Some of the lovely children at PIZZ
Once in a while in life one meets a truly inspirational human being. I have been privileged to meet several such people in the few weeks that I have been in Monze, Zambia. The two who stand out are Veronica Sianga - the founder and General Manager of PIZZ School and her husband Stephen Sianga, she is a retired nurse and he is a farmer - they are both in their sixties.
Mrs Sianga worked at the local hospital and latterly was the Community AIDS Outreach Co-ordinator, a role which combined nursing and social work skills. In the dark days before Africa had access to HIV drugs, AIDS had an even more devastating effect than it has in 2017. Mrs Sianga was so moved by the plight not only of those infected by HIV, but also by the vulnerability of the orphans created by this disease, that she has determined to devote as many years as she is able to providing a support system for these families, most especially for the children, on whom the future of Zambia depends. Her husband is completely behind her, and also gives selflessly to improve the lot of the orphaned and vulnerable children in their community.
Since about 2005, HATW has been working with the Siangas, ably assisted by Chris Barrell our project co-ordinator who visits Monze annually. Over the years, the Siangas' vision has become our shared vision - to provide food, education, counselling and hope to an increasing number of children. What began as a drop-in youth club and a weekly open-house in their home offering whatever support was within their means, has become a thriving school and support centre which is providing brighter futures and is much valued by local people.
We met some of the school pupils yesterday and heard their stories - it was hard to hold back the tears because each tale of bereavement, neglect or abuse was further compounded by poverty and malnutrition. It is impossible to overstate the difference that PIZZ School has made to the lives of these children. Mrs Sianga knows and cares for each of them as individuals; the teachers are talented and dedicated despite working with very limited resources and low salaries. The volunteer care-givers, who often struggle themselves, are absolute gems too.
You, our supporters, are also a part of this team. Those of you who contribute to the PIZZ Lunchbox scheme help to feed these children, and our child sponsors support care and education. More than that though, you give value and self-esteem to these beautiful boys and girls who are so happy to know that you care enough about them to share what you have. If you could visit PIZZ school, and I hope that some day you might, then you would know this through the big smiles of some and the quiet connection with others. Meanwhile, all I can do is say “thank you” - never doubt that you make a difference, you are doing that every day.