Joseph is 26 years old and lives in Windhoek, Namibia. At the age of 21, he has unexpectedly become the father and mother of his 4 young brothers and 2 sisters, when his most loving mother, Hileni, a school teacher and city councilwoman, the only provider of the family, unexpectedly died from the HIV disease.
Their father, Samuels had died a year before. The youngest child at the time was just less than 4 years old. Fortunately, when Hileni passed away, Joseph has already graduated from high school, and he was planning on going to college, but he could never go, as he had to find a job to support his young brothers and sisters.
Joseph has a brother, Fritz, who is 23 years old and is defying the gravity of their hardship by going to college. He wants to go to Santa Monica College in Santa Monica, California, and then transfer to UCLA to complete his degree education, so he can one day find a good paying job to help his brothers and sisters.
And by the time Fritz completes his degree education, Joseph would be in his 30s, but Joseph also plans on going to college as soon as Fritz finishes and gets a job to help take over the family load. However for Fritz to find the money he needs to pay for his tuition and fees at SMC is another dream that needs to come true for him, which is almost impossible, his mother and father have died and they have no relatives who can afford to send them to college. With stringent bureaucracy, who and how can anyone even ask the government to help fund their education?
In Columbus, Ohio, Timothy is 20 years old and a second year student at the Ohio State University majoring in Computer Science Engineering. His mother was gunned down in a drug related accident when Timothy was just three years old. His father has had unfortunately fallen a victim of drugs and alcohol since Timothy was little, so he has never been in any place to help raise Timothy and his young brother.
Luckily, Timothy has an aunt who helped raise him and his young brother. And at the age of 14, Timothy was forced to find a job in Richmond, Virginia, at a local McDonald’s restaurant, but because he was just too young to work, he had to lie on his job application that he was in fact 16 years old. He had to work in order to support himself and his young brother.
Timothy calls himself the ‘definition’, the definition of overcoming hardship, struggle, and growing up without any proper supervision and parental love. His favorite word is ‘focus’.
Whenever you talk to Timothy, you would hear that word ‘focus’ lamenting in his tone more than a dozen times. It’s his vocabulary and his reminder to staying focus on what he has always wanted to do, reaching his goal and realizing his potential. He has already defied that by finishing high school no matter what he had faced in his early years of life and by enrolling in college to achieving his dream.
Timothy works more hours each week, more than the hours he needs to study. He has to work in order to pay for his rent and housing expenses, for him and his young brother. However, he’s at least fortunate that he has financial aid and student loans from the U.S. Department of Education to pay for his tuition and fees at the Ohio State University.
Zanelle is a 16 years old from Soweto, South Africa. She has three sisters and one brother. Her father died of AIDS when she was just 12 years old and her mother died of the same disease when she was 14 years old. At 16, Zanelle is the mother and father, provider and bread-winner of her siblings. She dropped out of school in order to work as a brick layer in order to earn money to help and support her brother and sisters.
Her relatives, aunts and uncles have also died of AIDS and the few remaining relatives are also HIV positive. Her 79 years old grandmother is the only one left to help out at home, but what can she really do at her age, except to look after the kids when Zanelle goes to work?
In the rural areas of India, there’s a place well known as Destiny Village (http://www.destinyvillage.org), with children, mostly orphanage, some of whom were abandoned by their families. This same Destiny Village has also been setup in Haiti to help house the same type of children. These two houses have been generously setup and sponsored by members of The Potter’s House Church of God (http://www.pottershouse.org) in Columbus, Ohio, under the leadership of the anointed, Pastor Tim Oldfield.
Some or all of the children in the Destiny Village housing projects, if it was not for the Potter’s House initiatives to help them by providing them with adequate housing, food, and education, God only knows where these kids would be today, most of them would probably be dead, or staying homeless as they once were prior to the Potter’s House initiatives to help them.
In the rural areas of Lundazi in Zambia, Mathias Zimba, director of Rising Fountain Development Program (http://www.risingfountains.org) is trying his utmost best to help families; grandparents, children and HIV positive victims in the whole rural area of Lundazi to have access to medical facilities and education.
Lundazi is one of the largest Districts in the Eastern part of Zambia, with a total population of 296,560, of which the majority live in the Lundazi rural area, while only a small part of the population lives in the city district.
