Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Paying it Forward: Stories to Inspire You!

The leaders of Mapesho Woman's Club showing me around their chicken house where they raise money for 45 orphaned and vulnerable children. Please read the blog for more information and how you can help me help this group for Christmas!  

Whew! Life, experiences, and love has been surrounding me the past couple of months! The stories I am about to tell you will put you in the Christmas love mood for sure… get ready!

2 months ago Gift (the disabled owner of Kwasha Mukwenu and Founder of HDA) introduced me to Mapesho Women’s Group, which also includes several men, in town. This group was founded in 2004 by local residents. They saw a huge need in their community and wanted to do something about it.

Even though the members didn’t have much to offer, their hearts broke for the orphaned and vulnerable children surrounding them. They raised their own money to become official and to buy houses to raise chickens for money. They now raise enough money through chicken farming to put 45 children though school! How amazing is this self-sustainable group!! They came to me asking for ideas on how to make more money to help more children in their area!

They were so kind to host me at their organization. I was incredibly inspired by their spirit to give and take care of their own, despite the fact they had very little to offer. Because I was so moved by their love for the less fortunate children in their community, I gave them a bag of soy beans to plant this month for additional income and food supplements. This is from the money many of you donated! 

I knew I would share their story and inspire other people to look in their community to do the same. Some of the members even had houses falling over, but found it important to give to those who had less than them. My heart melted! As I told them we bless each other they smiled and raised their hands to the air praising God. I then remembered the meaning of Mapesho- “Blessings” – I think it is very fitting!

I am supposed to go back to the States on December 12th, but I have come to realize my work here is not done. There is no way I can leave in two weeks! I feel very sad about not being with my family and friends in the States for Christmas, but realize that I can stay here without being lonely by offering to bless the Mapesho Women’s group back. I think about how awesome it would be to give them a Christmas dinner! I think it would also be cool to help them out with school supplies! The beginning of a school year starts in January. If you feel lead to support this Christmas dinner and orphaned children feel free to send a donation to my mom, who will put it in the special Zambia account! I will take pictures for you.  If you want to give a gift in someone’s name, I can always take a picture of the child at the dinner and send it to you either before or after Christmas! It should cost about $30 for each child. This includes uniforms, shoes, books, school fees, and a chicken dinner for Christmas!

Please send your donation to:
Katherine Roberts/ Christmas Child
375 Ridgewood Rd
Clarkesville GA 30523

Also, if anyone wants to come join me for Christmas and help give this gift to this amazing group and children let me know! I would love company during the holidays! Trust me- it would be one of the best Christmas’s that you’ve ever had!!

Let’s see more heart happy stories from the past couple months…

Not long after I arrived one of the men who was sent to the Kenneth Kaunda Farming Training Centre to learn about vegetable gardening with the money you donated came to my house. He said, “I wanted to at least give you money for a drink. Because of the opportunity to learn how to vegetable farm, my family has done well! I have sent all my children to school, fixed my house, even have extra money for my wife to bring to the village-banking program. I had to give back to you at least 20,000 Kwacha ($4) for something to drink!” I was so excited for him! He said he has made so much money vegetable gardening he hasn’t even needed to harvest his maize (corn- the staple food) yet! So thank you for your donations to give him and other men opportunity to learn to garden and sell vegetables.

The day Justina brought me a dress she made for me to say thank you for the
opportunity to sew! So incredibly sweet!
The Luamala sewing group has been working hard to continue to get better and make money within the community! Justina is a bigger, older, single lady who has been leading the group. She lives right next to the newly built community center so it works out perfectly! They have been making dresses, home d├ęcor, children’s uniforms and clothes! I have been impressed with the group’s commitment to work hard! Justina said that her life, as well as others, has been changed because of the opportunity to use a sewing machine. She made a traditional suit for me to say thank you! I was teary eyed when she brought it to me! So thank you to everyone who has donated to the women’s coop in sewing! That dress is for each of you too! 

Oh yeah… this story is so sweet…

Justina and a man, named Reuben, came to my house several weeks ago. Reuben worked hard to help build the community center. I told the men working on the center a year ago that one of their perks for free labor would be the opportunity to have their school fees paid should they want to go to adult night school. Justina was so interested in going back to school I told her because of her hard work with the community group I could pay her fees as well. Four men and Justina started school last January. Three of the men dropped out after a couple months, but Reuben and Justina stuck with it! Anyway, they were bursting with excitement when they came to my house! They couldn’t wait to tell me they both passed their grade 7 exams! We all danced, clapped and celebrated! This is a huge deal! One of the biggest reasons my area is so poor is a lack of education. Many problems contribute - for instance the school system isn’t supported very well and parents don’t know the importance of education because they weren’t educated themselves. It is  revolving cycle.

I have come to realize how important it is to celebrate small wins -whether it is a few people realizing the importance of gardening to one mother understanding the correct foods to feed her family! Sometimes it is easy to ask, “Man why are babies still dying of malnutrition here?” The reality is that everything starts with a small change in leaders of a community. As they become confident in the changes they see, they will begin to teach their friends and family. It’s the butterfly effect. I am a witness to these changes in Luamala!

