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Letters from Zambia

Student testimony

From Hezron Keenabanyama -- following our first Alumni gathering in February 2018: Missing you brothers and sisters. I hope our Lord is leading you in everything that you do. We always thank God for raising our sponsors. He knew from the beginning that His Service would not be done well by us unless sponsors are raised to help us get Education and serve Him. We therefore need to return the debt to God by blessing others also.

May God guide us all and continue bless the sponsors.

CARLOS MULEYA’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY

My name is Carlos Muleya. I was born on the 24th of March 1988 in Mukalanga village of Kalomo District under Simwatachela chiefdom. I lived with my mother and father but when I was only three months, my father died in the water accident. He was crossing over to Zimbabwe with friends in a small canoe when it suddenly capsized. I grew up without seeing a picture of my father.

In the village, it was traditionally advised that when the spouse dies, one of the relatives to the deceased spouse must inherit the wife in order for them to take care of the children together. After my father’s demise, my mother got married to one of my late father’s first cousin who lived in Simundivwi village of the same district. Two of my siblings were born from the same marriage (my immediate young brother and the younger sister). I started my primary school while staying with my step father at Simundivwi Primary school in 1995. The same year I started school, my step father was arrested for allegation of stealing cattle at a white man’s farm which was about 30 kilometres away from Simundivwi village. Despite the fact that he had no proper source of income, his imprisonment left our family of four miserable as it became quite difficult to have a single meal in a day. We had no means of having a meal each and every day that passed by. For this reason, my mother decided to relocate to her parents (my grandparents) in Chilundika village of the same district just to be able to ask for help in order to feed us.

I continued my grade one at Chidi Primary School while staying at my grand parents’ place. My step father died in prison five years later. My mother then later got into a polygamous marriage in the neighbouring village to a cruel man who mistreated her and her children. I continued my primary education at Chidi Primary basic school together with my siblings. My mother had two more children with her third husband (our last two in the family). The last born was born in 2000. A year later, my stepfather died a sudden death. Being in the village, the nearest health facility was about 30 km away which made it difficult to establish the cause of death.

We then moved back to our grandparents later in 2000. My mother however found it challenging to stay with her old parents as it is believed in the village that female children have no place in their father’s house hold. My mother struggled just to find food for us to eat. I wrote my grade 7 examination at Chidi Primary School in 2001. One important thing I remember very well is that I never wore a school uniform throughout my primary school, let alone shoes.

Just to try and have an average living, my mother and I (being the eldest boy) walked a distance of 40 kilometres to Mapatizya gemstone mining town to find some piece work. We carried “masembe” (maize grains used in making a traditional brew known as “chiwanto”) to sale in Mapatizya. I was 13 years old at that time. We stayed in Mapatizya at a relative’s house for two months doing some small piece works like building thatched fences for people while my mother was washing clothes for people. Of course we could not stay there for a long time since we had left my siblings back at grandparents’ place in Chilundika village. We went back to the village but with little money we made from piece works, it couldn’t sustained our family.

My mother and I walked again a distance of over 40 kilometres this time to Mukwela Township in Kalomo district to look for more piece work. We went to Mr Muntanga’s farm (a politician who was contesting to be Member of Parliament the same year). I was given piece works of slashing the yard while my mother went to the fields weeding in the tobacco and maize fields. When I knocked off from my slashing, I would join my mother in the fields to cover for her next day’s potion of weeding.

After two weeks of doing piece works at the farm, Mr Muntanga gave my mother a full time job as a farm worker. We went back to the village to pick my siblings. Early 2001, we went to Mukwela with the rest of my siblings. We walked with my young siblings and all the luggage that we had covering a distance of 40 km. Whilst in Mukwela, my brother and I started doing piece work while mum was working at the farm. My grade seven results were out and I had passed and was posted to a basic school. But due to financial challenges, it was not possible for me to go to the basic school. Mrs Muntanga helped my mother talking to one of the world vision officers (Mr Jack Chilimelime) in Mukwela community who helped find sponsorship for me. Due to the World Vision’s policy of wanting to start sponsoring children from the lower grades, the officer proposed that I repeat my grade seven under their support. I wrote my grade seven exam again in 2002 at Mukwela Primary School and passed to Zimba Secondary School in 2003.

Unfortunately World Vision could not sponsor me at secondary school. Jack Chilimelime was one of the Social Welfare beneficiaries to attain his secondary education. He then helped me get sponsorship under social welfare to go and start my grade eight at Zimba Secondary school. Social Welfare only put a date stamp and a comment on my acceptance letter that they would pay the fees in the course of the term. Social welfare for unknown reasons could not pay my school fees until I was sent out of school. When I was sent back, I started doing some small piece work such as slashing on the roadsides and in people’s yards. Even after working so tirelessly, I could not manage to raise enough money to pay for my school fees. My mother’s wage was only enough to have two meals a day and not sufficient to manage my school fees. I went back to social welfare only to be given another later promising that they would pay the fees.

