How village savings groups are transforming the lives of women in Zambia

“We used to have three meals every day and we didn’t have any problems at all sending our children to school. My late husband used to have a well-paid job and things went smoothly”, Rosemary Chanda narrated.

Everything changed after the death of her husband in 2017 who tragically died in a road accident, a story all too common in Zambia. After her husband’s family reclaimed all his property including 2 vehicles and a farm, she was left with just K5,000 (£300) and responsibility for her 4 young children.

The group savings box and record book

For the last two years Rosemary has struggled to provide for her family, often surviving on just one meal a day and only sending one child to school as she could not afford the fees. “Our lives were miserable, and we had no hope for the future”.

However, things began to change when in early 2019 she joined Kuyumayuma Women’s Savings Group which was set-up by local community-based organisation, Welfare Concern International and funded by the ATD Foundation.

cReating local entrepreneurs

Group members are given training on saving methods, business skills and entrepreneurship which has helped the women to save regularly, borrow from their groups revolving fund and repay loans at an agreed interest rate.

Rosemary Chanda with her successful peanut butter business

At the end of each saving cycle which runs for one year, the money is shared according to respective individual savings, plus interest earned from internal borrowing and fines. In addition to this, the group also decided to have a ‘Social Fund’ which provides grants to members who experience serious problems such as funeral and emergency medical expenses.

Group members have used their savings and profit shares to set up businesses such as peanut-butter making, small chicken farms, tailoring & sewing and local market food stalls.

investing in children’s future

Savings have helped many of the women feed their families and send their children to school. Rosemary said she can send all her four children to school and even has aspirations of one day earning enough to send her eldest to university. She expressed that seeing her children get a good education that she never had brings her great happiness as a mother.

The Kuyumayuma Women’s Savings Group singing at the start of a meeting

The Kuyumayuma Women’s Savings Group is also changing the lives of other women in the community. Women who choose to join groups like this become better connected socially within their village and are more likely to hold leadership positions. This allows them to have their say in community groups like Parent Teacher Associations (PTA’s), local councils and other regional authorities.

Welfare Concern International has helped set up 9 savings groups around Livingstone, supporting over 180 women.

Stories like Rosemary’s show that savings groups can be an effective and complementary approach to financial inclusion and to other development initiatives that can benefit the community as well as the country as a whole.

Emmanuel’s Story

Emmanuel Mushekwa was born in Dambwa, a small but crowded suburb of Livingstone bustling with life. He was raised here single-handedly by his mum, as his Dad, who he never knew, left the family when he was very young. Like most families who reside in this area, life wasn’t easy and most of Emmanuel’s time was spent helping his mother around the house to support his 2 younger brothers and sister. Since a very young age he has been heavily relied on to take care of the cooking and cleaning, whilst his mother desperately battled to find employment in Livingstone. She eventually managed to find some part-time work as a waitress for a local restaurant for some years, but it still wasn’t enough to support the growing family. As a consequence of Emmanuel’s involvement in household chores he often missed school classes and his education suffered as a consequence. Unfortunately, this is often the case with children raised in single parent families in Zambia.

“Only 37% of Zambian children attend secondary school”

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In 2014, his uncle introduced him to the Young Boys Football Club who played on a dusty patch of ground near one of the markets in Dambwa. Emmanuel enjoyed the freedom of playing football and even without a background in the game he managed to keep up with the other players on the team. Although he now had football in his life, day-to-day living wasn’t getting any easier. Later in the year his mum, who was still struggling to find substantial employment in the area, made a decision to move to Lusaka in a bid to find a job that would pay enough to give her children a meal on the table every day and an education that every child deserves. Emmanuel and his siblings were left in his grandparents care a few roads down from their previous house. He hasn’t seen his Mum since, but is hopeful that one day they will be reunited.

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Emmanuel is now 14 and still plays for the U14 Boys Team which is now part of Livingstone Youth Football Academy. As a talented and key striker, he gets selected to play in matches nearly every week and his success was shown by the 8 goals he scored last season. With the new programmes established at LYFA, Emmanuel now attends school every day and is given food every time he goes to football training or plays in a match.

Aside from his dream of becoming a world-class striker like Lacazette, who plays for Arsenal, Emmanuel puts his head down at school fueled by an ambition to study engineering at university and become an aircraft engineer.


Since June 2017, ATD Foundation funding has enabled Livingstone Youth Football Academy to support over 90 children and youth aged 10-23 with football, nutrition, education and clothing.


AN OLDIES’ VIEW OF ATD’S WORK IN ZAMBIA

In January 2018 Oliver gave us, his parents (Piers & Vyvyen Brendon), a wonderful Golden Wedding present. He took us to Zambia, to witness the valuable work ATD is supporting among disadvantaged children in and around Livingstone.