The head nurse and part of her team at our bush clinic who has had 50 success stories
of children who havesurvived malnutrition this past year! Grace is our newest child to join the program.
The nurse who started the malnutrition program with me has now had 50 children graduate from the program, 2 die, and 10 still in it. Yes, if the parents do not bring them to the clinic then they are not captured, but at least this is a huge big start! I have been so impressed with what the nurse has done to work on this problem! A little encouragement is all she needed! 

I am pleased with the continuous giving attitude I have experienced from people with whom I have been working and of course are now my friends! I am frequently being gifted with carrots, peppers… last week I started feeding a couple of chronically sick babies whom belong to some of my friends peanut butter with milk powder. It has been killing me going over to visit them and seeing their babies to continually get worse. I hate giving anything away free- I just have seen this to be the start of a “give me” attitude. Anyway, for these babies I made an exception. I started feeding them to jumpstart their immune systems. Their families just do not have enough food to feed them right now. After a week of providing this diet for these babies the mothers sacrificed for me. They sent me a whole traditional nshima dinner. I was honored by their generosity and thankful heart even though it was a big sacrifice! 

Initial’s Inc iCare Foundation has now found a third party organization, Africare, who will be responsible for the building of the Kwasha Mukwenu Sewing Workshop & Training Center for the disabled tailors I have been working with for almost two years! We all couldn’t be more excited about the future. I am so happy to think that sometime in the next year the tailors will no longer have to leave their wheelchairs at the door and crawl in a tiny workspace! Because of the dedication, love, and commitment of Initials Inc. iCare Foundation and Creative Partners this group of committed disabled people and many more will be able to have a chance at life and being sustainable! The project has started a bit slow due to having to find Africare to head the project on this side of the ocean to make sure everything goes correctly. We have already had the assessment of the project completed and now we hopefully will be getting things started at the beginning of the new year! If you want to help out and be a part of this, please buy a Zip Around Bag at Initials Inc.! A Zip Around Bag is great to throw in your purse for anything that might come up like grocery shopping or ballgames! http://initials-inc.com/catalog/

I have many things to be thankful for this holiday season. Sometimes when I look down at my rugged, cracked feet and usually dirty body from playing with a children all I want is a clean house with a hot shower and a couch. Yes, I have given up many things, including regular haircuts, massages, pedicures, hot showers, running water, electricity, holidays with family, good beer, sushi, good restaurants, and sometimes I feel a bit lonely. It would be easy to fixate on these things, especially around Christmas, but I choose to see how happy my heart is. I choose to see the love in waking up to three year olds getting my charcoal for a fire while giggling as if they were going to play with dolls. I choose to see the difference my presence makes in the people’s lives around me! I choose to see how strong I have become spiritually in my relationship with God. I see I have a new Luamalan family to teach me something everyday. I get my hair and face washed with the help of a teakettle and many tiny hands everyday. I love that it has become a daily routine to wash my little friends too! Even though I don’t have children myself, I have a hundred children that call me mama whom I can teach, hold, and love on a daily basis. I don’t have a husband yet, but I get marriage proposals every time I go to town (actually I’m not to thrilled about the constant harassment… ha )

And the best part of it all is that everyday I find my heart glowing because I know I am exactly where I should be! So I have realized that staying a bit longer could be sad as I once again miss the holidays with my family and friends, but I feel pretty lucky to be where I am!

"Rise up this mornin,
Smiled with the risin sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true..."
 My lovely 3-year-olds who wake me up everyday and love to play! Check out that natty wig... ha!
This is where the money is made by the Mapesho Woman's Club for 45 orphaned and vulnerable children in the area. Please read the blog for more information and how you can empower these children this Christmas!
Kwasha Mukwenu marketing initiative! While we are waiting for everything to go through for Initial's Inc iCare Foundation to build a training center and workshop for this hard working disabled group we are marketing their items locally! Several local copper mine hotels like the one behind us has put in orders!! Sarah, the other white girl, is a friend in the Peace Corps who has been helping out with this project!
The rabbit farming has taken a slow start in Luamala. I think there was some lack of knowledge so I took three men to a training center about 2 hours away to learn all about them. They were stoked after they saw how much money they could make as well as be able to feed meat to their families! We all tried rabbit for the first time that day and we all agreed it tasted better than chicken! I think I will be rabbit farming in the States now too! 

My cousin Sarah and her friend Kaylan came for two weeks! They taught the Kwasha Mukwenu website to these two so they can update it themselves! I had a blast with these two ladies visiting! We got to see Victoria Falls, chimps, my village, and of course got to know the amazing disabled tailoring group I am working with! 

Walking with chimps at a chimp refugee camp near where I live! Life changing experience!

Yes, this is real and came from my camera! It is a little taste of what I got to experience in Luiwa Plains National Park! Only 120 people visit a year because it is so hard to get to! Thanks to some good friends of mine, Roger and Leon who work in association with the copper mine, we got to visit this secluded part of Zambia! More pictures to come! 

Having a little fun with my friend Marissa Izma who co-founded Same World Same Chance about 40 km from me! We decided to dance in the rain one night! Rainy season is just beginning! 


  1. Kat,
    This is beautiful! You truly are a blessing and an inspiration. I love reading your blog and getting to know your village. Keep up the fabulous work and Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas! Much Love.

  2. Dad & I love the last photo on this blog post. It reminds us of the time that you and Melissa Mobley played in the overflowing gutters after a rain that ended a long drought in Georgia. Your hands are the same. We love those hands!