During the time that we have been spending in Zambezi, we all as a group and as individuals have seen or experienced many things that give us insight to the people of this town. We have seen their loving and giving nature as well as learned about some of their culture and history.
Although when I first decided to come to Zambia I thought that learning about the culture and history would be the biggest draw for me, more recently I have begun to realize that while I love learning about these things, I also want to get more personal and actually learn about some of the individual people that live here in Zambezi. Being in a new place with so much to learn about the people of Zambezi as a whole has actually distracted me from making relationships with individuals and from learning about the lives they live from their perspective rather than one from of an outsider looking in.
The day we unloaded the 20,000 books from a semi-truck at Chilenga Basic School I met a student named Jacob. On that day I only got to know him briefly in a superficial way. He is a 15-year-old in the ninth grade who is the Vice Head Boy at Chilenga Basic, which means he is the second best student in the school. He asked me many simple questions about a health book he had picked up. Other than his interest in this subject, I did not know anything else about him. Since then, during my time teaching at Chilenga, I have seen him every day after school when we talk during the five minutes it takes me and the teaching team to organize ourselves for the trip back to the convent. However, a couple days ago after school I decided to stay longer after teaching and talk to Jacob about my life and also ask about his.
Jacob is considered an orphan here in Zambia because when he was five years old his father passed away and his mother cannot afford to pay for any of his simple living expenses. Although Jacob was born in Solwezi, his father was from Zambezi. He drove a truck that brought supplies to local villages. He always told Jacob that if he worked very hard in life he would be successful and would be able to see the whole world, including America. Ever since the death of his father, Jacob has had the dream of becoming a pilot and seeing other places in the world. His desire is to become a pilot so that he can go to and see other places from the sky, help to bring supplies to villages who are in desperate need as his father did, and most importantly, support his mother and two younger sisters.
While Jacob has a set plan of school and going to a University to accomplish his dream, he is faced with overcoming an extreme challenge, money. Because he is an orphan, he has had no support from anybody to pay for his school. While the fees of school here seem very small to some, for Jacob they require every kwatcha he has. He has managed to pay for schooling by working on Saturdays both in town and also for a farmer. The small amount of money he makes he uses to pay for his school uniform and the few books he can afford. This barely gets him by but isn’t enough to pay for simple shoes, a backpack, and other basic living expenses. Although he is the Vice Head Boy at the school, he tells me if he had the money to afford a laptop he would have been better with technology and been the Head Boy. He lives at the school and is practically always studying to better his education. A problem Jacob faces is that Chilenga basic school only goes up to grade 9 and he cannot afford to go to Zambezi boarding which is his only real option. To go there he would either have to pay to live at the school, which he cannot afford, or walk around 5 miles to and from school everyday. The only program that could help him is a program called Orphanage Variable Child, or OVC, which helps some orphans who qualify with the costs of schooling and their books. Sadly Jacob was recently turned down from the program despite his obvious qualifications due to lack of OVC funds.
Jacob is one of the smartest and most mature people I have ever had the honor to speak to. His hard work and constant battle to overcome obstacles in front of him is such an inspiration to me. He told me sometimes he cries because if his father were still here, then he would have a lot more push to work ever harder than he does currently and that he would have better opportunities. Listening to Jacob’s story was heartbreaking to me. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be in his shoes.
Sometimes I feel Americans, whether kids in grade schools or people like me at the University take what is given to us for granted. In the U.S. grades one through twelve are a given right, but here in Zambia most students cannot afford to go to school past grade nine. Others who are even less fortunate or who don’t have parents who push them to stay in school usually drop out even sooner than this.
The question I keep asking myself while here in Zambezi is, do I want to be a person who goes back home and pushes these things aside in order to feel more comfortable about myself? Or do I want to be the person who embraces the stories of not only the people I have learned about, but also the friends I have built relationships with and in doing so, allow them to change me and my outlook on life and the world?
Logan Howard, Class 2017
P.S. Mom, Dad- I love you and miss you and can’t wait to tell you the endless about of stories I have when I get home.
Lucas- Happy early graduation buddy, Love ya
Hello Logan , cannot tell you how it feels to see you and the great work you all are doing in Zambezi .So so proud..
Love you and can’t wait to see you.
Grampie , Gramie, Grandpa Buddy and Grandma Delphine
Hope you had a Happy Birthday and having a good time on your trip.
Blessings, Bev from Hamblen Park Presbyterian Church
I was totally tearing up reading this story about Jacob. There must be a lot of similar stories. I can’t imagine being 15 and on my own to try and make ends meet. To try and educate myself with no support from a consistent adult figure. These types of situations must be difficult to deal with for all of you in the group. As your time in Zambezi grows shorter, my hope for you all is that this experience is all you expected and much more.
I’ve been reading your blog throughout the day and I am having problems putting my thoughts into words. Not to mention keeping the tears from blurring my vision. Of course we love and miss you and can’t wait for you to come home. At the same time I am feeling the same love and heartache for Jacob that you are. I am without words or advice on helping you with your emotions. (I know that is a big surprise to you).
As usual I will refer to my favorite advise that has been true for so many generations.
“Believe that everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said it would be easy. They just said it would be worth it. ”
– Dr. Suess
We love you and admire how you continue to challenge yourself outside of your comfort zone. It truly is the only way you grow.
Love Mom, Dad and Lucas
PS. Please let us know how to help Jacob if it’s possible. You can’t imagine the questions we have received from people here in Reno who want to help.