I went back to school with a letter from social welfare and 25% of my school fees that I managed to raise from piece works. A few weeks later, I was sent back again for the rest of the fees. But this time I knew that even if I go back home, there would be no solution, I therefore decided to seek for help from one of the teachers (Mr Paradza). Besides I did not have transport money to go back home. Mr Paradza gave me a piece of land to cultivate and grow cabbage that I would sale to the school for me to pay my school fees. Just when I was about to start working on the piece of land with my Elder Sister (born out of wedlock before my mother got married to my father) who was under the catholic sisters’ sponsorship, the catholic sister (Sr Eze) called my elder sister and asked her if she was on punishment. My elder sister explained our story to Sr Eze who then decided to put me on her sponsorship program as well for two years (grade eight and nine). Sr Eze clarified to me that she would only support me for grade eight and nine and should find sponsorship for my senior secondary school.

When my grade ten acceptance letter came in 2003, I went to Namwianga Mission to try and seek for sponsorship. One thing that was certain to me was that I will complete my secondary school under whatever circumstances. Of course there were instances that I could simply loosing hope seeing that my family could hardly have a meal and I needed money for school fees. The environment around me was not supportive to going school. A lot of my peers simply dropped school when they realised that is was not easy to raise money for school fees. I kept the faith and hope that one day I should complete my education and help my family members.

When I went to Namwianga, I was directed to Mrs Mbumwae’s place. Luckily Mrs Mbumwae offered me the sponsorship under the Zambia Mission fund – Canada which gave me an opportunity to acquire my education. At the time, there was another colleague who was supported by Zambia Mission Fund – Canada at Zimba Secondary. Mrs Mbumwae talked to the school management to give us some responsibility in school so that we do not go to work in Namwianga during the school holidays. This helped us so much as we could raise some money for our up keep during the holidays through piece works back home (Mukwela). A few more pupils came under the Zambia Mission Fund – Canada to Zimba Secondary School. So we continued managing the Production Unit at school. We grew cabbage and managed the poultry as well as the piggery for the school. Through Zambia Mission Fund - Canada sponsorship, I completed my secondary school in 2007 and had good grades to go the University of Zambia.

In 2009, I got 75% bursary under the Government of Republic of Zambia (GRZ) ministry of education to pursue a Bachelor of Art Degree with Demography Major and Economics Minor at the University of Zambia. I continued receiving 25% of my tuition fees sponsorship under the Zambia Mission Fund – Canada. In the 75% bursary, I was also privileged to receive the meal allowance which I used to help paying for my young brother’s fees who was studying Radiography at Evelyn Hone College.

During my school holidays, I made sure that I do internship to try and gain some experience in my field. I graduated from the University in 2013 under GRZ bursary (75%) and Zambia Mission Fund – Canada (25%).

When I finished my final exams in September 2013, I was privileged to be offered an internship at American Embassy under the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the Surveillance, Epidemiology, Evaluation and Monitoring (SEEM) branch. I worked as an Intern for nine months at CDC, thereafter, I got my first permanent employment as Research, Monitoring and Evaluation Associate at Society for Family Health (an Affiliate Organization for Population Service International). I worked there for one year before I moved to my current job as TB/HIV Program Coordinator at Western Provincial Health Office under the CDC Supported TB/HIV Project. I manage a fleet of over 80 Program staff that includes; Program Officers (ART, PMTCT, VMMC, Laboratory Services and Community Care and Support), Data Management, Financial management, Health Care Providers and Drivers. I also oversee the program implementation, monitoring and evaluation as well as writing program documents that includes; technical responses and funding opportunity applications.

I got married to my beautiful wife Patricia Sakala in April 2016 and have now been blessed with a beautiful baby girl. My wife has a Diploma in Human Resource Management from Evelyn Hone College and is now pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree with Public Administration Major and Development Studies Minor from the University of Zambia through distance learning. She is currently in her second year. She also got a job as Data Management staff under the same project that I Coordinate. I have also started pursuing my Masters of Public Health at the University of Lusaka. I am currently confident that I can provide for my family and advance my career.

I am currently sponsoring my youngest two brothers. The youngest is in grade 11 at Choma Secondary School while the other one is Pursuing a Diploma in Electrical Engineering from NORTEC in Ndola in his first year. I am also sponsoring my cousin who is grade nine at Kanyonyo Secondary School in Mongu.

Throughout my struggles, I have learnt as the saying goes that “the only constant thing in life is change” and indeed that faith and hope are important for success in any aspect of our lives. I have learnt that all that I have, I was given/blessed by others so I must help others too. I believe that I have to bless others just like I was blessed to move from a no body to someone recognised in our community.

To this end, I wish to render my sincere appreciation to all those who had a part to play in making me who I am today, especially the Zambia Mission Fund – Canada. I really don’t know how to thank you for all what you have done in my life. I cannot directly repay from where ever the resources that saw me this far, but I will definitely help another child who is currently in the situation I was when God directed you to help me. I just pray that the good Lord will bless who ever contributed to my success and I urge you not to end with me but continue providing light to more vulnerable children and God will reward you.

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