Student Perspective

An Unforgettable Summer – Zeeshan Iqbal

In order to protect the identity and privacy of the inmates of the prisons, employees of UP Zambia, and inters of UP Zambia, I will be using pseudonyms to refer to people. None of the names used in this post are true and correct. 

This has been an unforgettable summer for me personally. Although there were plenty of rough patches and frustrating nights, I can honestly say, this was one of the best experiences of my life. I wanted to take this time to talk about some of my experiences working with UP Zambia.

As I look back at my time in Zambia, there are several moments that stand out. Although the interns and employees of UP Zambia were great, what really comes to mind is all the experiences I had with the kids and adults in the prisons. I was actually able to develop a pretty good connection with a few different people. There was one particular inmate in Lusaka Central (LC) that I thought I really bonded with (let’s call him Eminem). The reason I call him Eminem is because he was actually a really great rapper. In fact while I was in the prison, he shared with me a few songs that he recorded himself. I can actually remember one occasion where he and I tried to make a song up on the spot while waiting to interview a different inmate. Although UP Zambia was not able to help Eminem (he had his own lawyer), he was still more than willing to help members of UP Zambia. Eminem did everything from finding particular inmates that we were looking for to helping with the language gap.

“Bars Behind Bars (Freestyle)” – Recorded July 2019

The language gap is something I did find a little difficult to get around. If it wasn’t for inmates like Eminem, it would have been really difficult to communicate with several of the inmates since I didn’t always have a Zambian intern with me. While Eminem was my LC translator, Jordan was his counterpart in Kamwala. Just like Eminem, Jordan had his own legal counsel so UP Zambia could not help him. That being said, he was still more than willing to help UP Zambia. Since I worked primarily at Kamwala, I interacted a lot more with Jordan than I did with Eminem. Jordan and I actually used to work out together in Kamwala. Although there wasn’t exactly state of the art gym equipment in the prison, the prisons did make do with what they had. At first I thought this was kind of odd but I soon realized that things like this make-shift gym were necessary. I gave the prisoners something to do. During my last day, Jordan and I actually ended up doing a sort of competition where we went through a kind of training circuit.