The promise was made last year. A 90th birthday party complete with a cake. That was the deal and Project HOPE Executive Director Christopher Graves made good on that promise. Louisa, a widow that Project HOPE has worked with for many years, celebrated her 90th birthday. Born in 1927 in Lusaka, she grew up in various areas before settling in Chipata with her husband, a prominent doctor.
Her husband passed away many years ago and Louisa set up house on a farm outside Kasama, Zambia. Over the years she has cared for countless orphans and widows dying of HIV-Aids. In the photo with her is one of the orphans she adopted when he was just young and now he, his wife and two boys still live with her. Together they maintain the farm and care for many other vulnerable people. Louisa has been an inspiration and steady encouragement to Christopher for the past seven years.
At the end of every meeting Christopher would say to Louisa “see you next time” to which she would reply “no, I’ll be dead before you get back”. Last year, knowing her 90th birthday would be in 2017, Christopher again said to Louisa “see you next year” to which she made her usual reply. This time though he told her “you have to be here since I am bringing you a birthday cake”. Several times through the year Louisa asked Francis Chileshe, Project HOPE’s manager in this region, if that cake was coming. He assured her Christopher would keep his promise and just recently the party was held. Cake, candles and lots of laughter.
This time before Christopher could tell her he would see her next time Louisa told him “you better promise to come to my funeral”. Again laughter all around but Christopher told her “I think we’ll be celebrating a few more birthdays first!”
At least it’s not a snake, however, despite the harmless appearance, this little creature packs quite a punch. Although the photograph does not indicate, this bug is actually almost 8 inches long and is covered in sharp barbs that if touched, delivers a severe sting not unlike a bee sting but multiple hits.
This is just one of the many interesting creatures you encounter at Nyangombe. Whether caterpiller, spider, gecko or the more famous varieties of snakes including mambas, puff adders and boom slangs, you just have to look long enough and you will see an amazing and unending biology of creatures. Many, like the snakes, are quite deadly so sharp eyes are necessary. Several of the spiders, although as big as an outstretched hand, are great mosquito catchers. The fire ants add to menagerie.
Just recently one of the women of Nyangombe was bitten five times by a snake while walking on a Saturday night. At the first strike she thought it was ants biting her so she jumped up and down not realizing that she was landing on the same snake that struck four more times. Help came but she soon passed out. No one thought she would survive but early the next morning she awoke and continues to heal. It could have been fatal. Once her rescuers were done with the snake it was not recognizable so no one is really sure what type it was!
Such is life in the bush. The creatures really are incredible. While a bit much for some, and yes the danger is real, each has a job to do.
Unusually hot weather made the daytime beautifully summer-like and the meeting with the women and children under the care of Project HOPE was most welcome. Over 100 widows and orphans walked to the Nyangombe Bible School for a Sunday morning celebration. Amidst much singing, each community care group reported about the academic progress of the orphans and the status of widows.
There were many upbeat stories of high marks in the children’s studies and yet too many sad tales of widows that were no longer living. Such is life in the village. After a couple of hours of sharing under the hot sunshine, the meeting disbursed and folks made their way home. Greeting and meeting the people who receive care as a result of donations to Project HOPE is a poignant reminder of the poverty of these vulnerable people. Their gratitude for the assistance is absolute but so too is the need.
The women of the villages surrounding Nyangombe are served by community care teams lead by Charles Kafweta. This widow, who had several children of her own, lost all of them but has taken in several orphans.
A long walk into the bush adjacent to the Nyangombe Bible School will bring you to her small hut. She gladly welcomes all who come to visit. The humble setting and obvious poor circumstances are not evident in her kind, warm welcome.
There are too many widows like her in the villages in this area. Donations to Project HOPE help supply basic resources for vulnerable women and for this widow, gifts pay the fees that allow the orphans she cares for to go to school. This dynamic of a vulnerable woman taking in vulnerable children is a scenario that is repeated over and over again. It is a wonderful example of the community spirit that exists. Please help us care for more widows like the dear woman featured in our calendar this month.