As Rich and I made our long journey home from Ndola after a very productive, often hilarious and occasionally heartbreaking trip, three themes about life in Ndola kept coming to mind.
Death and Loss
It did not take long to recognize the far reach of death in the lives of the children at Hope House and Hope Community School. As we listened to children tell their stories, stories of abandonment, parents’ deaths and lost childhoods, it was hard to hold back tears. It felt somehow disrespectful, though, to cry in front of a 14-year-old boy whose parents’ deaths have left him to take care of five younger siblings and who does so with strength well beyond his years. We saw the same strength and stoicism in a man who was carefully cleaning the grave of a boy, born in 2001 and died in 2009, and who stared with apparent pain at a makeshift headstone, a black metal sign with white painted words, while surrounded by similar headstones for hundreds of other children.
Compassion and Community
The pain of death in Ndola is matched only by the strength of the community. We heard countless stories of distant relatives and even complete strangers taking in children orphaned by AIDS and poverty. The staff of Hope in particular exemplifies how the community steps in to fill the immeasurable void left by so much loss. Teacher Ng’oma, the headteacher of Hope Community School, works out of what was intended to be the storage closet of the new school, having given up his more spacious office so that the Grade 1 students can have their own classroom, happily sacrificing his own comfort to serve the community.
Resilience and Hope
The ability of the children and the community to adapt to what many would consider impossible circumstances was truly remarkable. Margaret, the wife of the executive director and a major presence in Hope Ministries, visited the electricity company every day for weeks to insist that they turn on the electricity to the orphanage. The children at the school have endured more than we would think imaginable, yet they speak with excitement and hope when talking about wanting to be doctors, teachers, nurses and policemen.
This trip has not only showed the incredible progress that has been made already but also the limitless potential of our continued partnership. Thank you for following our journey, my first to Zambia, and for your support as we help to inspire even more hope in these children.