Radical Advent: Sandy’s Story from Balaka, Zambia

Seven-year-old Sandy lost both of her parents to serious illnesses back in 2006. Sandy now lives with her aunt in Balaka, and her other siblings are all scattered in different homes with relatives. Though she has a guardian, Sandy faces many difficulties. Her household relies on her aunt getting casual work to buy food, but her aunt struggles with alcohol abuse and the family often goes without eating. There are currently nine people living in her small home.  Sandy’s clothing consists of only two dresses and she attends school bare-footed. 

Though Sandy continues to have a difficult home situation, Balaka Community Based Organization (CBO) strives to provide her with the love of a family.  The Care Workers have adopted Sandy as one of their own, and she is now attending the Care Point every day where she receives one nutritious meal a day.  Those who know her say she also now wears a smile!  For a girl who has faced many challenges at a young age, this love and care provides the hope she needs to have faith in her future.  Hands at Work supports CBOs like this one to reach the most vulnerable children like Sandy.  Make this a Radical Advent by supporting Hands at Work in serving orphaned children in Africa!  Please consider making a donation to our Christmas campaign here.

Lean On Me (ZAM)

This precious boy with an infectious smile is Thabo.  He is seven years old and lives in the community of Baraka, Zambia.  His favorite subject at school is English, but his greatest love is playing football with his friends, much like a typical boy of his age here in the U.S.  However, his life is nothing like that of his peers here.  Thabo stays with his father, grandparents and two younger siblings. Thabo's mother is still alive but the family has no contact with her and they are unsure of her whereabouts.  In order to provide for the family Thabo’s father does odd jobs in his community, but he is currently not working. Thabo’s father relies on his own parents to support him and his children, yet they are aged and also struggling to make ends meet. 

Mwangagal Mbuita, a Baraka Care Worker noticed the way Thabo’s family was living and the daily struggles they had to endure.  Mwangagal saw that the father was finding it difficult to care for the three children properly, and was unable to meet their basic needs.  Mwangagal also noticed that Thabo was not attending school as he should, and this led Mwangagal to recommend that Thabo be adopted by the Baraka Community Based Organization (CBO).

Since being adopted by the CBO and accepted into the 'Three Essential Services' program, life has changed for Thabo.  He now attends the feeding point everyday and enjoys a nutritious meal.  Having been encouraged to start school, Mwangagal enrolled Thabo into the local community school, and he is now receiving education, which is making a huge difference for his future.  Thabo still faces daily challenges, like having to walk a long distance to school even during rainy seasons.  Mwangagal still visits Thabo’s family once a week to help with their chores and encourage Thabo to keep attending school, even amidst the challenges he faces.  

Hands at Work supports care workers like Mgwanagal all over Africa to care for the most vulnerable children in their communities.  With help from a group of friends in the Chicago area, care workers from Baraka CBO can bring hope to children like Thabo.

Elena's Story (ZAM)

Elena Kwani is a girl aged 14, an orphan now in grade 6 at Brunnelli Upper Basic school. She comes from Shikambo village which is 7km from the feeding point.

When her parents died, life became very difficult for Elena. Her schooling was interrupted because of hunger. Instead of going to school, Elena would wake up early in the morning to go and look for piece work in other people’s fields to earn money to buy food.

Since Baraka Home-based Care began to work in Elena’s village, her life has changed.

Through the meals and other supports provided by Baraka Home-based Care, Elena has been able to return to school. She has stopped working in other people’s field as she used to. She now concentrates in class and all the teachers are happy at her improvement. When she finishes school, she goes straight to the feeding point, where the food she eats gives her the strength she needs to walk to the school and remain attentive during her lessons.

Thanks to a group of concerned Christians in the Chicago area, Hands at Work has been partnering with the community of Baraka since 2009 to mobilize and equip local Christians to effectively care for the poorest of the poor.

