THE AFRICAN VUNERABLE CHILDREN PROJECT
By Sister Phyllis D'Anna, SNDdeN
As part of the Living Compassion Africa Team Sister Phyllis D'Anna SNDdeN just visited Zambia during August. While in Kantolomba, a slum area on the outskirts of Ndola, Zambia, we saw DAILY, tangible evidence of the difference my Zen Community, Living Compassion, is making: smiling faces, healthy bodies, energetic playing, well over 800 plates of food served up to the children and adults in the African Vulnerable Children Project every day.
Living Compassion has been assisting this community in Kantolomba to move from abject poverty to self-reliance. Nine years ago a small group of us were invited to Ndola by Brother John a Zambian Franciscan Friar. He took us to his childhood home in Kantolomba, a community of 8,000 adults and 3,000 children lacking in all basic services. While there the locals told us their ideas and dreams and together we came up with a way to support their ideas for community empowerment.
English was the center of this trip. Last year we launched a pilot preschool English program. The experiment: to see if using Genki English (genkienglish.com,) a fun, new methodology, with 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds would lead to an ability to use English in everyday life. The answer is a resounding Yes! We are thrilled to see what these little folks have achieved in a year. They are far from fluent, but the groundwork is laid and it is now only a matter of practice.
Because strong English literacy is the number one factor to succeeding in school and making a living in Zambia, on this trip we expanded the program to include very young children through high school. There will be 15 sessions of English tutoring offered each day!
One of my favorite parts of putting the programs in place has been seeing it take hold with the adults. Agness (sic) is an adult member of the cooperative and is among those who cook for the children each day. She dropped out of school in second grade; she never learned to read or write and speaks very little English. Her teenage daughter is among those who worked with us in a special reading program during the trip. Towards the end of our stay, Agness announced to us proudly (in Bemba, translated for us) that her daughter has been teaching her to read using the book she was loaned from the library. What a joy!
It is a delightful reminder that all we are doing here is facilitating, planting seeds, getting the ball rolling-those who want to make a change for themselves will take those seeds and plant them in their own lives; it is a collaboration of compassion, truly St. Julie’s “teach them what they need to know for life.”
The Africa Vulnerable Children Project started small, but over the years has expanded to feeding over 800 children, assisting with job opportunities for their parents, bringing clean water into the area, starting a medical clinic, creating a micro-loan program and bringing opportunities for education for children and adults, to name a few. If you are interested in reading more go to: http://www.livingcompassion.org/africa-vulnerable-children-project. This project is a miracle of mutual participation with the community here in the USA and the wonderful community of people of Kantolomba.