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.
Yesterday Gertrude and I were talking about electricity. Gertrude had the opportunity to visit one of the local dams providing electricity in Zambia. She now appreciates how the systems work and when the 'brown outs' happen locally, she knows that at this time of year it is because the water table is lowering throughout the dry season and so our electricity becomes scarce. Ng'ombe is dealing with outages nearly every night from 5pm to 11pm - the cooking hours. Thank God our grandmothers have their stoves to manage dinner!
Our Grandmothers are really benefiting from their new stoves. It gets surprisingly cold here in Zambia. The construction of the homes in Ng'ombe don't offer much protection either, basic block construction, no insulation and a metal roof. The rocket stoves create a bit of warmth on a cold evening. The temperatures dip down to the low 40Fs. One can imagine how that cold could really cut through an old woman. After cooking her meal for her family, our grandmothers can feel cozy around the remaining warmth from the firebox without the dirt and smoke from firewood or charcoal.
A growing family is generally something we say congratulations for. Sometimes for us, the growing of a family is a moment to be sad, though. One of our dear widows, Brenda, has a growing family with the addition of a new baby. The blessing is mixed because the reason of the baby's coming is a sad one, the death of her mother.
In Zambia, grandmothers carry a heavy load. They bear children, take care of husbands, and then here is Zambia, the bury husbands, bury children and then raise and care for the grandchildren, the nieces, the nephews, and more.
For Brenda, she has been mourning her sister, while welcoming this new little one into her large family. One day, Linda came in and had baby formula for Brenda and Maureen (both caring for infants) and they danced, and danced with grateful laughter. So we see that even while we're sad, we can smile, we can have joy, we can see the blessing in the mix.
Chikumbuso Women and Orphans Project looks for better solutions in helping our grandmothers. Every month we reach out to 23 courageous women who care for their grandchildren left to them after their own children died. As part of Chikumbuso’s mission statement “to remember to do for others” we have incorporated grandmothers in our support program hoping to lighten their load. Twice a month the grandmothers are visited by a caregiver and given a 25 kg. bag of mealiemeal, oil, candles, soap, salt and charcoal.
Each of these grandmothers has their own story of struggle to share. Eneless Mwanza’s husband died in 2004 of polio and since then her life has been a struggle. Her husband worked as a day guard guarding the homes of others. When she could Eneless would do “piecework” in the compound to help supplement the income. This piece work means that she would go from house to house asking if there was any extra work that needed to be done; washing up dishes, doing laundry, etc. Together this couple had ten children but today only two are alive. Eneless can no longer do piece work. She is too old to walk around looking for work. Her two children live far away but they have “given” her three grandchildren to care for her and help her around the house. Her home is a two room place with out electricity. She owns her house, which is a relief because she does not have to pay a rent. Her neighbors give her some vegetables when they can, but otherwise no one but Chikumbuso is there for her. In an effort to be environmentally friendly Chikumbuso would like to eliminate this donation of charcoal (our Zambian forest) and give each of our grandmothers a “rocket stove”. These stoves are part of Zambia’s National Forestry Service to educate the population on the need to get away from charcoal and find more fuel efficient alternatives. It uses for each meal only a handful of kindling. Each stove costs $200. A stove for Eneless Mwanza would mean that she would not have to struggle to find charcoal, she could cook once a day and keep the rest for the evening in the stove “warmer”. Her grandchildren could collect the small amount of kindling needed around the neighborhood. This stove would also keep them warm on these cool rainy days. If you would like to help with this grandmother project you would not only be helping a family but also keeping the forests of Zambia!
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