Early in the morning of International Women’s Day, I was sleeping, I just wanted to sleep in. But then someone began knocking on my door, and I got up to answer it. I found there was this old, old lady. She was carrying this big sack on her back like a baby. I said, “Ah, Sylvia, what are you doing?”
“I’m coming from Mandevu.”
“What were you doing there? Visiting your relatives?” It was so early in the morning, I imagined that she must have left there very early to get to Ng’ombe at this time of the morning.
“No, no. I left early from my house this morning. I went to buy some groundnuts because I know that I am owing Chikumbuso some money. Now that my son’s funeral is over, I want to start selling so I can start paying again on my loan.” Sylvia, like many older Zambians, believes that if she is owing a debt on earth, she won’t be free to die. At 104, with all she has seen, you can imagine how this grips her.
“So,” I asked her, “how much do you have? Have you started selling by this time?”
“Yes! That is why I’ve come!”
I had her scoop out the groundnuts, bit by bit; she looked up at me in the eyes, “Is that enough?” “No, keep counting.” She counted until they were all out. The total price was 10.50 kwacha, with a profit of 1.5 (about $2.10 in total, profit about 30 cents). She was very pleased and grateful for the money and turned to go.
“No, no, Sylvia, you must stay and have breakfast with me. It’s International Women’s Day.” During breakfast we talked about her plans to earn some money for her loan and I shared the story with my children who would easily look down on working so early and so hard for such a meager profit.
After breakfast, she turned to go. “No, no, Sylvia, you must stay – I will get your clothes washed and pour you a nice bath.”
After we had washed the clothes and ironed them and she finished her bath, she turned to go. “No, no, Sylvia, the day isn’t over yet. You must stay for tea.”
By the time Sylvia went home she was very happy – she’d eaten three meals, sold all her groundnuts and her clothes were nicely ironed, folded and back on her back in the big sack wrapped with chitenge – these are clothes that she will sell to pay back her loan and now that they are clean and ironed, they will be much more likely to sell.
She was happy, but I found I was even more happy. Sylvia is a very old woman and her last child was just buried and yet, she was up very early in the morning, out and about, trying to make just a little profit to get herself going again. And not only that, all the time she was here, she was smiling, laughing, even giving us a small dance – I thought, “Would I have that courage going through all these problems? I kept thinking of her – what if she were my own umbuya (grandmother) and I wondered at her courage when she’s all alone.”
This grandmother represents all of the grandmothers we have and the struggles they go through on a daily basis. Consider blessing a grandmother with a stove, it will make a world of difference in her life.
It is a good thing there are grandmothers in Zambia and in the world today! Imagine life with out them. Who would take the orphans in with arms wide open just to see them cared for and in a home where they felt safe? The grandmothers sponsored at Chikumbuso are caring for many grandchildren left to them after the death of their own children. They do not have a lot to offer at times other than a safe place off the street and they always struggle to feed these children.
If you would like to give your grandmother a gift this year for Valentine’s Day be sure to consider giving her a rocket stove for a grandmother in need in Zambia.
Our grandmothers cannot say enough about how it has changed their lives.
The other day we visited Esnart, a grandmother with 7 grandchildren.
Esnart has one of our Rocket stoves and loves it. She says,
“ With my rocket stove I no longer need to buy charcoal which is so expensive and with this stove it takes me half the time to cook my meals. I try to cook three times a day so having the stove saves me both time and money. The sticks we use in the stove my grandchildren collect for me around the slum.”
Won’t you help another grandmother to have this blessing this Valentine’s Day?
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!
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