After 20 plus hours of traveling, Renee and I finally arrived in Lusaka, Zambia, Africa.
We were greeted at the airport by Angela Miyanda, director of Kabwata Orphanage, which is one of the orphanages that Alkare Foundation supports. It is also where Gift lived for many years.
It was well into the night by the time we arrived. The children were sound asleep in their beds, unaware that we had arrived. Angela showed us to our small and simple room where we were to spend the next 2 ½ weeks. She bought us a few things to eat and drink; such as yogurt, milk, cheese, bread, and lunch meat.
We slept through the night, exhausted from the long journey. The next morning we were awaken by a knock on the door from Angela. She did not want us sleeping in too late, because it was important that we get on their time schedule.
As we walked around outside, we noticed how colorfully painted the concrete buildings were, with flagstone walkways guiding you from one to the other. One building is the girl’s room, another, the boys.
A kitchen with an opening in the wall in which the children’s food is passed through and served to them in the adjacent room called the dining room. Opposite that building is the small TV room and the babies’ room.
The smell of smoke and something cooking was just around the corner. Shima (made from corn meal), was simmering in a large pot on the fire. This is where and how their cooking, reminded me of camping.
Angela introduced us to the “Aunties”; Grace, Lena, Lida, Mary, and Zulu. These ladies are the ‘moms’ of the children and do most of the cooking, cleaning, washing, watching over the children, and looking after the babies.
It is now mid-afternoon; temperatures here at this time are in the mid 60’s during the day and cool at night. It is their wintertime. Some of the children are coming home from school at this time. They recognized Renee from two years ago and greeted her with open arms and smiles! Renee introduced me, and they gave me a big hug with a big smile! One by one the children came home from school. It did not take them long to become comfortable with me there. I felt like part of their family very quickly.
Soon it was time for dinner. Two children put the food on the plastic blue plates, and two children serve the food to the tables.
The youngest children are fed first. I notice that they do not have much of a selection of food to eat. Shima is served everyday, and occasionally, rice is substituted. Beans are served for protein, and very seldom do they get any meat or fish.
After dinner, everyone did their part in cleaning up. Everyone has their assigned day and time in which to help prepare meals, wash the dishes, and mop the floors. Now it is time for bed.
The next two weeks were spent preparing and planting their vegetable garden. The young boys turned the soil over using a broken rake and spade. They made long, rectangular planting beds.
Chicken manure was added and mixed in. Whoever showed an interest in gardening joined us and we showed them how to sow seeds that were donated by Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. We showed them the correct way to transplant young seedlings. It was not very long before we had 15 or so children surrounding us, eager to sow and plant! (Some wearing shoes, some barefoot!) It was THEIR garden that they were planting and they knew that in a few months, they would be harvesting and eating what they sowed. With a little water, carefully poured onto the seeds and seedlings using old plastic water jugs, we were done!
Money that we raised was used to purchase the irrigation system, a holding tank and stand, and by the time we were ready to leave, it was installed and ready for use! No more old water jugs!
Sunday is church service day. The children wore their nicest clothes that they save for Sundays. Since the church is only a few minutes away they walk. The younger children ride in the orphanage bus, and the older ones, walk, so we walked with them. Service lasts about three hours. There is a lot of singing and dancing and praising God for all he has done for everyone! This is nothing like our church service in Santa Rosa!
In between hours working in the garden, Angela took us to visit a woman’s worm castings operation. This is the kind of organic matter they need to add to their soil at the orphanage! (Along with the soil amendment and mulch she also produces).
Angela also took us to visit a nursery to see what types of plants they sell in Zambia. We also visited a few small farms that grow and sell vegetable seedlings for transplanting. It was interesting to see how they do things in Zambia and surprisingly, it works!
We also had the opportunity to visit an import/export vegetable and flower production business where everything was grown in greenhouses. Angela wanted us to have this in our minds as we thought about what to grow at her two acre property and the vacant lot next to the orphanage.
‘There’ll be singing, there’ll be dancing, there’ll be victory!’ was a verse of one of the songs the children sang for us. There was always laughter, singing, and dancing among the children. When we were in their ‘library’ making cards for Renee’s children, Karla and Garrit, the room shook with their singing. Even the toddlers joined in!
What about Gift, you ask? Angela did not tell Gift that we were coming to Kabwata. She asked him to come by the orphanage and cut down an old ailing mango tree. While up in the tree, we came round the corner and Renee started scolding Gift for cutting down a perfectly healthy tree! SURPRISE!! Gift was elated to see her and (and me of course!) We spent some time catching up with what is going on in his life. He is doing very well at 20 years old. He is growing up and figuring out what life is all about.
The children might not have beautiful clothes to wear, nor do they have beautiful shoes, but what they do have is beautiful smiles and grateful hearts! They know God is looking out for them and He is with them every step of the way. They are very grateful for what they have, even though it is not much. But they do not need much because they have each other, and most of all, they have God. They are happy!
We ended our last evening watching them do some traditional Zambian dancing! What a treat! What talented children!
Saying our good-byes was not easy. We had finally learned the names of all 60 plus children. Tears were shed, hugs were given, and thankfulness was shared among all. Good-bye Kabwata Orphans and Orphanage… until we meet again!!!