Most of the population of the Lundazi area is HIV positive for those who are still living, while the majority of the parents have died of HIV and only the grandparents are left to raise and look after the orphanage kids.
When only the grandparents, most of them are in their late 70s and 80s, they cannot really provide the children with the care they need and cannot also help them with their educational work, as what normal parents would do. Because most of the grandparents were born during the colonialism and did not have opportunity to get an education. Thus now, the cycle of illiteracy continuous to repeat itself.
“There are a number of policies that have been put in place and slowly being implemented by the Zambian government, though the challenge is that, most of these policies are really only effective in urban areas and trickle at a snail rate into rural areas” said Zimba.
Among some of the notable policies in place by the Zambian government include:
Education Policy – free education for all at Basic Education. However the challenge is that despite being a policy, school authorities still charge a fee ‘user fee’ for students to pay.
“This money is used for operational costs for the school to cover the deficit they have from their lean budgets. Now, in rural areas, where on earth can a family with almost no income meet these costs? The end solution is that in rural areas, some children, particularly girls are left out from school and are forced into early marriages and so forth” said Mr. Zimba.
Healthcare Policy – free HIV/AIDS drugs to people infected with the disease. Zimba said that this is a wonderful policy to allow people who are HIV positive to have access to life saving drugs.
“The challenge is that most of the rural area clinics are centralized near the urban areas and sick people need to walk by foot almost 120 km (about 75 miles) to access the help they desperately need. There is no reliable transportation, despite the community efforts to put up good feeder roads and in the end; people are just dying in the rural areas” said Mr. Zimba.
“What are the consequences? HIV is increasingly being spread throughout the country and grandmothers are now taking over, looking after their grandchildren as due to the death of their own children” Said Zimba.
Agricultural Policy – a good policy has been put in place relating to marketing of farm produce to allow local farmers to sell their produce through a liberalized system in order to earn a few monies to support their families.
“The challenge is that despite all of these wonderful policies for Agriculture, in rural areas, we are only seeing a few “unscrupulous” traders who come and rip off poor farmers and buy their produce at extremely low prices” states Zimba.
“Our main goal really is to help children and women in these areas of Zambia to have a future and fulfill their dreams. But to do that, we need advocacy on our work so that people who have power and resources can help us meet our objectives. We need to help children to have food on the table, medical, clothes and most importantly, a good health system” cries Zimba.
One of the projects that are currently helping and working with the Rising Fountain Development Program is The Pencil Project (http://www.thepencilproject.com) led by Maria Vick and is based in South Carolina, USA.
“I lived in Swaziland as a child and was able to witness poverty firsthand. As you know, a trip to Africa will change anyone forever. I was always struck by the joy and gratefulness that I found in the African people despite the fact that so many had so little” states Mrs. Vick.
“As I’ve matured, now at 36 years of age, I have come to believe that education is the only real way out of poverty and that all the world’s children should have access to the tools they need. A pack of one dozen pencils, something that people in well developed countries take for granted, could help 12 children” states Mrs. Vick.
“In just a short time, my project has gotten a pencil into the hands of over 10,000 needy children. The pencil, though a simple thing, symbolizes education and the promise that I would like every child to feel” Says Maria Vick.
Mrs. Vick says that she acts as a ‘matchmaker’ between a donor school and a needy school. People come to her website who are looking for an easy way to help children in need. The donor school will collect pencils and then ship them to the needy school that she has found for them. And that’s how her organization started working with Mathias Zimba and the Rising Fountain Development Program.
“I believe that Mathias first contacted me, I can’t remember, and we sent an initial shipment of pencils to his students. He responded so beautifully by sending me many photos of the children receiving the pencils. They were so grateful! Their photo is on my homepage. Simon, I cried for days” sadly states Mrs. Vick.
“I have helped numerous needy schools around the world since my project’s inception but something about this program, about Mathias Zimba, and about these students have touched me as they have touched you. I have pledged to personally collect supplies for their school and am currently sending two additional parcels a month of paper, books, etc. all on my own dime” cries Mrs. Vick.
