Sunday, 4 September 2016

Pastor Albert: Empowering a community

My sister Rhi tells us about her visit to one of the communities that Arise is working with.
Children from the Kanfinsa community

I recently made my final Arise visit before returning home to the UK. Instead of visiting individual children and guardians in their homes, we made just one visit to Pastor Albert’s home in a village called Kanfinsa. 

Kanfinsa is a rural community about 9km from Kaniki, with a population of approximately 800 people. The local school, church and hammer mill (for grinding maize) are at the centre of their community. Kanfinsa is surrounded by forests and does not have access to electricity or a working water pump. Water is collected from the well near Pastor Albert’s house, or from nearby streams. Many of the parents and guardians in Kanfinsa have not been to school themselves. This means that education is often not highly valued and children are not always encouraged to attend school. Making charcoal used to be the main source of income in the community, but this is no longer possible due to deforestation, so all families living in Kanfinsa now rely on subsistence farming.

A typical house in Kanfinsa

In May the church at Kanfinsa completed work on an extension, and it now has capacity for approximately 200 people. Pastor Albert is the leader of the community and has lived in the centre of Kanfinsa since 2008. He has five children who all live with him, along with his nephew. Pastor Albert supports a number of children in the community by paying their school fees and ensuring they have enough food and provisions. Pastor Albert is one of a few people in the community with a functioning bicycle. Because nobody in Kanfinsa owns a car and there is no public transport, he is relied upon to transport people and goods or to loan out his bicycle. Pastor Albert is one of a few members of the community who speaks fluent English and is often asked to translate for visitors. Aside from his many responsibilities in the community, he also has to make time to tend to his own farm to provide food for his own family. Some of this food is also given to support others in need.

Pastor Albert

We visited Kanfinsa to meet Pastor Albert and a group of orphans and guardians who are not currently supported by Arise. Pastor Albert has set up a committee within his church to focus on supporting the orphans in their community. When he first shared his vision with us, he explained that he felt it was very important that the community supports its own as much as it can and not just rely on help from outsiders. We were impressed with his attitude and his heart for the people in his community, as well as the responsibility he willingly takes to support those around him.

Pastor Albert and Naomi talking to the orphans and guardians in Kanfinsa

During the visit we were able to see his vision put into action. We met the orphans and guardians taking part in the project, and heard their plans for the work they are going to do. As farming is the main way of earning a living in the region, the church is planning to rent a field and grow soya beans, tomatoes, maize and ground nuts, some to feed the orphans and some to sell. The produce that is sold will help to provide school books and resources for the orphans, and it is hoped that eventually the project will expand to be able to pay their school fees. Many of the orphans that will be supported by the project have never been to school as they are unable to afford the fees.

Some of the orphans who will be supported by the church project

Some of the guardians who will be supported by the church project

At the meeting I met a young mother who looks after four of her own children (ages 8, 6, 3 and 10 months) and her two brothers who are 13 and 14 years old. This young lady took in her brothers to care for them when both their parents died and they became what is known as ‘double orphans’. None of the lady’s children or her brothers have ever been to school before because they haven’t been able to afford it. Pastor Albert’s project will help provide them with some food and may enable them to finally attend school.

The lady we met with her baby and the brothers she has taken in to look after

A few weeks ago we held a sale for Arise guardians and workers from the Bible College. We took some of the leftover clothes and shoes from the sale to Pastor Albert, and during our visit he arranged for these to be sold at low cost to the guardians and orphans who were at the meeting. It was very humbling to see the guardians buying clothes and shoes for the orphans they care for; knowing that the money they paid will be used to support their own community.

Buying clothes and shoes

Trying on shoes

In Zambia I have met many people who are in similar situations to the orphans and guardians in Kanfinsa. I have been continually impressed by how willing people are to help each other and take in children when they need help. Unfortunately the culture here in Zambia is quite passive, with most people being resigned to their situation. This is why it is so refreshing and inspiring to meet someone like Pastor Albert who continually tries to find ways to improve life for those living in his community.

Sharing out maize that was donated by members of the church for the orphans and guardians

Guardians sharing the maize

Working with Arise has been a very eye-opening experience for me. It is easy to see people in need and automatically want to give them what they ask for, but it is also important to understand the bigger picture and to ask questions to find out more about their individual situation. Providing people with a means to work and empowering them to take responsibility for the consequences of their decisions gives them more dignity than giving out things for free. The vision for Arise is very much focused on empowerment rather than handouts, and seeing Pastor Albert starting his new initiative to support the orphans in his community fits in with this ethos. I loved the time I spent in Kaniki and it has been great to see firsthand the work that Arise is involved with. I am now even more excited about the life-changing impact I am sure they will continue to have.

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