After three days spent at Chikumbuso, I think as a group we have come to the realization of what it means to be greatful, pure of heart, and lucky. Chikumbuso was once one of the many bars and brothels plaguing every corner of the compounds in Zambia, especially the N’gombe compound. The space now serves as an oportunity and escape for so many children that experience a childhood unfathomable to that of an elementary school kid in the United States. By happenstance, word of mouth, love, and dedication, Chikumbuso moved from its original location in a nearby church to the thriving school it is today.
I think what makes Chikumbuso so unique and special is the basis of what it was founded on: remembrance. Mama Linda envisioned Chikumbuso as a place to remember those who have come before us, to remember those who have died, to remember the hardships, and to remember to do for others. Remembrance was no problem for us today as we all marked the walls of Chikumbuso with our handprints and parting messages. With plenty of goodbye pictures, friendship bracelets, and reluctant faces, we bid our friends farewell, not knowing whether we would see each other again but knowing full well that we will always remember our time together.
In the concept of remembrance that shapes Chikumbuso comes gratitude and understanding. Remembrance includes perspective and appreciation. These ideas came to life for me these past three days when Gaby and I visited two nearby schools with Gertrude and Gladys, two Chikumbuso teachers. It makes me think about how the Chikumbuso community really lives out its mission and understands the good fortune that came upon them. They actively seek out schools in need that have similar commitments to orphaned and vulnerable children and education as a way out. In spite of the challenges Chikumbuso continues to face, they understand that Chikumbuso is a special place and most schools need more help. Even with very little, the Chikumbuso community appreciates all that comes their way. The widows today dropped all of the duties and unfinished bags to express their gratitude and appreciation through a celebratory dance for us. They cooked us a traditional meal of n’shima, chicken, and greens. This concept of perspective and appreciation seems harder to come by in the US. As a nation we seem much more individualistic and self focused. We don’t hold the same meaning behind the word “remember.” Remembrance can do so much more than just preserving cherished memories. I hope, that by opening our hearts on this trip and understanding what it really means to remember, we’ll do more than just save the valuable memories. In going back to the US, to a lifestyle of relative confort, ease, reliable bathrooms, usable tap water, and well maintained infrastructure, it can be easy to forget the perspective we’ve acquired.
This contrast in lifestyles has to make one wonder of the impact of luck in his or her life. Driving through the bumpy streets of Lusaka and delving further into poverty that just doesn’t exist in the same way that it does in the US definitely makes me think about how my life turned out so different than that of the kids we’ve seen. When Gaby and I visited the two community schools with Gertrude and Gladys, we were shocked by meager supplies and unimaginable conditions. The Chitikuko Community School houses 100 orphaned and vulnerable children. They own absolutely no land and rent two closet sized rooms adorned with nothing but gray, imposing walls and a flimsy bench that seats three. The majority of the children attend class under a tree so the wet season complicates their challenges even further. Tuition is only a dollar a day and most families cannot pay their dues. Mothers and widows take up the burden as they labor on their garden near school. The women put so much effort and care into their garden in order to pay the rent and missing dues. At the end our tour, James, the headmaster, introduced us to a former student, Patrick. Patrick is four-years-old and severly disabled from the neck down. On top of his paralysis, the lackluster and nonexistant medical attention he receives, and the burden he and his family suffer from financially, Patrick cannot even look forward to an education. I cannot even imagine myself in a situation similar to his, and as depressing his circumstances seem, I’m inspired by his perseverance and the unyielding support of the community.
The second school, the Crown of Life School, is a community school initially in the same boat as the Chitikuko school; however, luck changed everything when a friend introduced Dorothy, the founder, to the leader of the Christ Church in England. The church agreed to fund all building for the school. It’s weird to think about how big of a role luck plays in life and the obstacles people overcome in pursuit of an education. Aside from luck, as I have seen at Chikumbuso and the Crown of Life School, remembrance, gratitude, and pureness of heart can be game changers.