Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Orphans in Zambia

Linda’s note:  My thanks to Meagan Hawley and her blog for the poem and for inspiring me to write about the plight of orphans.

A few years ago I didn’t know any children who were orphans. Then I moved to Zambia and became sponsorship coordinator.  And that’s when I met orphans.  One afternoon I interviewed each sponsored student individually.  I was dazed as I walked home.  I threw myself on the bed and sobbed.  How else do you respond to story after story of death, desertion, and desperation? 

That particular group of students has moved on, but three of the current sponsored students have similar stories.  Grace’s mother died when Grace was 13, and her father died five years later.  At the funeral, an uncle that Grace had just met was assigned to be her guardian.  Grace tells about how this affects her:  “My uncle provides me with shelter and food, but I can’t ask him for anything else because he is looking after 16 other people.  I have no one to confide in.” 

At age nine, Kenny was sent to live with an aunt in a remote village when his parents died.  His aunt is unable to provide him with any financial support beyond food and shelter.  When Kinny found out he had a sponsorship at Namwianga, he walked 40 miles to enroll in high school.  Without sponsorship, Kinny would never have left the village. 

David is an eighth grader at Namwianga. He lived with an aunt for three years after his parents died.  She was not caring toward him, and life was miserable.  David left that home and lived on the streets of Lusaka for a year.  A relative found out about David and took him to Namwianga’s orphanage.

 “Some relatives just pretend you do not exist, no matter how much you might be struggling,” says David.  “The worst thing of being an orphan is not receiving love from parents. Anyone can love you and care for you, but no one will ever love you like your mother would.” 

A poem of unknown origin circulates in Zambia: 

My heart bleeds when I see an adult pass by.
I look in the face, hoping to see my lost father and mother.
Hoping to hear their comforting voices, hoping for a hug.
But nobody has time for me since my parents died.
I have become a scavenger.
I must roam the streets to look for food.
I have nowhere to sleep.
I cannot go to school.
When my relatives take me in I must be beaten because I am naughty.
I must do all the work because I am lazy they say.
I must be given little food because I eat too much.
If I laugh, I am making noise.
If I cry I am not grateful.
O God, it’s terrible to be an orphan.

Almost half of the sponsored students at Namwianga are considered orphans in the Zambian culture because they have lost at least one parent.  And twenty percent are full orphans because both of their parents are dead.  Many others are de facto orphans because of parental desertion or neglect.  It is easy to feel powerless in the face of such need.   And yet sponsorship is an important way to help orphans.  Students who attend Namwianga have their needs met in a caring environment that helps them grow academically, socially, and spiritually.   For most, it is a life-changing experience. 

If you are interested in changing a life, consider sponsoring an orphan or needy student in school at Namwianga.  High school students need $140 per month, and college students need $150 per month.  Partial sponsorships of $25 per month or one-time gifts are welcome. 

Sponsorship payments may be made by check, automatic debit, debit/credit card, or PayPal.  Checks should be made payable to Zambia Mission Fund and mailed to Zambia Mission Fund, Box 3393, Abilene, TX  79604. Automatic debit requests should be sent to the same address.   Paypal or credit/debit card payments may be made on the Zambia Mission website:  Click on Donate and be sure to specify that your donation is for student sponsorship.  If you have questions, please post them as a comment and I will get back to you.  Your comment will not be posted unless you request it to be.