Why we work in Zambia
0-14 years: 45.74%
15-24 years: 20.03%
25-54 years: 28.96%
55-64 years: 3.01%
65+ years: 2.27%
Compared to the UK:
0-14 years: 17.63%
15-24 years: 11.49%
25-54 years: 39.67%
55-64 years: 12.73%
65+ years: 18.48%
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 has taken several hits from greatly depressed copper prices and droughts regularly cause 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.
Life expectancy is just 64 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.
All country statistics, information and maps are reproduced with the help of the CIA World Factbook.
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 vocational training, schools without school books or computers, marginalised peoples, vulnerable women, impoverished communities and displaced peoples.
Below is a film we produced for our 2021 online TWAM Day. It features our volunteer Country Coordinator Paul introducing us to one of our exciting and important in-country developments, the appointment of 18 District Development Teams. It lasts about 10 minutes.
The Hope in Christ Community Church
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 8.00 am, wait all day and then be turned away at 6.00 pm 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 amazingly 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.
Wesley's Journey to Financial Security
The E.C. Bricklaying Group is based in Samfya, a town in the North-Eastern province of Luapula, where over 80% of the population lives in poverty.
These bricklayers were learning their trade by building houses for local residents, a method often used by skills training groups. This helps them to learn a new skill and earn money at the same time. It also offers employment opportunities to skilled builders who transfer their skills to their students.
A large portion of Zambia’s urban population lives in poor housing compounds or townships called komboni, which form small communities within the towns. Whilst in the past, these would have been shanty towns filled with crude huts, they have now largely been replaced by the concrete block houses which you see all over Zambia.
The particular group that we visited was building a house in an area that had been designated as a brand-new township. The area was mostly flat and empty, with only a few construction projects underway.
We spoke to Wesley, one of the students, who told us:
“I started learning bricklaying last year in July. I was doing nothing before I started bricklaying. I completed school, but my father died in a car accident, leaving my mother alone, so I couldn’t continue my education. I couldn’t find any work after leaving school, so I just did piecework.”
Piecework is one of the true indicators of household poverty in Zambia. It involves spending a whole day doing incredibly intensive work, usually receiving only enough money to buy food for that day. Those engaged in piecework hardly make enough to survive and certainly don’t make enough to support a family and save money for the future.
“I have a wife and 2 children to look after, a son and a daughter. Without bricklaying, I wouldn’t be able to support them. Now, I am even able to pay for my son’s nursery fees. Next year, I will finish my training course, and then, I will start my own group and give other trainees the same chance that I was given.”
Wesley’s attitude reflects that of so many people that we meet. Despite the fact that they have so little, they want to share what they have with other people in their community. Wesley could simply start his own business, hire skilled builders, and make money for himself and his family, but he wants to share the training that he has received with other people, and give them the opportunity to transform their lives, just as his life has been transformed.