LearnServe AbroadZambia

Beyond Bracelets

Reflections on a visit to Daughter’s Vision at the Chikumbuso center for widows and orphans in Lusaka, Zambia

By Chloe Loving

Annandale High School | LearnServe Zambia 2012

It had already been a long day.  The boys in our group had gone to get haircuts in the local village.  The girls in our group were not too excited to sit in a room with 40 girls we didn’t know.

We arrived at a cinder block frame of a room with straw mats on the floor.  As we gathered in a circle, the ambiance had an awkward air to it; no one felt comfortable enough to talk.  As the adult leaders tried to prompt us to share our thoughts, the two groups of students shared timid eye contact.

Gladys, a teacher at Chikumbuso in Lusaka, Zambia, founded Daughter’s Vision, a support group for young girls so that they get proper guidance throughout their formative years.  These girls are taught to avoid the obstacles that they and their peers may encounter – such as how to avoid AIDS, and other factors that could limit their accomplishments.

To illustrate, a girl of around 16, wearing a green and white striped dress, was brave enough to volunteer to lead the lesson.  She unraveled a ball of twine, and asked two girls to hold it from each end.  The rope, she explained, represents AIDS.  The younger girls were instructed to limbo beneath the string, and avoid touching the string.  Each cycle through the girls’ ages increased and the rope was lowered.  The risk of touching the string – of contracting AIDS – grew significantly.

As an ice-breaker, each American girl was paired with a Zambian girl.  My partner’s name was Jenipher.

We began to talk.  Jenipher told me that she wants to be a doctor, in order to help those around her.  I quickly sympathized with her, and shared that I, too, want to be a doctor so that I can help people in my community.  Jenipher, however, shared that she doesn’t have the financial means to move beyond the 8th grade.

$112 a year.  The equivalent of a fancy dinner and a movie in the U.S.  That’s the whole cost of one year of school.  Without even thinking I told Jenipher that I would sponsor her.  From that moment, I knew that I’d do whatever possible to help her continue beyond 8th grade – and follow her dream of becoming a doctor.

Jenipher and I bonded so strongly from the moment we met.  We found it hard to say goodbye, but made sure to exchange emails.  As I began to walk away, she grabbed my hand.  She held out a closed palm.  I asked her what was in her hand.  Slowly she took out a red and white bracelet and placed it on my wrist.  I smiled in awe.  I never could have expected this kindness from such a stranger.

I am currently emailing Jenipher and her teacher Gladys in order to begin raising money for her schooling.  I have asked Gladys to send me the names and pictures of other students who she thinks need and deserve sponsorship.  I realized how fortunate I was to meet Jenipher, so focused and driven – and how lucky I am to have so many educational opportunities.

My goal transcends fundraising.  I want other Annandale High School students to build friendships in Zambia the way I have.  And in the process, I hope these friendships will inspire American students to stay focused and dedicated to their schooling – to take advantage of all the opportunities they have been granted.

Each American student involved in my pen-pal program will be assigned a Zambian friend. My hope is that they will communicate regularly through email or letters. As a group, we will raise money so that the Zambian students are receiving financial support designated for schooling purposes. LearnServe will ensure that the money is being used properly through progress reports and receipts.

We simply cannot wait for someone else to come along, hoping that they will take the responsibility of helping those in need. Zambian students work hard for the possibility of receiving some of the educational chances that American students are handed. Great minds are everywhere. While education is the question it is also the answer.

Education changes lives. Help me change the lives of those like Jenipher and her dedicated friends.

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