Wednesday, May 6, 2015

FAQs About Our Zambia Trip

Folks have been asking, so it's time for a little FAQ session about Zambia/our trip/our work!

1) Where are you going?
We are going to Lusaka, Zambia in southern Africa.  Yep, southern Africa, as in below the Equator. So while our friends and family are sweltering away in 90+ degree heat, we'll be in no humidity coolness.  That's 40s and 50s in the mornings to 60s to MAYBE 80 in the afternoons.  Divine, I say! Zambia is one of the poorest countries in the world, with the vast majority of the population living on less than $1 a day.  Yet, their spiritual wealth is immense.  Zambia also has the highest ratio of orphans of any nation in the world.  Sadly, many of the children aren't truly orphans but are abandoned due to the immense poverty.  More on that in a minute.


2) Who do you work with?
We work with a ministry called Alliance for Children Everywhere (ACE).  In Zambia, it's called Christian Alliance for Children, Zambia (CACZ) because they wanted to make their work their own. That's exactly how we want it-for the Zambians to have complete ownership in the work that God is doing in their nation.  

We are not an orphanage.  Orphanages in Zambia are incredibly hard for a child to leave.  The way Zambia (and many other nations) structures orphanages, funding is based on the number of children in the home.  Most orphanages then try to keep children in their care until they age out around 19 years old.  We do not want this for our children, so we have 2 transition homes.  We want our children in families as quickly as possible, so they are with us as they transition from one place to the next.  Our infant home is for birth-about age 2, and the older home takes the children after they turn 2.  When the police or social services bring children to us, our social workers do all they can to reunite them with relatives.  If that isn't possible for any number of reasons, they are placed in a foster home.  Often, the foster parents end up adopting the children.  The children might stay in our home until they are adopted by a local family.  A few of our children are adopted internationally, but since Zambia is not a part of the Hague Convention, this is incredibly difficult to do.  Oh, and on occasion, we just have happy stories like this: during my first trip 5 years ago, we had twins who were born incredibly premature.  Their mother died having them.  They lived out in the bush, and their father didn't have a way to feed this sweet brother and sister.  He brought them to the city and left them with us to care for until they were weaned.  They are now 5 and with their dad.   They were less than 3 pounds each when they came to us.  I have a picture of me holding one in each arm, just a little over 3 pounds each.  Loving on those two is one of my most favorite memories ever.   *Because our children are in the care of social services, I can't share their pictures, but know they are adorable and so very, very loved!  

We also have 7 primary schools called Faith Works.  ACE/CACZ supports local churches who run schools.  It's a beautiful thing to see these students at school each day.  We also have a secondary school-Helen DeVos Secondary School-that is grades 7-12.  It currently has a 100% graduation rate with some of the highest test scores in the nation.  That says it all, right?  Not quite....there are also sports teams, an internet computer lab and library, a choir, and a very fun journalism team.  This school is made of mostly orphans and low-income teens.  It rocks my socks, and I adore being there.

Then there is Milk and Medicine, the crux of all we do.  Without it, we'd be missing what makes us tick.  We don't want to have our transition homes.  We want kids with their families.  So often these children in our homes have living parents and/or family members but have been abandoned due to the extreme poverty of so many families.  No family should have to be faced with that choice.  To prevent ever even needing our transition homes, we also have the Milk and Medicine program to support struggling families so they don't feel the crushing weight of deciding whether to survive or abandon a child.  As they learn how to support their families, families become stable and lose the extreme risk of falling apart.  All of this is done in the name of Jesus.  We're now working with some corporate grants to help our families build a small business to be able to independently support themselves.  We want to see graduates of Milk and Medicine who helps their neighbors.  It's in the baby steps still, but it's working, and Jesus is completely in the midst of it.

I think the thing I might be most proud of, and most excited to see God doing, is the foster care program ACE/CACZ has helped create with local churches.  Foster families from local congregations have been interviewed, chosen, and trained, and we are now in our 2nd round of foster families.  This means we can more quickly get children into a family environment when they come to us.  The Holy Spirit has been moving in several churches in Lusaka that these children are their children and need to be with them for as long as it takes.  We've even had some 'foster failures' where the foster family just can't dream of life without their little foster kiddo and have adopted him/her.

What do I love most about all of this?  It's nearly completely Zambian run.  Americans aren't on the ground year round.  Yes, they can come to the advisory board/board of directors, and there is a lot of contact, but we aren't managing every decision made or telling them what's best.  The ownership is there's.  It's a beautiful thing to have watched this happen.

3) Where are you staying?
One of our transition homes has a ladies' dorm and a guys' dorm.  It's like going to summer camp: bunk beds, not nearly enough showers (but that's not important!), shared meals, and earplugs to drown out snoring.  :)  But really, it's so nice to be right there with the kids.  There is an American couple (Hi Don and Jane!!) who will be there all summer to take care of the teams who come so that we aren't a burden on the house mamas and other staff.  When I'm a grandma, I want Don and Jane's job.  It rocks.   I love that we can slip into one of the 2 nurseries to love on babies and lend the house mamas a hand whenever we're at the house.  I love all the volunteers coming in and out, and visiting with the social workers in their offices.  I love joking around with our security guards over cups of tea and buttered bread.  A hotel or guest house couldn't compare to being with those we consider family.  

Part II is here!

1 comment:

Christina Sotherden said...

I really loved reading this! I can't wait for part two and then to read about YOUR trip after you go!

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