The Big Mission Behind Our Little Purse

Our Five ‘Mom Approved’ Goals

When we first walked into Ngombe Compound (pronounced Nom-Bay) in March 2009 we were naive about the depth of the human tragedy residing there. We didn’t know where to start, or what we could do to help, but we felt called to do something.

Ngombe is the worst urban slum in Lusaka Zambia, a place of 130,000 people, half of them under 15. 60% of the students at the school are HIV positive. 2/3rds of the children have lost both parents and are being cared for by their aunties, grandmas, or other relatives.

That day we felt the heartbeat of those moms for their children in a vibrant way. Their passion for their kids was unstoppable, mesmerizing, and contagious. They would arrive each day, lead the children in prayer and scripture reading, and then begin school. They wanted them educated at all costs. They had a very simple set of goals.

First, they wanted their children well educated

Second, they wanted a school lunch to serve

Third, they wanted clean water and bathrooms

Fourth, they wanted the kids (and the community) physically healthy

Fifth, they wanted to personally work and make money in support of these goals. When we first met the moms they were making jewelry and trying to sell it in support of these goals. As our friendship developed sewing became the primary income method.

These goals are time-tested and mom approved. The moms of Ngombe have spoken and we are doing our best to listen and serve. Our goal is to support them in their achievement of these critical goals.

(March 2009) Esther explained how they used the partially completed church building as their make-shift school. A different class in each corner with a different mom leading a grade. They had 475 children back then. Today they have a large school campus, qualified teachers, children in nice uniforms, and a 7th grade exam pass-rate that is higher than most public and private school in Zambia.

Goal #5: Our First Priority

Sew Powerful was born out of our desire to help the moms achieve goal #5 (the income goal), so they could make money to support the school. Goal #5 fit us nicely since we ran a sewing related company. But the first four goals are crucial too, which is why the moms were trying so hard to find a way to achieve them.

The sewing cooperative gives them the ability to make a difference in their community to achieve these worthy goals and we’re glad we started partnering with them to achieve it. We started with an innovative school uniform program and then reusable feminine hygiene pads. These purposeful products provide an income to the seamstresses while at the same time making education possible for the children of the community.

They’ve built a strong skill set that they use to make a difference. That knowledge can never be taken away from them.

Since 2009 we’ve worked to tell the story of the moms of Ngombe. They’ve achieved a school campus and buildings, a clinic, a farm for food, water, bathrooms, desks, qualified teachers that are paid, a library, and so many other goals. It’s our honor to serve them as they work hard to make the school a vibrant place for their children.

Education

When we first met Esther and the team and Needs Care School they had 475 children and used a partially completed church building to conduct school each day. They teach children from grade 1-7. Through a miracle a proper school was built for them in 2013. There are eight teachers and now over 1,400 children. But there are huge educational goals that need to be met including:

 

  • Resources to expand the school to include grade 8-12, which is referred to as “Secondary School” in Zambia. Currently only about 25% of the children from the Needs Care School attend Secondary School because of a lack of resources. This is an urgent need.
  • Financial support to care for the current facility and ensure it is well maintained.
  • Additional funding for teacher salaries. Currently the Needs Care teachers earn $100 USD per month as a small stipend. They could earn more than twice as much if they worked outside Ngombe Compound. They have chosen to work at Needs Care as an act of service, but their current salaries are a real challenge.

Food

When we first met the moms there was no way they could feed the children a daily lunch. That was an impossibility. But since 2013 a little bit of porridge has been provided each day for lunch. For many of the children it is their only meal of the day. That is all we can afford.

Last year a 10-acre farm was made available to Esther with the sole purpose of supporting the children of Needs Care. After our first successful fundraising campaign the farm is fully fenced and has a caretaker house and caretaker, a well, crops, and even goats. But there is a lot of work to do before it produces the volume of food needed to provided 1,400 lunches five days a week. Projects we need to complete include,

 

  • Electricity to the farm. It is available from the utility company and can be completed in one day as soon as the funds are available.
  • A water tank and irrigation pipes. Currently Nicolas our farm manager waters everything by hand – from a well that takes hand pumping to get the water. A water tank and irrigation system will save him a huge amount of time.
  • A monthly budget for investing in new crops, paying day laborers, and expanding the types of animal managed on the farm. Currently we have goats, but chickens and pigs are the next step.

Water

The Water & Sanitation in Ngombe compound is a real challenge. There is no garbage service like western communities have become accustomed to using. Trash that is not burned goes everywhere. Raw sewage collects in sewage canals. Most homes have a hand dug latrine somewhere on the property.

This water and sanitation issue impacts the health of the children very directly. Bilharzia (Schistosomiasis) is a chronic parasitic tropical disease that is rampant in Ngombe. HIV/AIDS, TB, and Malaria are all too common. Good water and sanitation are a key aspect of combating these diseases.

Today at the Needs Care School they have clean water. But the bathrooms are in bad shape, (and the school is only 3 years old). Imagine restrooms used by 1,400 children daily. So maintenance and repairs are important part of keeping the school a productive place.

We also have farm related water projects on the 3 Esthers Farm that are urgently needed to enhance and expand our work there to increase our food production in support of our food goals. Specifically we need a water tower, irrigation system, and electricity to the farm to power a water pump. These will increase our farm productivity tremendously.

Health

Because 60% of the children at the Needs Care school are HIV Positive, a clinic program is vital. Beyond HIV/AIDS other common diseases include water and sanitation related illnesses.

A well qualified nurse is on-campus two days per week and as needed children are taken to the government clinic when the nurse isn’t on-campus.

Ant-Retroviral Therapy drugs to combat HIV are made available through a government clinic, but there are still many challenges. One of the primary factors in good HIV management is access to quality nutrition, so the drugs can be taken and remain effective. So the food and health topics really go hand-in-hand.

The clinic also serves the whole community one day a week and conducts a ‘new mothers clinic’ one day per week as well.