Chikumbuso Project in Lusaka strives to keep young girls in school by offering them free schooling, a bicycle, supplies, and girls clubs for focus. Yet despite all the help many girls still struggle. Everyday these girls learn that they need to be able stand on their own two feet. When the family support that most children need is already over burdened it is so easy for girls to slip through the cracks and disappear. Jane is a perfect example of the girl who disappeared. Jane, is an orphan girl who came to Chikumbuso over five years ago. She lived with her sister, her only surviving relative. Jane was full of life, intelligent and beautiful. As she blossomed in school and socially her sister found it difficult to watch and became jealous. In a rage of jealousy she had Jane thrown in jail for a weekend. When Jane emerged on Monday morning her life was upside down. She was shamed and shattered. Having no other place to live she moved in with her fiancee. Although she was able to take her ninth grade exams, school ended for her when she became pregnant. Now one year later, Jane returned to Chikumbuso to get away from an abusive man, get back into school and stand on her own once again. We are so happy that she has come back to school. It takes a lot of courage to admit defeat and even more to get back in the fight. Thank you so much for continuing your support for these children.
Chikumbuso is an alternative type of school. We do several things a bit differently from other schools. We feed the kids everyday. We give out clothes generously donated and worn proudly in the place of school uniforms. And the other thing we do is provide supplies to all the kids. There is no way they could afford them otherwise.
Gertrude and Linda consulted over what we'd need for the year. They counted all the supplies we'd received from visitors and determined what we needed for the Chikumbuso students and also for the Grade 7 and above students. I looked at the list and thought, Hmmm... 2420 softs books, 540 hard books... that's a lot of books. And that's just the writing books.
Gertrude and I set off to Shoprite. We'd done some early pricing on items and had a plan for going to each store that offered the best prices. Fortunately, we had three interns with us, eager to help in the shopping.
We bought our first round with the help of Shoprite employees and the girls running around the store gathering items from our list. As Gertrude and I stood in the aisle, moving aside from all the other parents doing their early shopping, while we were trying to count the books up to 2420, I realized - No one does this. No one comes to Shoprite to buy 2420 soft books along with a multitude of other items. At our first checkout, we had five carts. The checkout girls looked at us like we couldn't possibly be serious. We returned three times that day with similar results.
Ultimately everyone was really helpful and what was really interesting is that all the stockboys that helped us - knew about us the minute we told them we were from Chikumbuso. One boy was from Ng'ombe and was thanking us for helping the compound. Gertrude and I met with one of the managers about next year's order - we'll do it in advance so they'll have it all ready for us. I think we just weren't really thinking about how big the school has gotten. After all, we were buying for 388 students.
Maines Ngoma is the widow in this picture. She is the mother of Christine Khosi, one of our widows that passed away back in August 2010. Maines lives on the corner of the street that comes into Chikumbuso.
A couple of weeks ago, Gertrude told me Maines had come to Chikumbuso. “You see me,” she said, falling on her knees, “I’m starving. Isn’t there something Chikumbuso can do for me. Look, my grandchildren - they are wasting!”
“We have to talk to you about Christine Khosi’s mother,” Gertrude opened. “She is coming and coming here, asking us to help. She has been doing very poorly since Christine died."
Maureen chimed in, “Yes, every day I wish I could build a fly-over to walk past her house. Every day, every day, she sees me, and she comes out to ask me if we can do something for her. She even knows that I try to pass her house without her seeing me. Now, she is telling me she knows I’m avoiding her. What can we do? We have to do something.”
Maureen had one bag of roller meal left from sponsorship handouts. Every child except one had shown up to collect their monthly food distribution. Maureen had made sure that all the children knew they were to come and pick up their food by a certain date; that child did not come and here was Maines, starving and begging. We sent her home with a bag of roller meal, of course.
When I arrived home that day, I received an email from a couple wanting to sponsor a child and a grandmother. Coincidence? I don’t think so. When all our hearts were united in prayer for her deliverance, suddenly our prayers were answered. Suddenly, someone thought, “I’d like to sponsor a grandmother with Chikumbuso so I’m going to send an email right now.” That is nothing short of miraculous as far as I am concerned.
I think that Maines considers it nothing short of miraculous, too. We went to her house first thing to tell her the good news. “I have nothing for you to sit down on, but we must at least get out of the sun,” she said to Gertrude, motioning us into some shade. Squatting under the eve of the house Gertrude began to tell her that her prayers had been answered - she had a sponsor through Chikumbuso. We gave her a chitenge. Gertrude explained that she would now be receiving food, candles, etc. every month. She seemed overwhelmed. I asked her questions about her children - she has two children still living and four of her five grandchildren live with her. She’s lived in Lusaka so long all she remembers about coming there is that it was during the colonial times. She has no idea how old she is. I asked her if she voted in the recent elections. She replied, “I’m too old for politics now. My vote is for Jesus.”
When we rose to leave, the reality that she really had a sponsor sunk in. Tears flowed as she shook our hands, kissing us and hugging us, and crying and blessing her new sponsor, “Now I have a new daughter to take care of me since Christine has passed.”
What is a miracle, anyway? CS Lewis, in his book, Miracles, writes about that which is Super-natural. Nature would have predicted a slow demise for Maines. The breadwinner dying, naturally should have led to her orphaned grandchildren being offed to other family members and her own slow, hungry death. Instead, something Super-natural has happened. Someone wholly unconnected with Maines has now become a new daughter to replace the one that was lost. I think it qualifies as a miracle.