Monday, 18 April 2016 10:00


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A Place To Call Home

 This past summer I had an opportunity to meet thousands of children in and around the AVOH campuses at Kabulonga, Chongwe, and Kafue. Zambia lacks in many resources such as electricity, fuel, food, and hope, but one thing they do not lack in is an abundance of children.In meeting these children it only takes a few minutes of looking them in the eyes to realize no matter how young they appear to be – their eyes tell a story of a life that has “seen” many more days than their tender age can account for.  


Bibian was no different. Quiet and soft spoken are two characteristics that fit Bibian. After pending 10 minutes with her and allowing her to share her story, you realize that strength and courage are the characteristics that better define her.Bibian is currently in the 9th grade at the AVOH school in Kabulonga. She has been attending there since she was in the 6th grade back in 2012.


Bibian’s mother and father divorced when she was only 2 and since that time Bibian has never known her biological father. She has not seen nor heard from him and she has no knowledge of where he is at. Her mother has since remarried 3 times. In Zambian culture, a woman remarrying
does not equal the acceptance of her children from her previous marriage/s. This was the case with Bibian. The men her mother has been connected with have created difficult situations for Bibian including not accepting her as well as physically beating her mother.

A few years back, Bibian had been sent to live with her aunt, as she was no longer wanted by her mother. Nothing is free in Zambia, housing, food, nor education. Bibian’s mother does not work, she has no father to provide for her, so this makes Bibian a “burden”. A burden in her extended family’s eyes as well as a burden to her mother who often blames Bibian for the struggles with her husband/s. In this culture these Zambian children are left to work through these struggles on their own. Every waking day they must deal with the reality of finding a roof to cover their head, nshima to fill their aching stomachs, and hope that someone will pay their school fees so they can go to or stay in school – and these children see those items in exactly that hierarchy. Needing these needs met puts these children in a very vulnerable situation.


Being sent to stay with her aunt alleviated the immediate need to put a roof over her head, but since the house is owned by her uncle, this created a debt that must be paid, Bibian had to “earn” her right to stay there. Her uncle ensured this dept was paid by repeated rapings. Initially Bibian talked to her family about this, but they just instructed her to “keep quiet” – that exposing this would ensure her and possibly the aunt would be kicked out of the home putting them both on the street.


Being a student of AVOH, Bibian turned to the school staff pleading for a place to live, fleeing from the sexual slavery her uncle was subjecting her to. She came to the school asking in her words, “for a place to stay at the AVOH boarding house so I will not be a burden on others.”. Unfortunately at the time of her initial request the boarding house for girls was at maximum capacity. She was able to find a place to stay for about a month until an opening became available. Bibian is now living at the boarding house with the other girls. Bibian has started the process of healing.


Unfortunately Bibians story is not unique in the streets and alleys of Lusaka. Far too often when a parent dies, or there is a divorce, the child becomes a burden that is no longer wanted. Once a female child is of age, 14, she must pay for her upkeep sometimes with sex. So many girls are sexually abused in order to eat, have shelter, or to get the ability to go to school. Some are even forced into undesirable marriages by this tender age, it is not uncommon for an older man to take a teenage bride.


Bibian has found safe refuge in the AVOH boarding house, if you ask her today what she would like, she will tell you “I want to make a difference in the lives of others when I graduate.”



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