Bikes for Baraka (ZAM)

Team leaders in Baraka, Zambia, receiving new bicylces Late last year, the volunteer care workers in Baraka, Zambia, identified a need within their community: Being in a rural location often means care workers must walk long distances to visit orphans and families in need of home-based care. Homes that are far away are not visited very often because the distance is difficult to cover on foot. Not only is home visitation sometimes difficult, there is also the problem of transporting sick children to the clinic or the hospital - both are far from most homes. In addition, the task of gathering supplies for the local care centre means that volunteers often must walk 5km to the road, hitch a ride 20km to town, buy supplies and do the trip in reverse with supplies in tow!

The volunteers were in need of a way to make their work more efficient. The solution? Bicycles! A proposal was submitted to purchase four brand-new bicycles for Baraka care workers to share. With the assistance of Hands at Work USA and a generous family from Wisconsin, money was allocated and by March 2011 the bikes had been purchased. There was even some spare change to be used to buy spare parts as needed!

Now the distance to visit a home can be covered in less than half the amount of time it takes to walk, remote homes can be visited more often, supplies can be easily carried and sick children can be transported for medical care. Enjoy your bikes!

Africa on Their Shoulders

Johnny, Holly, Hannah, Joey

Many kids spend their summers playing sports, hanging out with friends, and avoiding as much responsibility as possible, but not the Gilchrists.  This summer Johnny, 12; Joey, 11; Holly, 8; and Hannah, 6, did odd jobs to raise money for the Baraka community in Zambia. 

Recently, Bridgette Gilchrist of Northbrook, IL, heard about Hands at Work in Africa from a friend, Chloe Steinke.  Chloe had invited a handful of people to a Skype call she held at her house with the founder of Hands at Work, George Snyman.

Bridgette Gilchrist said, “After talking to George, I was really excited about hearing about Baraka, Zambia.  I told my four kids about the situation and the first thing one of them said was, ‘How can we help the orphans?’”

Joey immediately responded, “We can take care of other people’s pets over the summer!”  A short while later he had a flyer printed up advertising his services with the slogan, “H.E.L.P.: Helping Everyone’s Lives Prosper.”  He passed out flyers all over the neighborhood and talked about the vulnerability of the children in Baraka. 

"It was hard to raise the money at first because I didn't get a call for awhile,” said Joey.  “But as the days passed, the calls started coming in.  I love dogs so it very fun taking care of them.  I heard all of the terrible things from my mom that happened there and I wanted to help."  Joey, with help from his brother, Johnny, ended up having a pet every week from the end of June to the beginning of August. 

Hannah and Holly put a map of Zambia up in their bedroom and pray for the village of Baraka nightly.  Hannah decided to make her own flyer as well.  Since she wasn't old enough to pet sit she listed chores on her flyer like taking in the mail while people were on vacation, sweeping porches, watering flowers, or any other tasks people wanted done.  The title of her flyer was "Africa on My Shoulders".  

Hannah and her sister, Holly, had a neighbor that called them all summer long to collect her newspapers and mail.  Bridgette also put out a bucket at the office where she worked to collect change from all my officemates.  

“At the end of the summer we ended up with $500!  What a miracle!” said Bridgette. With the success the kids have had they have decided to pet sit and collect mail for the village in Baraka, not just in the summer, but all year round.

While many children are saving up money for the next toy or video game these kids were raising money for orphaned children in Africa.  When asked if it was hard to give the money away 12-year old Johnny said, “It wasn't that hard to give the money away because I knew it was going for a good cause.  I knew that the orphans needed help." 6-year old Holly added, “"It was so sad that they didn't have anything.  I loved working for the orphans because you could actually feel what it was like to give money away to other people.  I want to help them because we have everything that they don't have.  It feels really nice to give away money."

8-year old Hannah said, “I have drawn a line from where we are to Zambia on a map and I taped it above my bed.  I knew that I had to give the money away because I knew that the orphans need stuff more than me.  They are a really poor country and God is telling a lot of people to give them money so they can live.  I prayed for Baraka and that all the orphans get what they need and that they would have clean water and food.  One day I want to visit Baraka."

Hands at Work would love to thank the Gilchrist family on behalf of the community of Baraka and add that I know the children of Baraka would love for you to visit!

To read more about Baraka click here>>>>

To read more about Zambia click here>>>>