Program Site: Malembeka, Zambia
GPS: -12.888385,28.242502

As we drive along the dusty road towards the community of Malembeka – just one of the communities within Zambia where Outreach International works – I notice numerous children selling produce at the side of the road; I wonder about their vulnerability as they earn a few coins which may enable them to eat that day.

Meeting Levy

I’m on my way to meet a 12-year-old boy named Levy and his mother Esiah. On arrival, I find their house to be very simple – made of mud and covered by tin and plastic sheets.

Levy is a shy, unassuming boy but soon starts to gain in confidence as he talks about his life. “I live with my mother, two brothers and two sisters,” Levy says.

I ask about his father and learn that he is paralyzed from the waist down. “He usually lives out at a farm doing jobs that can be done while sitting, like cleaning vegetables that have been picked.”

Life Before

Levy goes on to tell me about life before Outreach International began working in Malembeka. “I used to sell nuts and vegetables on the streets; we needed all the money we could get. But that was before the school.”

Outreach International identified Malembeka as one of the most poverty-stricken areas in the north of Zambia and soon set to work within the community, helping families access clean drinking water and establishing adult literacy programs.

It became evident that very few of the children were receiving any formal education; many were working on the farms or selling in the streets, just as Levy had.

“It was too expensive to pay for our children to go to school,” Levy’s mother, Esiah, explains. “But with help from Outreach International, we now have our own school. We call it The Oasis Community School.”

An Oasis for Vulnerable Children

The school is a refuge from the difficult and troubled world of Malembeka. Nearly 500 orphans and vulnerable children now attend the community school. Most of the pupils are passing their exams and achieving a generations-old dream for Malembeka families: attending secondary school.

Levy and Esiah ask me if I would like to visit the school, a five-minute walk from their home.

On the way, Levy tells me that math is his favorite subject. “I get really high grades,” he announces proudly.

As we walk, more and more children join our party – it’s evident that these kids love their school and are eager to show it off.

The Oasis School is currently held in a community church, and every teacher is a dedicated volunteer, like the one who greets us today. “We have very few resources here at the school but the children are doing so well.” He knows that their attendance here offers the best chance at a future free from poverty.

Outreach International and the parents of the children are now looking to build – brick by brick – their own school building. The building will require 15,000 mud bricks, mixed and shaped by hand. It’s a labor of love…and of hope.

At 12, Levy has already mastered one of the life’s most important lessons in Zambia. As we look around the makeshift classroom, he tells me, “I know that if I can complete my studies I will have a much better life, not just for me but for my whole family.”

Story and photos by Wayne Rowe, assignment photographer