Zambia, a landlocked country in Southern Africa, is rich in potential. It is the continent’s chief copper producer and home to the famous Victoria Falls. Zambia is also an exceptionally peaceful country, known for its democratic and peaceful political transition. Despite Zambia’s rich resources, the majority of its people live in extreme poverty. Zambia’s copper mines are largely foreign-owned and notorious for unsafe working conditions, poor wages and a lack of development for its unskilled workers.
AIDS has decimated the country. Nearly ten per cent of the Zambian population is orphaned children; more than half are orphaned due to AIDS. Most of the population hails from traditional villages, which have remained undeveloped and cut off from access to the most basic services such as education, health, clean water and electricity. But the search for improved conditions over the past decade has driven many Zambians to mining towns and cities. Desperate for work, many have crowded into mushrooming slums, where living conditions are often worse than the rural areas. Slums are often equally undeveloped and suffer the added stresses of overcrowding, lack of extended family and proliferation of HIV and other diseases.
Zambia was the location of Hands at Work’s first expansion outside of South Africa. In 2001, Hands at Work entered the northern Copperbelt region of Luanshya and spread soon after to the Central region of Kabwe. Subsequently, the work has expanded to many communities surrounding Kabwe, Luanshya and Kitwe. Zambia is a geographically strategic location, from which support is being given to the work in very poor communities in DR Congo and Malawi.
Susu is an extraordinarily poor and isolated community in central Zambia. When Hands at Work field worker Lawrence Kunda began visiting Susu the community was in despair. Poverty was widespread and alcoholism was a way of life. Nearly everyone existed only by subsistence farming and couldn’t afford access to schools or a trip to see the doctor for sick children.
Local community member, Sanday, was in such a situation when Lawrence discovered him. Lawrence struck up a friendship and began mentoring Sanday, slowly discipling him over many months about the love and compassion of Christ. In 2009 Sanday realised his faith was leading him to start doing something for the vulnerable community around him. Together, Lawrence and Sanday mobilised a team of other local volunteers and began equipping and mentoring them to care for orphaned and vulnerable children. Seeing the great need for education, Sanday and his volunteer team began a small community school under the shade of the trees. It was a huge success and inspired the community to begin making mud bricks in faith that they could build an entire school.
By 2011 a full care centre had begun to emerge: the school walls were complete; a new bore-hole, providing children with access to clean drinking water for the first time, had been drilled; and a cooking space was constructed to feed the most vulnerable children. Community members have watched the transformation in front of their eyes.
One child participating in the transformation is 14-year-old Sharon. When her parents passed away in 2001, Sharon and her two younger sisters were taken in by their grandparents. Because they were poor and too frail to work, the grandparents struggled to provide food. Sharon’s grandmother often scoured the edge of already harvested fields to search for leftover food. Many days the family went without eating at all. When the family was discovered by Sanday and his team, Sharon and her sisters were enrolled in the school and the feeding programme. A dedicated Susu care worker began looking after the family, encouraging and supporting them in solving their problems. Sharon achieved second place overall in her class of students. This is a transformation the entire community is celebrating.