“The children have nothing, no shoes, and no blankets, nothing…and yet they try to come to school every day with a smile on their face. I don’t believe that the UN or any government for that matter is doing much to help the world’s children. There are children that are forgotten all over the world. Even in my state of South Carolina, we have school districts that are terribly underfunded (http://www.corridorofshame.com). I personally feel that we cannot wait for the government to come through for these children. They need materials now and every day that goes by is another lost opportunity for them. I won’t wait for the government. I just want to put the materials into their hands” states Mrs. Vick.
“As far as the children left homeless by AIDS, it is devastating. But it’s all part of a much larger problem which comes back to education. Knowledge is power, Simon. I know that you understand that. It is often difficult to recruit people to help in these efforts if they have never been to Africa or have only ‘seen’ poverty through the television screen in their warm, comfortable living room. That’s why I am focused on the younger generation—the children who email me every day to help. They are so eager and so willing to help build their generation. It encourages me that my small idea has blossomed into something that I never could have imagined” states Mrs. Vick.
Mathias Zimba states that his organization’s main goal is to help children and women in these areas of Zambia to have a future and fulfill their dreams. “But to do that, we need advocacy for our work so that people who have power and resources can help us meet our objectives. We need to help children to have food on the table, medical, clothes and most importantly, a good health system” cries Mr. Zimba.
“Our current urgent need is to allocate funding to help pay teachers at our rural community school, which is US$150 a month in salary for a qualified teacher to work in the rural areas. We need to recruit two qualified teachers to help out. Currently we are only working with volunteers and there is no consistency” Says Zimba.
“Rehabilitation of water wells. Water borne diseases thrive in the rural areas and we want to help them rehabilitate and maintain by forming a water committee. It costs around US$400 to rehabilitate a well and we need to help them rehab approximately 5 wells that will serve 300 members” states Mathias Zimba.
The most important problem currently facing Mr. Zimba is to find someone who may be willing to help them through donations or grants to buy a vehicle that they can use for an ambulance which will help people in his communities be able to go to healthcare clinics and receive medical care they so desperately need.
Most sick people when they walk the long distance to go to collect their daily HIV dozes of medicines, most of them don’t even make it back. They die on the way to the clinics because it takes them up to 3 days to get there by foot.
And when they don’t return home, the kids ask, who’s taking away all of our parents? Who’s killing our parents? Doesn’t God love us anymore? Why has God forsaken us?
The grandparents have no answers to any of these questions, they simply look at the kids and tell them that it’s God’s will that He’s taking them away.
Some of the people, who can afford, use donkey carts to go to and back from the clinics. Zimba believes that finding someone to help them with a van that they can use as a vehicle will tremendously help them solve one of the most critical problems of getting the sick to the healthcare.
The week of October 16, 2007, Jennie who is one of the volunteers from Ireland who arrived last week to volunteer at the Rising Fountain Development Program, brought Mr. Zimba and his team an award, presented to them by Mayor Edwin Stevenson of Limavady City, Ireland, who awarded Mathias Zimba and his group as a recognition for their outstanding community work.
“This is great news for all of us. It’s a great daily challenge being faced with so many problems in our community, and this award encourages us to work relentlessly and help people in our community as much as we can. We just need help, more resources and supports in order to enable us to carry on with our tasks, even a small contribution can help make a difference in a big way” states Mr. Zimba.
In the near future, Mathias Zimba and his organization want to initiate a cooperative program to help farmers sell their produce at economic prices and raise income for their savings.
“There are many other organizations such as WVI, Global Fund, and others that are working for the same cause in Zambia, but most of these organizations are centralized in large cities and towns and don’t really reach people in rural areas” says Mr. Zimba.
There are many Josephs, Timothys, Zanelles, Destiny Villages and Lundazis out there, all around us, everywhere in the world, and the question is, what are you doing to help out?
If you would like to learn more or find out how you can help Mathias Zimba and his organization, The Rising Fountain Development Program, please visit their web site at http://www.risingfountains.org.
About Simon Kapenda
Simon Kapenda is a volunteer author of this article. He’s founder of Tip-Mart, Inc., (http://www.tipmart.com) and developer of RentersQ (http://www.rentersq.com) and Gatepedia (http://www.gatepedia.com). He’s a student in Economics at the Ohio State University, a self-declared serial entrepreneur, speaker, and philanthropist, and an avid amateur blogger at his blog at http://www.princesimon.com.