Chishawasha Children's Home is located just outside of Lusaka, Zambia's capitol. Kathe Padilla, from Tucson, set up the Zambian Children's Fund (ZCF) and founded Chishawasha about 12 years ago. The home and school serves AIDS orphans. I visited last month when on a layover in Lusaka.
The campus is impressive. Except for the first house, which is larger, all the resident orphans live in cottages with 12 children and a Zambian housemother. Like any other family, the children share the chores of cooking, cleaning, and tending the garden. Each house has a small library of children's books, something I had seen nowhere else in Zambia. Many children here (probably most of them) have never had picture books or chapter books to read at home. There are few public libraries, and they are not free. Books to purchase are unavailable or extremely expensive. So it was rereshing to see a collection of books for free reading in the cottages.
The school educates both the 70 resident children and a simiar number of orphans living with relatives in the area, grandparents, mostly. The orphans from the surrounding community receive breakfast and lunch as part of the school day.The facility reminds me of an elementary school back home--attractive classrooms with many posters and maps and displays. When I commented that the desks were just like the ones my children used in school, Kathe said they were surplus from Tucson Unified School District which had been shipped by ZCF to Zambia! Every two years, ZCF ships a container full of school supplies and items Chiswhawasha can use of sell to raise funds.
The school teaches grades 1-8, with the intention of adding each grade of high school as the current 8th graders progress. They have a new computer lab thanks to a generous donor. With their own generator and other equipment, they have dependable electricity and regular, strong access to the Internet--which I must admit, I envied.
The Zambian school system is based on the British model. All children take a standard national examination at the end of the 7th grade. They must pass at a certain level in order to progress on to secondary school. Because the past educational experience of some of the children at Chishawasha is inconsistent and sometimes lacking altogether, not all of them will be equipped to complete school through grade 12, or they will be too old to continue in school. So there are vocational training opportunities being developed at Chishawasha. I visited the carpentry shop and was impressed with the equipment and plans.
Like most charitable endeavors, the Zambian Children's Fund and Chishawasha Children's Home are in constant need of financial support. In order to move toward self-sufficiency, they are opening an income-generating project next month. They were given a plot of land on the road between the Home and Kafue national park. They are erecting a rest stop for tourist busses. There they will have clean and modern toilets and a store where snacks and crafts created by the children can be sold. I encourage you to check out their web site for pictures and more information on the program.
The children cared for at the Chishawasha Children's home and educated through the Zambian Children's Fund have opportunities to learn and develop to their full capacity. One small program cannot meet the huge need of Zambia, but it transforms the life chances of a number of future Zambian citizens--and potential community leaders.