So aside from my Victoria Falls bungee jumping adventures and seven-dollar-a-night hostel experiences, I did get a little bit of work done in Livingstone, Zambia.
Taking off from my luxurious hostel at seven in the a.m. I traveled to Mukuni village, happy to escape the hordes of guys peddling copper bracelets on the Livingstone streets.
Just a note--these guys are, by far, the most persistent salesmen I have ever seen. Literally, these fellas will walk and talk with you for an hour without ever mentioning their product. Good strategy? Who knows, but you at least get a good conversation out of the experience.
Anyway, Mukuni village, tucked right by the falls, is by village standards, gigantic. Literally thousands of people inhabit this village that has existed for centuries upon centuries. The people, who depend largely on selling local crafts and agriculture, have developed a very strong relationship with UK-based non-profit, The Butterfly Tree.
Just strolling through the village with Mr. Presley Mulenga, member of The Butterfly Tree and headmaster of Mukuni Basic School, the name “The Butterfly Tree” is ever-present. Be it latrines, schools, clinics, etc. there is no escaping the influence this charity has had on this large, yet tight-knit community.
When I first arrived, I found myself in a room with 7-8 women, all of whom were HIV positive. Some looked completely healthy, but others were clearly struggling in the fight, a look I have come to notice too easily while in Africa. Working through a Leya translator, I learned that The Butterfly Tree has helped with funding of the village clinic, obtaining antiretroviral medication for villagers, and has established a brand new maternity ward.
Most importantly, I believe, the organization has helped provide these women with the means to start their own sensitivization organization—try saying that five times fast. This support group travels throughout the area, telling their stories, and holds HIV seminars for both infected and non-infected individuals. So far, the results have been amazing, both for the listeners and for the ladies.
“It has been fantastic. There used to be such a stigma, but now it is getting better. When you have HIV, keeping busy allows you to finally feel normal again,” says Cynthia, support group secretary and primary school teacher.
Cynthia was paralyzed just years ago. With The Butterfly Tree’s help she was able to keep her head above water with a growing stack of medical bills. With their help, she now walks.
However, their work doesn’t stop there. The face of education has been completely transformed thanks to the presence of these development lovin’ Brits.
They have established several basic schools in both Mukuni and elsewhere, providing children in rural areas with accessible education. When I arrived they were working on one brand new classroom block--a classroom for children for disabilities, and are on the way towards opening a high school for local children.
Some children were walking as far as 21 km to attend the basic school in Mukuni. For my fellow Americans, that is approximately 13 miles….one way. These children, leaving long before sunrise, are often in direct danger during seasons of elephant migration. Thanks to The Butterfly Tree, the Kamwi School is close to being finished, cutting short that unbelievable commute.
The organization has also been working extensively with an orphan program, sponsoring children so that they may live healthy, educated lives.
Now at this point it may seem that I’m done praising The Butterfly Tree’s work. In all honesty, if I had to fully explain all that The Butterfly Tree does, you all wouldn’t be willing to read that beast of an article.
However, for your benefit here are just a few more highlights of work being done—The Butterfly Tree has established an under-five feeding program and has put several playpumps in place (a contraption that allows kids to play on playground equipment while simultaneously pumping water into a reservoir). The Butterfly Tree helped to create a chicken farming operation, install countless latrines, council HIV-stricken mothers, help with prosthetics and individuals suffering from leprosy, shoe the shoeless, and build over 30 homes in the area.
Impressive, huh? That’s right, these people are non-profit superstars.
An organization providing this scale of influence is seldom seen. The Butterfly Tree has influenced literally every facet of Mukuni society, fighting HIV/AIDS and poverty from every possible angle.
A big-time organization that deserves some big-time attention—The Butterfly Tree.
Troy Smith, a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is currently an In-the-Field traveler visiting GlobalGiving projects throughout Zambia, Malawi, and Tanzania. Follow his trip at http://troygivesglobal.tumblr.com/.