It is difficult to comprehend the scale of the decimation caused by the HIV and AIDS pandemic in Zambia. With a population of barely more than 14 million the nation has over 700,000 orphans, primarily as a result of HIV and AIDS. Virtually all of the Butterfly Tree’s work revolves around the orphans and we strive to give them hope for a better future. Our aim is to provide a sound, basic education for as many rural children as funds permit. It is not possible for every child to be accepted on our orphan sponsorship program as there are so many, but we can help in other ways by improving the education facilities in these remote schools and helping them to generate sustainability.
Creating global awareness is paramount - the poverty levels are extreme. Under normal circumstances Zambian families can support themselves by living a simple lifestyle, but when they have the addition of several orphans to feed and educate they are pushed below the poverty line. Two thirds of the entire nation lives on less than £1 ($1.5) per day. Our aim is to develop sustainability in rural schools and communities so that every orphan has a chance to be educated.
We have many people helping us to achieve this through fundraising, sponsorship and volunteering. Last month we welcomed Thomas Mills High School, whose pupils raised funds to build a sustainable school shop at Mukuni Basic School. Camping out in the classrooms, two groups totalling thirty pupils form this school in Suffolk set about building the facility, which will be used to make and sell uniforms as well as school supplies. Students helped in the classrooms, with activities and on the sports ground.
While it is essential for these vulnerable children to complete their education it is not always possible to seek employment once they leave school. Mukuni Village is close to the mighty Victoria Falls, a major tourist destination, but there are not enough jobs for everyone and unemployment is high. To take advantage of the surroundings and the abundance of visitors to the area we are initiating an Ecotourism project. In July I visited Zambia with Jonathan Sedo, an Ecotourism consultant from Costa Rica, who is submitting a project plan to The Butterfly Tree. Emma Kennedy, an International Development student will assist with the initial stages of the project. This is a great opportunity for Mukuni orphans and school leavers to be involved income-generating enterprise
The orphan sponsorship program has been running since 2006, many of the children have reached high school - some have already completed school whilst others are just starting. We have extended the program to help children in the following schools: Mukuni, N’gandu, Kamwi, Siamasimbi and Ndele and many more need help.