environment and how trees play a role. Many mentors have told us that people in the community have started replanting trees after hearing the agro-forestry programs. Deforestation is a huge problem in Zambia. People use firewood and charcoal to cook their food and cut down huge numbers of trees to fit the needs of a growing population.

The next most popular was the Taonga Market radio school programming. Even our wonderful cook, Mrs. Milimo, who speaks great English, enjoys listening to the school lessons. People learn English vocabulary, math, science and life skills from the radio even if they are not school children.

Radio programming brings the community of Chikuni and all of the other outstations together. Community life is played out on the radio; weddings are celebrated; funerals are announced, and special community activities, like our team’s whereabouts, are also announced. When Laura and I arrived in Choompa village without a radio announcement, a mentor accused us of “ambushing them.” After that we’ve been careful to notify the mentors we are coming via the radio station.

Experiencing the power of mass communication in a real life context and its ability to bring people together is really a magnificent thing.

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