Guest Blogger: The Missions and Media Guy – Michael Kline
“Last week I returned from a trip to serve at Kwathu Children’s Home in Livingstone, Zambia. The 14-day journey that brought me from Alabama to Zambia and back taught me so many lessons, brings me so many emotions, and challenges me in ways that before the trip I hadn’t considered. As I was off the web during this journey, I’ll be sharing about the people I met, the lessons I learned, and the stories I brought home over the next few weeks, but before I share the journey, I wanted to introduce you to the small country in southern Africa where Kwathu Children’s Home is located, whose people I have come to love. So without further adieu, here are 5 things you might not know about Zambia, that I have learned from my experience in Zambia, and my preparations for the trip.
- Where Zambia is on a map…
It’s perfectly OK if you don’t, if you had asked me where Zambia was on a map before November 2014, my answer would sound something like this: “Uhh… Africa?” Here is the Google map, and if anyone ever asks you, this is how I describe it verbally: “Zambia is in sub-Saharan Africa, South of the Democratic Republic of Congo and a couple countries north of South Africa.”
- There are roughly 16 million people in Zambia, and 1.2 million of them are orphans under 15…
If statistics provided by UNICEF are correct, then just about 1 in every 16 people in Zambia is an orphan under 15. Not 1 in every 16 children, 1 in every 16 PEOPLE… The greatest cause: HIV/AIDS. 800,000 of those orphaned children have been affected by HIV/AIDS, again according to UNICEF. Population statistics according to: World Bank Population of orphan statistics according to: UNICEF
- Zambia is a Presidential Representative Democratic Republic that has struggled to get its Christian population to vote.
Imagine walking into church on Sunday, and before the pastor speaks his sermon, he introduces a political leader in your community, who teaches the congregation about the roles of the president of Zambia, the roles of district representatives and mayors, and then teaches what a “running mate” is. That’s just what happened when our team attended church in Livingstone, Zambia. Kwathu Children’s Home’s leaders explained to us that polls had shown that most Christians didn’t vote in the last election, and the government is now running a campaign to educate Christian voters. This is an important issue to Zambia, since more than 85 percent of the Zambian population is Christian, and Zambia claims itself a “Christian” nation according to its Constitution, established in 1996. This is also an election year, so in August when we are preparing to choose between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Zambia will be choosing between a third-term for their current President Lungu, or one of his opponents.
- Climate fluctuations have been the central cause of many of the country’s economic struggles, particularly regarding the price of food and energy.
Over the past year, Zambia has suffered through a drought, instigated by the El Nino weather phenomenon. Zambia’s primary source of electricity is hydroelectric, and when the drought began, even their hydroelectric system was in need of renovation. The drought has caused energy prices to skyrocket. Kwathu Children’s Home Director Jeanette Phiri explained to me that during the “dry rainy season,” there were some days where electricity would go out around the community during the shortage. This drought has forced the government to import energy, and invest in the development of renewable energy sources. The increase in energy prices has had a domino effect on the prices of almost every product produced in Zambia. The drought has also had an effect on the agriculture industry, particularly the corn crop used to produce corn meal, or “mealie meal” as they refer to it, which is used to create the staple food of Zambia, nshima. Prices of corn meal in Zambia have tripled in the last year, and the government is pursuing measures to regulate the price of corn meal, since its production and consumption is so vital. It is estimated that floods and droughts have cost Zambia $13.8 billion over the last 30 years.
- Kwathu Children’s Home is a short drive away from one of the largest waterfalls in the world, Victoria Falls in Livingstone, Zambia.
While not the tallest or widest waterfall in the world, Victoria Falls in Livingstone, Zambia is considered one of the largest waterfalls in the world. It is more than twice the height of Niagara Falls, and almost 2,000 ft. wider. It’s located on the Zambezi River, and borders both Zambia and Zimbabwe. From personal experience, it is a mighty and incredible sight to behold, and the vacation spot for many around the world. Definitely worth the visit!
I chose these facts to present as an introduction to help form the foundation for my future stories from Zambia and Kwathu Children’s Home. After all, sometimes it might be nice to know a little about that small country one of your friends went on a mission trip to. Still, after this trip, the one word I think when I hear the name “Zambia,” is “hope.” Zambia’s people and leaders strive for the improvement of the lives for its citizens, which is rare for nations in that area from the world. Zambian UN representatives are co-facilitating declarations to end the HIV/AIDS crisis by 2030. The Zambian government is teaming up with investors to switch their primary energy source to solar power, with the goal of having sub-Saharan Africa’s cheapest energy. Zambian people are beginning to realize the potential of its agriculture industry, and its government is beginning to respond. And as for the struggle with orphans and parentless homes, places like Kwathu Children’s Home stand to provide a healthy and happy childhood and hope for a future for the children of Zambia, and in the case of Kwathu Children’s Home, using that platform to spread the Gospel and glorify the Lord in the process. At the end of all of the measures, declarations, and planning, and at the end of all of the cooking, cleaning, bringing children to school, disciplining, and everything else that goes with caring for and loving the children lies a generation preparing to grasp the future of this beautiful nation known as Zambia.”