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zambia hope international

Zambian man who helps orphans speaks in Frederick

By Sonia Boin, Frederick News Post - November 11, 2007

Nine-year-old Esther loves music. She wants to be a singer and may become a teacher.

She spends her days selling fritters outside a bar to raise money for her grandmother.

A 7-year-old girl named Gift is so poor she can't get the medicine prescribed by a local clinic. She dreams of becoming a nurse.

Fasho, a 13-year-old boy who's hooked on singing and dancing, loves his classes so much he wants to be a teacher.

These children have a lot in common with about 800 others who range in age from 3 to 17. They live in poverty in Zambia, in south-central Africa.

And they have all been orphaned by the death of their parents from HIV/AIDS.

About seven years ago, the depth of their pain was brought home to Adamson Musonda, a Zambian farmer, when the disease took the lives of 10 of his relatives. They left 20 children to be cared for.

"Separation can be very severe," he said, "but we couldn't take care of all 20."

Instead of taking all the children in, he started a nonprofit organization, Zambia Hope International. Zambia Hope works to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS through teaching responsible behavior to children, and has provided a local clinic that provides medicine to 18,000 people, according to its website.

The United Nations estimates there are about 1.25 million orphans in Zambia.

Musonda, who spoke in Frederick Thursday at the opening of a senior resource center on North Market Street, soon learned how disoriented children become when they lose parents.

"They were sleeping in the streets and getting quite rough," he said. "They became beggars and started stealing from each other. Now, they go to school and they are very, very good children. Now they have hope."

The transition was no small accomplishment.

He begins by establishing friendship and trust. The first meeting is an introduction, without much talk. On the next visit, he brings food and later, toys.

"They know that Father Christmas is coming," he said. "When you bring something, they get assurance that you care. Sometimes we win their hearts that way."

Then he can stress obedience and tell the children they should be humble and should try to learn as much as possible.

"Friendship is the key," he said. "Then they trust you and obey. Once you create friendship with a kid, the relationship grows."

They go to community schools, sometimes held under a tree, to learn skills, such as farming. The teachers are volunteers, including Musonda's wife, Anne.

"We work with them on the farm so they can learn how to grow rather than receive," he said.

Agriculture is a priority, but the children also learn how to use computers, carpentry and auto mechanics.

With only seven volunteers, Musonda said his organization is often overwhelmed.

"The job is too big," he said. "It's quite vast -- their problems are so big. It's very hard, but we have a dream. We may die before the dream is realized, but we will leave a legacy. Education is power."