An important update from Remmy, our program director in Zambia:
Eddie has qualified to senior high with very good grades and the government has taken to a school where those who get good grades go. Thanks for writing about him on the blog.
I met Eddie, age 14 - grade 10, over a year ago. It was a hot summer day and sun was beating down on us. I had come to see a land sharing project that Eddie's church ran. The Free Methodist Church in Ndola had purchased some land, where Eddie's family participates in land sharing initiative to help people with limited means grow crops to sell in the market and help one another by looking out for weeds, crop failures, etc. You can read more about the project and the church here.
But from that first trip a year ago to the outskirts of Ndola and the many people I met, I distinctly remember Eddie standing in the middle of the field with his backhoe in hand - working up a sweat. I wondered then why he wasn't in school and we tried to have a nice chat. You should've heard Eddie then. He was excited, as he was on this most recent trip --- ready to share and speak to a camera. But, the challenge Eddie had a year ago is that he struggled to communicate effectively and I honestly understood only some of what he was trying to say to me in English.
Now - a year later and back in school - I was overwhelmed with joy to hear him share his dreams.
Eddie handsomly explained his current life situation, in almost perfect English and his confidence would make any teacher smile. Since the last time I saw him, he was back in school after the Free Methodist Church paid for his school fees, in partnership with Forgotten Voices. But, Eddie didn't know who I was or about Forgotten Voices, which is the same for virtually everyone that receives support from Forgotten Voices. Eddie just knew he was back in school and the Lord had provided for his family through his local church.
He told me that he likes math, science, english, and geography. He dislikes history. "My brain is not a computer for all these dates about who did what when. It's too much." he said, while smiling. :) His dreams were clearer now and this smile he was giving me told me that now, things were going to be ok.
When he grows up, he wants to be a Zambian Air Force Pilot. If he fails, he'll be a geologist. While this may seem like common stuff for you and me, to hear Eddie explain these dreams showed me just how much a year of schooling can do for a kid's self esteem.
Life hasn't been easy for Eddie. His father passed away 9 years ago. It was too difficult to talk about, so I never learned how Eddie's dad died. Now, Eddie lives in a family of 8, led by his mom. Eddie has 2 twin sisters, who are 4 years old, and a cousin, who I wasn't able to meet. Eddie also had an older sister, who passed away recently, leaving her 3 kids to Eddie's mom, so these kids also live with Eddie.
So, why does the church support Eddie if he has a mom and family? Well, Eddie is among a very vulnerable group of kids, as his mom's limited resources are meeting the family's most basic needs, but not much more. She's extremely dedicated to doing what she can. His mom is daily collecting charcoal from the woods and selling it to support the family. She and the family, including Eddie, often travel to their fields owned by their local church, so they can work the land before school and then spend the weekends there, too. Sometimes, the family makes the long trip by foot and bus to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where their extended family has land --- it's just across the border from Ndola, but a big headache in and out.
But, these resources don't allow Eddie to make it. As a child who has lost a parent and is essentially living without a social safety net, the local church, with Forgotten Voices' support, helps his mom pay the school fees Eddie needs and she does what she can to help with school shoes, books, etc.
At Forgotten Voices, every family's story is different and we know that. We rely on the leaders within the local church and community to help us make wise decisions about the delicate balance of partnership and emergency relief --- responding with Christ's love, but limiting dependency. Eddie's story is a great example of how the church can help a kid with big dreams, but a kid that needs a champion and social safety net that the local church can supply, while also protecting Eddie's mom's dignity and desire to support her family.
Please join me in praying for Eddie. When I asked how my frineds in the USA (that's you) can pray for him, here's what he told me: "Pray that my mother can have a long-life and that I am granted power and intelligence to continue my studies." A noble prayer and one I ask you join us in.
To help us support more kids like our friend Eddie, join me in making a gift to ForgottenVoices.org. Take a moment and consider friends that may also be enriched to meet Eddie. Thanks!