It Takes a Family (ZAM)

By Jed Heubner

Jed (L) and his family with the care workers in Chisamba, Zambia

Fall is officially here.  We say goodbye to the long days of summer with kids staying out playing with their friends until late in the evening, and we say hello to children getting up early and heading off to school.  For many children school might seem like a burden, homework, bag lunches, and schedules, but to children in Africa, school means possibilities.  As you walk past nearly any school in Africa you will most likely see a sign that reads, “Education is the key to success,” in some form or another.  For many children in Africa, however, school is just out of reach. 

Most schools in Africa charge school fees.  Now these school fees for primary school are usually fairly low, around $25 a year, but for high school these fees can get up to $100 a year.  Now that may not seem like much, but for a family earning less than a dollar a day and having multiple children, this amount is extremely difficult to raise. 

In August my family had the opportunity to visit the community we are supporting in Chisamba, Zambia.  They have started a preschool and have a feeding point where over 50 children are getting a meal once a day.  While in Chisamba we also got to go on several home visits, meet the children we are supporting, and see where they are living.  On one home visit we met David.  David is a 16-year-old boy who lives at home with his mother and his two younger siblings.  David's father left their family several years ago because it was too difficult to support the family.  They do not know where their father went.  David is a very intelligent young man, who was doing well in school, but his family couldn’t come up with the money for school fees.  The headmaster at his school told him he was not allowed to come back until he paid all of his back fees and paid for the current school year, about $200 altogether.  As David's mother was telling us the story, I watched David closely.  I could see the embarrassment as his mother told us how he was pulled out of class and chased from the school, but I could also see the hope as he looked at these strangers who had come to visit him. 

After leaving we sat with the coordinator of Isubilo Home-based Care, Peter.  Peter is a local pastor who was challenged by what he saw going on in the community and decided he could make a difference in these children’s lives.  He doesn’t have much, but he and his wife Cecilia have done so much for the children of Chisamba.  However, helping David was beyond what they could afford as well.  Peter knows David well, and told us how much he loved school.  With Peter’s help, we made a plan to fund the fees so David can go back to school.

In the local language "Isubilo" means hope.  We were able to bring something to David to help his situation, but we know there are many more children out there like David, children who aren’t heading back to school this time of year.  My hope is that through our relationship with Isubilo Home-based Care in Chisamba we can make sure that all of the children we are supporting will have the opportunity to go to school and have a much brighter future.

To find out how you can support a child or even a whole village with your friends or your church visit or email our partnerships coordinator at

Hope for the Forgotten Villages of Kisunka (DRC)

Walking 15 km to the nearest school in a neighboring city is considered a blessing for those who can afford to attend a school in the first place.  For many families living in Kisunka, where there has not been a school for the past twenty years, the cost of education is simply beyond their means.    

Kisunka, a cluster of remote villages in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is trapped in a cycle of hopelessness. It is so remote and difficult for non-profit organizations to enter that it has been all but completely forgotten. The five villages that make up Kisunka lack access to clean drinking water, education, health care, and sustainable work. These circumstances all contribute to an overall hopelessness shared among the approximately 5,000 villagers. Everyone is focused on oneself, not because the people are selfish but because each one is struggling to survive.  One old man summed up this sentiment this way, “No one notices when someone is busy dying; they only pay attention when someone dies.”

The cycle begins with the basic but unmet need for a reliable source of clean drinking water. Though the Kisunka community shares two wells, both are reduced to mud during the dry season. Because the wells are open, if anything such as a sick animal falls in, it poisons the well and spreads disease throughout the entire community. When people in the community do get sick there is no local clinic in which to receive care, and villagers must travel 15 km to the nearest health center.  This long distance means that villagers who need urgent health care often die on their way to the clinic, creating orphans of their children.

Kisunka survives on farming maize and cassava, but with the rising costs of farming materials combined with poor farming techniques, the harvests yield barely enough for villagers to survive.  Members of the community may take on other menial tasks or try to fish in Changalele, a large lake nearby that is well-known for its good fishing. At the same time, the good fishing also means that large numbers of seasonal workers travel to the area for fishing and other trade.  As is common in other areas of sub-Saharan Africa, this has led to the sexual exploitation of those who are most desperate for survival, such as orphaned young girls, contributing to the spread of HIV/AIDS.

The story of John is typical in Kisunka, where young children bear the burden of providing for their families, thus sacrificing their own education and future for day-to-day survival. John is a 13-year-old orphaned boy from a family of five in Kimboyi, a village in Kisunka. He lost his father to tuberculosis when he was 9 years old.  After this loss, John and his other siblings, together with their mother, were forced to go and stay with their granny, as the father’s relatives took all their possessions after his death. The boy’s mother was sickly but still remarried after 4 years.  Unfortunately this didn’t improve the situation for the family as her new husband wouldn’t allow her to bring her children to live with them. 

John only went to school up to grade 3, and has not attended since the death of his father due to the inability to pay school fees.  Instead, he is wandering in the field trying to help his granny with farming.  Sometimes when farming is not doing well, he will go to Lake Changalele at the edge of the village to try fishing in order to support his family.

Hands at Work is supporting local Christian leaders within the vulnerable community of Kisunka who are already demonstrating a passion to serve the poor and broken among their neighbors.  Hands at Work is helping these leaders to develop a locally-owned organization in their community and beginning a long-term relationship of service and partnership, where we continually work to increase the organization’s capacity to provide care in an effective and holistic manner.  Are you interested in partnering with Hands at Work by advocating for Kisunka within your church, family, or group of friends?  Visit or email our partnerships coordinator in the U.S. at

One Teacher to 150 Students! (NIG)

Can you imagine a teacher, jumping from one room full of students to another, teaching lesson after lesson to 150 kids captivated and eager to learn?  Peter is the coordinator of the Hands at Work Service Center in Lagos, Nigeria, and he has transformed many children’s lives because of his dedication and passion for education and a desire to bring children renewed hope.  

Peter’s journey to Lagos came with a great cost.  Peter turned down an offer to teach at a university and a scholarship to study at a university in the UK, because it was not what God desired for him.  God had a different but greater purpose for Peter.  He says it was a tough decision, a decision he wept over.  However, God soon led Peter to Elekuru , one of the poorest areas outside of Ibadan, Nigeria.  The village was wrought with devastating poverty, and Peter saw the lives of the children there wasting away without anyone to help them.  This is where Peter unleashed his talent and passion, and he started a school in February of 2002.  

Peter would start each class with a short prayer asking God, “Where do I start today?” and the Lord would lead. The school began with thirty students, but pretty soon it grew to 150 students in seven classes with Peter as the only teacher.  Peter would jump from class to class and he did this for eight years!  He says it was the grace of God that allowed him to sustain this work.  In 2010 Hands came in to help with two additional teachers to reduce Peter’s work load.  Peter’s wife is also doing a similar work in another community with sixty children.  Peter says, “It was God all the way and I give him thanks for all he has done and would yet do.”