RHO Appleseed School: How it began......
We’ve always known that we wanted to help those less fortunate than us. Little did we know that the small act of hiring a part-time house keeper upon arriving in Lusaka would have such a huge impact on doing so. Mary, has become so much more than a housekeeper, she is our great friend and is the reason we have been able to help the children of Bauleni. Mary has a heart of gold. She, like us, has a huge desire to help those less fortunate than her. This is saying a lot. Mary lives in a very small, 2 room house. She has no running water, no stove or oven, but more love in her heart than anyone I’ve known. Before working for us, she had been unemployed for quite some time. But when she was working, and the pay is not much, she shared what she had with the local orphaned and homeless children that surround the Bauleni Compound (her neighborhood.) After about two weeks of working for us Ken drove her home and asked her about all of the children that he saw playing in the streets, in the garbage heaps... they were simply everywhere. She told him that many were orphaned (either single orphans, meaning they have lost one parent, or double orphans, meaning both.) Many of them take shelter from other kind souls who live there, but everyone is very poor and can offer very little. Very few have an opportunity for education because even the “public” schools charge tuition, have huge huge class sizes and very little in terms of supplies. So public schools are really not much of schools at all.
With Mary’s help we were able to start a Saturday School. The first Saturday there were 25 kids. The second, 65. The word continued to spread in the compound and people began knocking on Mary’s door asking if their children could join because they cannot afford to send their kids to the public school. Mary then began holding classes on Wednesdays and Fridays after she returned home from work. The number of kids just grew and grew. Soon they were asking if they could come every day, including Saturdays, which is the only day of the week Ken and I could be there to help.This is when Mary’s daughter, Newlyn and her sister, Fanny stepped up to help. Fanny took charge of the little kids, ages 3 to about 7 and Newlyn took the older ones, 8 to 17 year olds. More children kept showing up so we all kept on working. Newlyn and Fanny continue to volunteer their time. But they know that we will start paying them just as soon as possible. While it seemed impossible to help everyone, it was also impossible to tell them no and so we all continued do what we could. Ken and I providing lesson plans, snacks and whatever supplies we could round up and Mary, Newlyn and Fanny providing the actual teaching during the week.
As the children continued to multiply we knew that we had to find a more acceptable space to teach them in. This Saturday will be the last in the little space with no roof and no floor. On Tuesday, November 1st we will sign the lease on the new building. It is a partially built house, but much larger than the other and it has a brand new roof and a lovely concrete floor! We still need to put in the windows, doors, plumbing and electricity. But it is a start and is a mansion compared to what we have been using! We are all very excited!
As we get to know these children and the people in their community who care for them we’ve come to realize that while they need education, they need basic sustenance first. We do what we can to get those who need it the most, medical care and food. A medical card for the year costs a mere $5.00 for an adult and $2.50 for a child. What is so shocking is that most cannot afford it. The care is minimal, but certainly better than no care at all. We were able to get medical cards for 3 of the children who live with an elderly woman. She is not related to them but gives them shelter. One of the girls looked very sick, her entire family has died of AIDS and we were afraid that she might also have it. But her tests came back negative for HIV and she was told that she is severely malnourished and needs to eat. Ken and Mary went to the woman who cares for her to find that they have no food or way to cook any food. So, we got them a cooker (small barbecue), charcoal, shima (the local corn based staple similar to cream of wheat) and some vegetables. We are committed to keeping this little family of orphans and the person they call grandma fed.
When we went to there place which is probably about the size of your living room at best we met "grandma" who had extreme pain in her legs and has trouble standing up and walking. The grandma did not speak english. We gave grandma some advil and excedrin. We told her it was only for the pain and wouldn't heal her but it would help. She had told Mary she was in so much pain that she could hardly sleep at all. When we went back later she said how much better she felt and she slept better than she ever had. Mary said she would take the three children to the clinic the next day. Michael also tested negative but the two twins, Taonga and Chisomo were HIV positive. As happy as we were the day before, we were that devastated when we found out. Our friend, Jim had told us that there is free medicine for people with HIV but most Zambians do not know about it. The girls are now on a regimen of Anti Viral Medicine that will hopefully allow them a long life.
There is more to tell, and more people whom we have been able to help. But for now I’ll close with this:
We are reminded of the story where the old man is on a beach where thousands and thousands of starfish are washed up and stranded. He is throwing them back one by one when someone comes along and says, "Why are you bothering old man you can't make a difference? The old man picks up a starfish and throws it back in the ocean and replies, " I made a difference to that one."
Ken and Joy Hoffman. See the'Who We Are' page.