We go to the school each Monday and Thursday after teaching at AISL to watch the soccer practice. I always love these days, the kids are active, they look so cute in their way oversized PE clothes and they love it when I have the iPad and take their pictures. This is also a nice time because it gives Mary and I a chance to talk about what is going on at school and with individual students. I know that teachers are not supposed to have favorites, but there are always certain children that touch your heart; they get under your skin and are there forever. There have been many of these kids, for me, throughout my career. Here, at RHO Appleseed, it is Jimmy. Jimmy was there on the 1st Saturday, in August 2011, and has been at school everyday since. He is a bright light in the day. He is kind to the other children, always willing to help anyone, students and teachers. His heartwarming smile made me melt the very first day that I met him. It has been hard for Jimmy to watch his friends, who are orphans, get sponsors and go shopping and get food delivered to their homes. He would sometimes say to Mary, “What about me, I need it too.” This always made me feel so badly, we would tell him that his time would come. We know he needs it too, but he does have something that his friends do not; parents.
Today, one of Jimmy’s friends told Mary what has been going on at Jimmy’s house. As it turns out, Jimmy and his 3 siblings are worse off than most of the orphans at our school. You see, Jimmy’s dad has taken another wife. This is not uncommon in many Zambian homes, especially, poor homes. The father moved out, to another housing compound. He told the mother, that she must get out of the house and she may not take the children with her. But, he has no intention of taking the children either. So, Jimmy, John, Peter and Esther are living alone. When Mary asked Jimmy about this today, he said that his father comes at the end of the month and pays the rent and brings a bag of Mealie-meal. He (Jimmy) has been trying to find ‘piece work’ so that he can care for the family. After the father brought the Mealie Meal a few days ago, thieves tried to get into the house to steal it in the middle of the night, when the kids were sleeping.
Esther, is the big sister, she used to attend Appleseed but quit coming a few months ago. Esther is 17 years old. She now has a boyfriend and leaves the house most nights in the middle of the night. Leaving the boys alone. Jimmy is 13, John 8 and Peter 6.
I am feeling heartbroken, and helpless. It is so hard to know the best course of action for this little family. There doesn’t seem to be an effective social services department here in Zambia. And I worry that if we turn them over to any authorities things will get worse for them. So for now, we will have our Outreach Worker check on the kids regularly. We know that as long as they continue to come to school they get 2 meals a day. Appleseed is their safe and happy place where they know they are loved. There was a bit of brightness in Jimmy’s day today. Mary was able to tell him that he has a sponsor! This news could not have come at a better time. Mary said he was so happy! He jumped up and down and said, “I get to go shopping!” We will take him this weekend.
It has been our dream to be able to buy our own land and build a school with living quarters for these types of situations. I hope that this can happen sometime soon. Whenever it does come to fruition, I think we will call the boarding house, Jimmy’s Place.
James is 13 years old. He is an incredibly personable young man who grabs your heart the moment you meet him. He prefers James, but we first met him as Jimmy, and he will always be Jimmy to us. His beautiful smile is infectious. Jimmy has been with us since the very first Saturday and has been at school every day since. He is a leader at the school. Mary knows that if she needs to get a message out to the students of Appleseed over a holiday or weekend, Jimmy is the young man for the job. He is a very bright and reliable young man. He has never been to school before, but learns very quickly. We have high hopes for him taking and passing the 7th grade Zambian exam next year. We will sign him up and pay the fees in March, for him to take it next November. With a lot of extra tutoring, we feel that we can get him there. This will be a huge accomplishment, considering he has never had schooling before September of 2011.
James lives with his mother, older sister Esther and younger brothers John and Peter. His mother does not work. The father sometimes stays at the house, but, we are told he is more of a hinderance to the family than a help. It is not uncommon for Zambian men to take more than one wife and have many children. This is the case with James' father, which effectively, makes James the man of the house. We are so happy that he is at Appleseed and continues to come to school daily. He has a true hunger for knowledge.
An Update on Jimmy and His Siblings
We've recently found out that Jimmy's father has moved out of the house and has kicked the mother out. He said that he has taken a 2nd wife and he will only pay the rent if she is not there. So, the kids are living on their own. It is a terrible situation, but these kids are so very resilient they keep coming to school and seem to be doing okay on their own. Our outreach worker goes to their house a few times a week and one of our teachers who lives near them, checks on them as well.