Let us not forget our grandfathers. In Ng'ombe, Lusaka there are many old men who do not have work, homes, or people to care for them. One of these men is White. White became a part of Chikumbuso back in 2007 when we began working with grandmothers. He and his wife lived together in a very small home and were desperate for help. A few years later his wife died but there was no way we could abandon him for not being a "grandmother".
White is great, never complains and is always so happy to see us. Presently he is being kept by his daughter, but they are so poor he is obliged to go to the corner and beg with his hands out for money. White's daughter is a maid and does the best she can to bring money to the house but with 2 boys and grandchildren in school there is not much to go around. Help us, help this family.
At one o'clock on Thursday I decided to go and visit some of our sponsored grandmothers to see how they were getting along. There is no doubt in my mind that these grandmothers struggle everyday to provide for the grandchildren left in their care. Yet everyday they get up and do what they must so that the children can eat.
On one of my visits I came across Lunonga. Lunonga was thrilled to see me coming and to have a chance to share her needs with me. Almost immediately she pulled out her old blanket to show me the holes that have stolen its warmth. July is the peak of the cold season here in Lusaka, I wondered aloud how she could possibly stay warm.
"I have my stove" she says proudly.
Lunonga continues to use her stove twice a day. Either she will collect the wood herself or sometimes her great grandchildren will do it for her. The stove is not for her alone. She shares it with her granddaughter and her family. The biggest problem she faces is that many people are using the same stove so it gets more and more difficult for her to find scraps of firewood within the slum. Other than that her stove is her life line; for warmth, food, and hot water.
Lunonga wanted me to be sure to thank you for your kindness in helping her life become just that much easier.
The word "grandmother" brings back memories for all of us. Everyone loves their grandmother and everyone remembers something their grandmother did for them. My grandmother made fudge... she did lots of other things too. She taught me about money and how to save it for the carnival each spring.
Grandmothers in Zambia however bring something else to my mind. They are elderly women who struggle daily. The grandmothers of Chikumbuso not only teach their grandchildren how to take care of themselves but they raise their grandchildren full time. These women have no means at all. One of our grandmothers came by the other day to tell us that her house was falling down on her and her children. When we checked it out it was in fact true. The walls of her two room home had huge cracks in them and empty spaces where the cinder blocks had fallen. Please help us to continue to support these grandmothers by buying these stoves. With these stoves the grandmothers are able to cook meals for their grandchildren with out the added cost of charcoal. It only takes a handful of sticks for them to cook, heat water, and keep their homes warm as winter approaches Zambia. Twigs are free everywhere!
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.
Violet is one of our grandmothers. She joined Chikumbuso's grandmother project in 2009. Violet's husband died eight years ago, shortly after he retired from his work at the University of Zambia. Violet herself used to sell cooking oil and other items at the local market while her husband was at work. They had 10 children together, but only two are still alive today. Both children live in Ng’ombe, as Violet, but they do not come to see her very often. In total Violet has 18 grandchildren. The four who live with her are from one of her children who passed away. She lives in a two-room house without electricity supporting her four grandchildren. The rains are beginning again, the weather cooling, and the fuel efficient stoves make a big difference not just in cooking, but also in warming their small house.
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