While I love being here in Zambia and doing what we are doing, sometimes the heartache feels unbearable. I feel this way, and then I remember that the heartache that I feel must be small compared to the people who live it everyday.
People often disappoint. I can’t understand why adults pull the children that they are caring for out of loving learning environments and opt for environments where there are 80 kids crammed in a classroom, one small book shared by 3 students who are all crammed together at one small desk and a teacher with no supplies other than a few broken pieces of chalk. Yet, some adults choose to do this.
We have had a few families do this recently. It was 2 families who were initially upset because their children didn’t have sponsors yet. Ironically, after two of these kids were sponsored, the families forced the children to leave and go to a local Basic school. These schools are exactly as I described above. Additionally, they have no music, sports or technology. Children are in tears because they don’t want to leave Appleseed, one young lady even asked Mary if she could live with her instead of her big sister. Mary said, yes, while the sister said, no. I know that it is just a few adults who are making these choices for the kids that they are responsible for, and at the same time that this is happening, we have new families taking their children out of local Basic Schools and transferring to Appleseed, willing to pay fees because the see that there is a huge difference. Those who have pulled their kids, have never been to our school or attended any parent meetings. Regardless, we have become attached to these children. We have been witness to their physical, emotional and academic growth. We have come to love them. So, we will visit these few families this weekend to see the children and discuss with the families their reasons for transferring their kids. We hope that once they know what Appleseed can offer in terms of academics, that they will allow the children to return.
Mary is also sad about this, but, she is quite used to this type of behavior from adults. She tells me, “Joy, there are so many children who need our services, and families who want it, you have to let these ones go.” But, it is more difficult for me. I have not yet become accustomed to accepting the plight of people here, keeping with the attitude that, “This is just life.”
My sadness this morning is partially about these particular children, but it also goes deeper. As I said, Zambians are so accustomed to bad things happening, that they are much more accepting than I.
I get angry. I am saddened and angered as I write this. I just received news that another person whom I have come to know and care deeply for, has passed away.
Shelly was a nanny for a little girl on the block. She was also a St. John’s Home Health volunteer and just an all-around good lady. The average life span in Zambia is the 2nd shortest in the world. I’ve seen different statistics, but it hovers around 48 years old. Shelly didn’t make it to that. She was 45. To me, the story of her death is an atrocity.
Shelly had a stroke a few weeks ago. She was recuperating at home and we were working on getting a physical therapist to work with her. Then, last week, she was having difficulty breathing. She contacted the family whom she works for and they did everything that they could to help. They got her to a hospital, where they were asked for $300. They paid it and Shelly was admitted. Next, the hospital personnel said that she had to go to a different hospital for tests that could not be done where she was. Nothing is free here and transportation would have cost as well. Our friend Jim arranged for the St. John ambulance to pick Shelly up and take her to the other hospital. I learned today that the hospital has a “high cost” area and a “low cost” area. Shelly, evidently was in the “low cost.” Here, she did not have a bed or a room. When our friends, her employer, went to visit they found Shelly on the floor with no blankets. They quickly brought a mattress and blankets and spent all day yesterday with her. They were told that she had pneumonia and needed the basic antibiotic, erythromycin. But, unbelievably, hospitals do not provide medicine! At least not in the “lost cost” area. SO, this morning, Jim sent a driver to the pharmacy to get the medication. Shelly had died by the time the medicine arrived.
People should not have to live or die like this. In addition, people should not have to accept it as just the way it is. I know that Zambians do this as a means of survival. They cannot dwell, as it is their reality. I have come to realize as well, that when people stay in an environment for a very long time, they come to accept these things as well. I hope that I never become accustomed to this. While I can't imagine being numb to it, I know that it will be time to leave when I stop getting emotional and angry at these situations.
Ken and Joy Hoffman. See the'Who We Are' page.