The Church cannot bury its head in the sand when many are suffering
By Bellah Zulu, ACNS
The Anglican Church in Zambia has taken centre stage in addressing the issue of street kids in the Southern African country where thousands of orphans and vulnerable children take to the streets to earn a living.
In an interview with ACNS, the director of the Anglican Street Children’s Programme in Zambia, the Revd Fr Jackson Jones Katete said the church has a responsibility to help out the community in their areas of need.
"The role of the church is to be the salt and light of the world, and we cannot afford to bury our heads in the sand when many around us are suffering," he said. "As a Church we need to act and not just be vocal in addressing the issue of street kids."
In Zambia the death of parents, poverty and family breakdown have pushed thousands of children onto the streets, and according to reports from UNICEF there are approximately 1.2 million orphans under the age of 15 in the country, 800,000 of whom are affected by HIV and Aids.
"Street kids come from our homes and HIV and Aids is one of the leading causes of the increase in the number of street kids," revealed Fr Katete. "Most affected families are not able to cope with the challenge of HIV and Aids though we are trying by all means to integrate the kids back into the extended family system."
The project director also said that the Anglican Church in Zambia is operating schools meant to empower orphans and vulnerable children. "In June 2010 we started Canaan Nursery and Primary School for street children in Lusaka and it opened with just 3 children to begin with," he said. "Now we have more than 130 children from nursery to grade 7 and the plans are to expand the school to about 200 children."
He added: "But we can only help so much and hence we are asking the community itself to see how they can help contribute in alleviating this problem and usually those who can are able to make contributions."
Fr Katete called on well-wishers to contribute towards the project and thanked some organisations that have so far contributed towards the project. "The Japanese Embassy donated a bus to transport the children to and from school and there are seven volunteer teachers at the school and seven other volunteers doing work including project management, cleaning and driving," he said.
The Anglican Street Children’s Programme was founded in 1996 as a community project by members of the Anglican Church in Lusaka, in response to the increasing numbers of street children and orphans in the country.
In 2011 the project matured into a programme, and went from keeping children in residences to supporting children in homes where families and extended families members are keeping them.
"This model was derived from the African extended families system where every member supports children in the community because children grow better in a home," said the project Director. "The programme now offers support to these children in different homes."
Many children in Zambia have so far benefitted from this programme. One of the Programme beneficiaries, Hazel Nanyangwe thanked the Anglican Church for the positive work of helping the needy.
She said: "I really love your passion towards children and may God continue to live and work in your hearts. The love and care you show for children at the orphanage has no boundaries; it also flows out to the community."
The Anglican Church in Zambia has emphasised that children need to grow within a community and that the involvement of the community is vital in helping the traumatised children to regain their confidence.
For more information about the project, visit: http://www.streetkids-zambia.com