Simbunji School

Simbunji School 1

On our first day we visited remote community schools, in company with Ian and Dave of African Revival, a charity providing water aid for schools in this area. At Simbunji School, our first stop, many parents had turned out to greet us and the women put on an impromptu dance. While Oliver and the charity workers inspected the sanitary improvements and Dave addressed a responsive audience, we were struck by the enthusiasm which the parents showed for the school’s development. The mothers were especially energetic in clearing the ground. Here, as at other schools, Oliver took polaroid photos of the children, who were fascinated to get instant images of themselves.

Next we visited Namabondo Community School. Once again we received a rousing welcome and Vyvyen, a retired teacher, instantly struck up a warm relationship with the two women teachers.

Namabondo School

She even gave the pupils a brief English lesson and they proved very quick in the uptake. While Oliver and the others inspected the bore hole, which was giving trouble, Piers handed out some sweeties and was promptly mobbed. The highlight was the children’s singing a gospel hymn (“We do not know the hour”), a moving rendition in close harmony which brought tears to our eyes.

After an immensely long drive over pot-holed dirt roads we finally arrived at Siamwaamva School, which is struggling against fearful odds. A young pupil teacher was in charge and, as Oliver, Ian and Dave investigated the inadequate facilities, we found it hard to communicate with the children. Eventually we hit on the idea of teaching them an English song – “The wheels on the bus go round and round” – which they seemed to enjoy.

The next day we met Evans Muyunda, Chairman of the Livingstone Youth Football Academy, which ATD is sponsoring. In Dambwa village we were introduced to his family and to many of the young footballers, including 17-year-old Patricia, ebullient captain of the girls’ team, who befriended “Granny” Vyvyen.

Evans's House

Patricia - Captain

Evans then took us to Nakawa Community Pre-school, a 20-minute drive from Livingstone. It was set up by Cynthia Lungowe and her husband to give a start to vulnerable children in the district. She is an energetic and inspiring headmistress who speaks perfect English. But she faces enormous challenges: no water, meagre equipment, and a building made of sticks and thatch (which lets in the rain) set on an earth floor open to biting ants. Once again we broke the ice by getting the children to sing “The wheels on the bus”, with Georgie supplying extra verses remembered from his own nursery school days. Encouraged by Cynthia and her excellent young assistant Christine, the children responded brilliantly. This school desperately needs help, which ATD may well be able to provide.

Nakawa Community Pre-School

Nakawa Community Pre-School 1

On the third day we attended a party and award ceremony in a nearby hotel for members of the Livingstone Youth Football Academy. There were speeches from local dignitaries, to which some eighty footballers listened patiently before being rewarded with soft drinks and a barbecue lunch – they left nothing on their plates.

Presentation BBQ

Then Oliver gave prizes to the outstanding team members, seniors, juniors and girls. He encouraged everyone to work hard, to play hard and to enjoy the sport. He showed them the new green and yellow kit he had brought from the UK, together with a bag full of footballs. And he explained his future plans for the Academy: buying land, clearing it to make a flat pitch, acquiring a bus, and building a stadium.

When the formalities looked like going on, he told the youngsters that the hotel would allow them to swim in its pool. There was a mad dash to splash and within moments the water was full of glistening, cavorting bodies.

LYFA Swimming

It was, indeed, one of the funniest and happiest scenes we have ever witnessed. Like everything else we saw in Zambia (including hippos, crocodiles, antelope, giraffes, zebras and elephants, to say nothing of having dinner during torrential thunderstorms or being drenched by the spray of the Victoria Falls), it will remain green in our memory.

Olly & Parents

Written By Piers & Vyvyen Brendon.

PROJECTS THROUGH A CHILD’S EYES (PART 3)

3 Schools with The Butterfly Tree

The Butterfly Tree is a charity which helps schools in Zambia build the classrooms and get the equipment that they need.  The first school we went to was called Simsumuku and had already been funded by Attraction Tickets Direct with new classroom blocks, latrines and a teacher’s house.  We liked to see the improvement from the old ones.  This school was very remote and had never had any visitors before or ever seen a white face or blonde hair.  The children were quite shocked, amazed and frightened.  We gave out sweets but the children didn’t know what they were.

I answered some of their maths questions and we showed them where Zambia was on a world map.

Then, we played 5-a-side football and lost badly against some ten-year-olds who were really fast and skillful.  I think they would beat Hornsby House even playing bare footed.  How do you think these Zambian children know how to play football if they’ve never seen a game on TV, have no power or internet or even been coached?

One and a half hours later, we arrived at the second school of the day – Buswanga and got thrashed at football again by the under-10 team.  This school had a partly built classroom block that ATD have funded.

The old school block had a thatched roof and no walls.  It was like sitting under a big umbrella.

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The children welcomed us by singing the Zambian national anthem to us in Tongan and English even though they don’t speak English.  The children at this school were very excited to see us.

The last school we went to, we hadn’t funded but wasn’t in desperate need. I helped put up some posters in the last school and unfortunately, the pupils were at a funeral so we didn’t get to see them.

This was the last full day in Zambia and I will look back on this trip as one of the best ever.

Written By Sonny Brendon.