It was a brilliant success that introduced the work of Challenges Worldwide to thousands. This account, based on extensive interviews with those involved, tells the inside story of the ZNBC broadcast.
One early December evening last year, five Challenges volunteers gathered in a small living room and stared anxiously at the TV screen.
After 6 pm struck, they waited in silence as Zambia’s largest national news channel began introducing the evening’s headlines. The newsreader spoke quickly as he moved through the important events of that day – water pollution, unemployment statistics, until finally, two words, cutting through the fog of harrowing news, brought the entire room to its feet.
Most of the volunteers were still in shock as they stood to applaud and hug each other. They had made mainstream news while promoting the efforts of a respected charity, and significantly, helped showcase the untapped potential of Kitwe’s businesses. Weeks of hard work had paid off.
This is the story of how that broadcast came about, based on interviews with those involved. It is a story of frustrated ambitions, of huge uncertainty, and of a team united in pursuit of a shared goal – to raise awareness of both Zambia’s struggling enterprises and the brilliant response from Challenges Worldwide.
The end of the programme was less than three weeks away, and volunteers at Kitwe-based start-up, Yako Honey, were looking at new ways to improve their enterprise. The small honey distributor had recently built up a fierce reputation for its skill at digital and online marketing, enabling it to connect with new audiences. Inspired by this success, those volunteers assigned to the business (Jessica Richardson and Precious Nkandu Lumpa alongside newcomers Joel Joseph and Cessius Bwalya) wanted to capitalise on it further.
‘We looked at ideas that would build on Yako Honey’s success at boosting its brand visibility but also give us a means of promoting Challenges,’ Precious explained. ‘It was eventually decided we would explore the possibility of broadcast.’
The ZNBC Shoot
Joel began mobilising his contacts. But the planned week-long campaign targeting radio stations and local news stations sputtered out as phone calls and emails were hit with consistent rejection. ‘The first few days was awful,’ he said. ‘We were sending out lots of enquiries which kept getting knocked back. No one was interested.’ As more and more media outlets turned away from the proposal, the mood among the group began to falter. ‘I came in one morning and everyone looked miserable,’ Jess recalled. ‘As a result, plans to chase up a small radio station that day were postponed; instead, we focused on motivating each other and considering alternative strategies.’
‘As a result, plans to chase up a small radio station that day were postponed; instead, we focused on motivating each other and considering alternative strategies.’
The group now turned to local connections and friends they had made while living in Kitwe. ‘We were having a conversation with our Team Leader, Ethel,’ Precious explained, ‘when she mentioned she had a friend in the production team of ZNBC and could put us in touch. We were overjoyed!’ A hurried meeting was subsequently set up with network representatives to discuss what sort of arrangements could be agreed upon. ‘Our expectations were kept very low so as not to be disappointed,’ Joel recalled. However, the group were astonished when the network offered them a 10-minute slot of prime time television. ‘There was total silence,’ he continues. ‘The shock was immense. Those words will be sealed in my brain forever.’
The network was particularly keen to promote a similar business in Kitwe having a positive economic and social impact through their involvement with Challenges.It was subsequently decided that the regional agricultural organisation, Border Farmers Co-operative, would feature in the broadcast alongside Yako Honey.
‘The choice was obvious,’ said Joel. ‘Border Farmers exist purely to help local farmers across the Copperbelt – it would have been criminal not to include them.’ With everything now set, the group started to relax and let excitement take over.
But on the day of the shoot, the group woke up to confusion. ‘It was chaos,’ said Joel bluntly. ‘The crew didn’t show up on time and weren’t answering our calls. We didn’t know when they were coming or where they were heading or even who they wanted to talk to.’ On the other side of Kitwe, the volunteers at Border Farmers received an alarming voice message from Precious suggesting that the network might be heading there first. As the team scrambled to prepare, a follow-up text from Joel simply read: ‘Shoot may be off.’
There was a collective sigh of relief then when a van emblazoned with ZNBC finally pulled up at Yako Honey. The crew spoke at length with the volunteers there about youth unemployment and the skills they had gained throughout the programme. Meanwhile, business owner Brighton Chifunda waxed lyrical about honey to anyone who would listen. Taking this as their cue, the cameras moved swiftly over to Border Farmers where volunteers William Hunt and Isaac Phiri discussed the types of analyses they had undertaken at the organisation so far. After a quick shot of the warehouse, the reporters packed up. ‘It was over so quick,’ said Cessius. ‘They gave us the date and time of the broadcast and drove off.’
The ZNBC Broadcast
At 5.55pm, on the night of the broadcast, most of the team were feeling nervous. Some five volunteers were cooped up in Joel’s living room while most were watching at a local restaurant in town. Tension was high in both camps. ‘I remember thinking,
“Have we got the right channel? The right time?” All these questions were racing through my head,’ said Will.
Then 6 pm struck. As the news bulletin was introduced, the volunteers listened in silence for any indication they would be featured. Moments later, the room erupted as the group heard mention of Challenges Worldwide, and with grinning faces settled down to watch the full report. ‘There was never a sense of arrogance,’ Joel noted after the broadcast. ‘Just that we had actually pulled it off!’ The group then walked into town to celebrate with other volunteers before curfew.
The reaction from all corners was hugely positive. ‘People loved the message and were beaming with joy whenever they spoke to me about it,’ Precious recalls. Others were more muted. ‘It was fine,’ said Michael Rothwell, former Challenges Worldwide ICS Programme Co-ordinator for Kitwe.
Reflecting on the whole experience, all volunteers involved in the ZNBC broadcast stressed that they would urge future participants across the Challenges Worldwide ICS programme to seek out new ways of promoting their businesses and the important work of Challenges Worldwide.
‘Imagination is the key word,’ concludes Joel. ‘There’s no limit to what future volunteers can achieve if they dare to think big.’
Wise words indeed, now here in all its glory is the broadcast, courtesy of ZNBC
Written by Jack Meehan