I am just returning from a dinner with Mathews….do you remember, he is the kid a bunch of you sponsored last year with his school. You all were so generous, that there was enough to help me out in covering his school costs again this year. Well, he just came up to my house this evening to let me know he was “bored”. He has never done this before, so I invited him in and asked him to sit down. He immediately got to the krux of his “boredom”…. it was his eighteenth birthday and nobody was doing ANYTHING for him. I’m sure he was feeling very bad. I asked if his dad was having a special dinner or anything and he said “No, nothing”. I told him to go put a shirt on and we would go out to dinner. I took him to an Indian restaurant and was shocked that he had NEVER been to a restaurant before. Didn’t know what to do with a napkin….asked if there were cars on the main street throughout the evening, walked in to what, in the states, we would call a somewhat dumpy restaurant and said “Wow, this place is beautiful! I also learned that not only was his dad not doing anything special for his birthday, he was doing NOTHING AT ALL. I mean not even planning on feeding him! He had dinner last night, no breakfast today, no lunch, he would have no dinner, no breakfast tomorrow, no lunch and then probably a dinner. He typically gets ONE meal a day….and not always that.
Ah, this is hard to take sometimes. It really ruined the dinner for me – but I think that Mathews was happy to be getting a meal.
Last week, one of the guys in the shop came to me wanting a loan. I really get tired of getting hit up for money, so I called them all over to the marker board in the shop and prepared to give them a “little lesson” on saving money. I asked them “How much do you make a month?”
“How much on rent?”
“How much on a bag of mealie meal?”
“65….if they don’t have any guests”
“Do you have electricity?”
“Yes, 50,000 a month”
“Do you have to buy relishes for your nshima (mealie meal)?”
“Yes, around 100,000 a month”
Are you following my LESSON on savings???? We have covered a T I N Y, one room shack in the compound, the very basics for food (ground corn with some cooked veggies), limited use of electricity and we are already 65,000 kwacha in the hole. We haven’t even started to address basic body care, household supplies and uniforms so that their kids can go to school. At this point in my “lesson”, two of the guys eyes were starting to water up. These are good, hard working, honest young men that are trying to provide for their family and when faced with the reality of their situation,
they too can not hold back the tears.
I just ache for these people. I thought I would/could get more callous as I lived around this longer, but it just isn’t happening.
It’s very sad…..and overwhelming
We have made a goal TO DOUBLE THEIR INCOME. We did it last month and it is what is driving me every day now. I know I can’t save all of Zambia, or all of Africa….but hopefully these three great young men can afford to send their kids to school.
I “lost” a prior blog where I was reflecting on a conversation that I was having with one of the alumni women. We were travelling on a bus to Malawi and I was asking her about village life. She told me that she lives in one of these one room huts with her family when she goes home. I asked about sleeping, and she said that everyone just puts a mat (not padded, just a reed mat) on the floor and goes to sleep, with just a blanket…no pillow or anything.
At that time, there was a dog next to the bus and I asked if people ever eat the dogs. She was disgusted and said “Oh no Uncle Jerry”. I asked about rats. She lit up and said, “Oh yes, rats are delicious!” You can even see kids selling them on sticks along side the road at times. Skewer them, burn the fur off and you’re ready to go.
Having problems downloading photos lately.
One last story. I took 18 of our alumni women to Malawi for an African Reunion with other Pestalozzi alumni from that region. Going, we left at 4 am (pick up at 3 am) and arrived in Mzuzu, Malawi at 9 pm. Coming home, we left at 3:30 am and arrived back in Lusaka at 2:30 am the next day – after some problems with a WAY underpowered and jam packed bus!
I am DONE with bus travel in this country