Why we work there
Despite strong economic growth and its status as a lower middle-income country, widespread and extreme rural poverty and high unemployment levels remain significant problems. This is made worse by a high birth rate, a relatively high HIV/AIDS burden. The Zambian kwacha is one of Africa’s worst performing currencies. Zambia’s economy in 2015 took hits from greatly depressed copper prices and a drought that has caused a significant cut in power generation.
85% of the population rely on agriculture, much of which is small scale subsistence farming. Zambia is rich in natural resources but has suffered from declining demand and prices.
One of the biggest challenges facing Zambia as it strives to build a sustainable economy is the huge age imbalance in its population.
0-14 years: 46.12% 17.37%
15-24 years: 20.02% 12.41%
25-54 years: 28.6% 40.91%
55-64 years: 2.89% 11.58%
65+ years: 2.38% 17.73%
Infant mortality is very high at:
64.72/per 1000 of the population
4.38/per 1000 UK
Life expectancy is just 52 years compared to 81 in the UK.
Despite the challenges facing Zambia it is one of Africa's fastest growing economies. But with such a young population this requires a big commitment to education and training which is where TWAM comes in.
What we do
Tools with a Mission has a long term and significant commitment to Zambia. We currently send up to seven containers a year packed with tools and equipment. We work with literally thousands of charities, churches, schools and organisations committed to improving the lives of their own people. Containers are shipped via Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania and go overland to Zambia.
The difference we make
Tools with a Mission supports thousands of local charities, set up by local people to work with local communities across Zambia. We could fill hundreds of web pages with the stories of lives changed, from one child receiving a scholar pack to a community receiving a set of industrial sewing machines. We support projects working with orphans, teenagers needing a vocational training, schools without school books or computers, marginalised peoples, vulnerable women, impoverished communities and displaced peoples.
Below are just two amazing projects we support
The Hope in Christ Community and The Collard Foundation
The Hope in Christ Community
Words cannot convey the heart and passion of the people who run this community project. They applied for builders’, mechanics’ and welders’ kits along with sewing machines. The first thing they did was use the builder's kits to literally build the church and skills centre. It seemed to me almost beyond comprehension that a group of people should seek to open a church and start a training project by applying for tools from TWAM to build it. But why would people with so little embark on such a huge project? Paul, their Pastor explains:
“The community is very vulnerable with lots of unemployment, drunkenness and prostitution, I hope this facility will give hope and change society. My focus is to reach the vulnerable youth and widows and give them skills and hope.”
The centre now has a carpentry and metal workshop, a busy car wash, a water pump providing free water to over 300 families and a sewing centre. The centre is on a busy road so is able to sell lots of products to support the young people training.
Projects like this only work because they are driven by passionate motivated people. Lydia (on the left) is certainly one of them, a very quiet person who did not easily share her story. She runs the tailoring workshop having joined the centre after ten years in fashion and design. I asked her why she left a well paid, secure job to join the project. Her answer:
"Sewing is in my spirit and a God given gift that I decided I must use. I had a conviction from God to come and help these people and Pastor Paul. There was no one to instruct so I had to come. This is what God has said to me. This gift is not to be kept but used. I want to empower the women both physically and spiritually and save women from prostitution which they do as they have nothing else. I want to teach them to rely on God."
Then almost in a whisper she added:
"I am a single parent with a family to take care of so I know how hard it is. Learning tailoring changed my life, now I never borrow, never beg and never go to a neighbour’s house to beg for food."
Who better could we entrust our sewing machines to than Lydia?
Did we mention they're building a school and a health clinic?
The community is huge with over 100,000 people served by one small government health clinic. It is no wonder that it is almost impossible to get an appointment and very common to turn up at 8.00am, wait all day and then be turned away at 6.00pm when it closes. This can happen day after day and even this is only for the fortunate few who can afford it.
Walking to the clinic you are completely surrounded by excited children which seems wonderful until you realise that they should have been in school. They weren’t because none of their parents could afford the fees. It graphically exposed the hopelessness of extreme poverty and why the church was building a school (with TWAM tools of course).
The clinic is amazing how large. Walking through the half-completed building you see TWAM tools everywhere and when asked if they could buy them locally the answer came straight back:
“We could buy them locally but they are very expensive and they would only last for six months, but TWAM tools last for years.”
But without TWAM tools none of this would have happened. They would not have been able to build the church, or the skills centre, or the school, or the health clinic. Let alone equip them and begin the amazing journey of transforming their community.
The Collard Foundation
Our main partners in Zambia are the United Church of Zambia (UCZ) and they run many livelihood creating projects. One small project with just one knitting machine and two trainees is in Livingstone. This small project, named after the building they meet in, shows us that projects don’t have to be large to have an impact. All they actually require is compassion, the definition of which is the willingness to see a need and crucially be determined to meet it. This small UCZ church had done exactly that for just two of their congregation.
They hope to extend their project but at the moment just one knitting machine has totally changed two people’s lives. It is a timely reminder of Jesus’ comment when he saw an elderly widow place just a few pence into the collection at the temple in Jerusalem. He recognised both the value of the gift to her and the impact it could have in God’s hands and said:
‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all the others.’
It is a wonderful encouragement that all donations to TWAM matter, whatever their size.
Sitting under the eaves of the roof is Annie, busily knitting away. She tells us why she is there:
“I started at the Foundation three months ago. I am part of UCZ and one of the deacons at the church asked if I would be interested in coming. She asked me because she knew how hard my life was and how this would help empower me. I chose knitting because I had learned it at the orphan’s knitting school, but with no machine I could not use my skill. I like knitting because I can dream of having my own shop and business.”
When asked how she could do this without any money. Annie replied with a smile:
“I already make school jerseys and like to make them because there is business in school uniforms. It takes me one hour to make a jersey which I sell for 75 kwacha for a big one and 65 for a small one. I can make five jerseys in a day making 200 kwacha (£1.50) a day.”
She added almost in a whisper:
“I am not married so this is all I have to look after my two children.”
Annie is about to receive her own knitting machine and with it the beginning of the rest of her life.
Patrick stood quietly next to Annie during my conversation with her and never said a word. I assumed he had just come along to watch what was happening as after I had taken her photo and said my goodbyes he just walked off. I casually asked the trainer if they knew the young man and was told he too was being trained and had gone off because I had not spoken to him. In response I ran after him and invited him back for an interview. I was so pleased I did when he told me:
“I went to the knitting school because it is a simple and an easy job to do and I can use the machine after school. I am 23 but still at school because I had to stop school because my father died and my mother could not afford to send me. My sister is deaconess at the church and she offered me a home and support for school. I am now trying to catch up. My knitting helps pay for my school fees.”
“My mother lives in the copper belt (500 miles away) so I only see her and my other brothers and sisters once a year. It is very hard.”
Annie and Patrick are two people who have found the challenges of life on the poverty line too much to bear. We are so grateful they have found people to help them and that those people have found TWAM. Together we can help change the lives of two of the most moving people I met.