This week I met with Sister Jameela, the Executive Manager of an organisation called Save our Society (SOS). SOS is an organisation that helps alleviate the plight of the vulnerable, abused traumatised victims in the society by helping provide services that will make life easier for them. SOS runs four major projects for the underprivileged.
1. They help provide water by building wells in villages and rural areas of Zambia.
2. SOS counselling provides care for individuals needing help.
3. SOS gift to the needy provides aid and giving gifts to the poor in the Zambian community and finally.
4. Save the Orphans program which focuses on helping orphanages with aid in form of baby formula, food, blankets and clothing.
They also do other things like help pay rentals for widows that cannot presently help themselves (many of them usually affected by HIV).
Sister Jameela kindly offered to take me with her to John Lane, a compound where many of the orphans and widows that SOS helps support live, so that I could see firsthand what SOS does and how it has impacted these people’s lives. We visited about 8 homes (where sister Jameela dropped of drinks, food and clothing to all of them) and every home I went into looked very similar; a small little house with a living room/kitchen and one bedroom (usually accommodating more than 10 people). But one thing which all of them definitely had in common was the fact that the people living in these homes were all so appreciative about the help they were receiving from SOS in terms of rental and schooling for the children. Sister Jameela also told me about the orphans that live with their families but they have appalling housing conditions. She said it was her dream to open up a boarding house for the orphans and the vulnerable one day. I met with many different families all of whom had different stories but one story really stuck with me.
Today, I met the most adorable little boy whose bright smile just didn’t leave my mind. Sitting on a tattered mat outside his grandmother’s house was little Anthony. As soon as he saw me approaching him he immediately looked down at the ground and kept his head down trying not to catch my eye. I tried hard to get his attention or at least for him to look me in the eye but he just kept looking down. I asked him what his name was but I didn’t get an answer. I was so intrigued by this little boy. I really wanted to know what his story was.
So I asked sister Jameela and she told me that Anthony was found sitting in a ditch on the side of the road by a man 3 years ago, he was a double orphan who when he was just 4 years old developed a lump on his back which kept growing and growing and eventually crippled him. Since then he has lost all confidence. He is unable to use both his legs and is completely dependent on help from his grandmother. When they found him he was not in a school and didn’t even have a proper home to go to. I couldn’t contain myself and got all teary eyed. It’s not fair that a little 9 year old should have to go through all this and that too without a proper home or a mum and dad. Life is very unfair sometimes.
I went back to Anthony, sat down on the mat next to him, and said that I thought he had beautiful eyes and I wanted to see them more clearly. He quickly glanced up at me and then looked back down. I then asked him if he liked football and who his favourite footballer was? He slowly raised his head and looked straight at me and said that he liked the whole Zambian Football Team.
He then saw my iPhone and asked me what that was for so I told him that I used it mainly to take pictures of beautiful things in the world so that I could always have memories to look back at. Surprisingly, he gave me a huge beautiful smile and he asked me if I could take a picture of him. I was so happy and couldn’t contain myself that I had to give him a big hug.
Sister Jameela then went on to tell me that SOS now provides Anthony and his grandmother with a house (rent fully paid by SOS), he has also been enrolled in a school and SOS has provided him with a wheelchair and they are trying to get him some physiotherapy but due to lack of funding their options are very limited. I asked Anthony’s grandmother what she was most grateful for and she said to me, “Sister Jameela for coming into our lives and taking care of my Anthony. She is a blessing to us”. This is only one of the many stories SOS has helped and taken care of.
As we left I told a friend of mine who was accompanying me that I felt so sad for Anthony. He looked at me and told me, “Alia there is no need to feel sad look at that smile on his face he is happy, you should be too”. Those words really stuck with me. Anthony now, thanks to SOS, has access to education; he has food, clothing and a home. He is happy.
This made me wonder what we, as the diaspora, can do to help vulnerable children and adults like Anthony. Well, there are a lot of things. We could volunteer our time, for example, to teach these children how to read and write; a basic skill many of us have which would be very beneficial to many children. All the Doctors, Nurses and other qualified Health individuals in the diaspora could donate their time and effort to come home for even a month and reach out to organisations like SOS and see where their services are needed.
Counsellors in the diaspora would be very beneficial to reach out to many of the widows who need help getting their well-being and lives together. Diaspora Entrepreneurs could assist these women in devising business plans and implementing them, thus enabling them to become more sustainable and better placed to support their extended families.
So my friends as you can see there is a lot of things we as the African Diaspora can do to contribute at grass-roots level, we just need to get out there and make it happen.