One of the beneficiaries of SLA is the Natuseko Community School. I visited the school and, with our generous donations, I was able to provide much needed supplies of books, pencils, and chalk.
These children were so happy to have a visitor and were really fun to be with. They excitedly told me their names and their favorite subjects in school (math and science ranked high). The older students told me about their exams which are coming up next week.
The challenge in this community and with this school is a disturbing lack of resources. They have lost teachers because there is no income to pay them. When I was there I met the headmaster and one other teacher. These two teachers were responsible for the entire school (grades 1-6). Also, they don't have a food program so these children are in school the entire day without a meal. For most, they have one meal a day at home and that is it. The headmaster showed me the field in the back of the school where they are attempting to grow maize and sweet potatoes, which could provide some food for the students. The problem is they don't have fertilizer and they were devastated to see that the crops the students and teachers planted just aren't growing.
The school has lost a lot of its enrollment because the children are having to fend for themselves and for their families. They have to leave school to try and find some way to make money to put food on the table. For those students, if they do go to school, they only go for a day or so a week.
The true gift and true heartbreak of this trip has been meeting all of these wonderful African children: whether it be in the school in Ngungugu, Kenya (where we provided much needed desks); or, the children orphaned by AIDS in Maputo and Gaza provinces in Mozambique; or, the children at the Natuseko Community School in Kabwe, Zambia.
I have honestly and truly fell in love with these children. Every single one of them. They have such smiling, happy faces. There is such hope in their eyes. But there is also such sadness. They struggle daily just to survive in a world that is seemingly content with children homeless and starving and without parents. This reality has truly broken my heart and changed my outlook in so many ways. How can we, as a society, accept this as our reality? It is beyond any logic that we live in a world in which our most vulnerable are most suffering.
From the book "Half the Sky":
A Hawaiian parable: A man goes out on the beach and sees that it is covered with starfish that have washed up in the tide. A little boy is walking along, picking them up and throwing them back into the water. "What are you doing, son?" the man asks. "You see how many starfish there are? You'll never make a difference." The boy paused thoughtfully, and picked up another starfish and threw it in the ocean. "It sure made a difference to that one," he said.
While the poverty is staggering and the number of children I met is too numerous to count, the idea that I can maybe even impact one of their lives is so important to me and something I am committed to do. It doesn't take much in terms of financial resources to change the direction of any one of these precious lives. The hardest part is realizing that I can't help all of them but I am inspired to help as many as I can.
You must be the change you wish to see in the world. -Mahatma Ghandi