All of us understand the incredible importance of education as both a means to a better life and an end unto itself. However, the right to an education is a right that is too often out of reach for the people of Zambia. In this poverty ridden country, government schools are free, but students are required to pay beyond their means. Exams in the 7 th , 9 th and 12 th grade are required. If ones fails any comprehensive exam they no longer go to school. Not only do they pay for the tests, they are required to pay for the results as well. In addition, they have to pay for uniforms, school supplies and an approved pair of shoes costing close to $15/pair. Keep in mind the average income of Zambians is less than $2/day. It is not hard to do the math and figure that school is far too costly for many.
Only 63% of Zambians over the age of 14 can read and write. Girls are much less likely to attend secondary school than boys, who still may be unable to manage the financial demands. Many have left school because ‘sponsors’ have died or needed to direct funds elsewhere. Sadly, when school fees are given to girls by an older man much is expected in return. RecycloCraftz has empowered most families within the ministry to keep their children in school beyond levels they attained themselves. In addition, their relatives in rural settings have benefited along with the orphans under their care. Grown women within the ministry have paid standing educational debts, been tutored, paid to retake exams, paid to get results and entered into post-secondary school to pursue careers in education and nursing. By providing a financial means, and encouraging that growth, generational changes are being made.
The average Zambian must live on less than $1.25 per day. RecycloCraftz is creating an environment that will foster economic growth. Education, nutrition, vocation training, healthcare and spiritual maturation are all necessary for development, but they are not sufficient. There needs to be economic opportunities as well. What is the use of growing surplus crops if there is no market for them? How will education transform the lives of young people if there are no jobs for recent graduates? How can bright entrepreneurs create their own businesses if there is no capital or credit? RecycloCraftz is committed to creating economic opportunities so that, with all the necessities of life ensured, the people of Zambia can begin to develop themselves.
In the first quarter of 2019 alone, we have sent 6 additional donated sewing machines, including a second industrial machine from the U.S. to Lusaka for the artisans to use in the production of more handbags, backpacks, zippered bags, aprons, and other merchandise created for sale in America. In 2016 six members completed sewing courses offered by RecycloCraftz and received ‘half’ of a treadle sewing machine with an auxiliary motor of their own. They also received a microloan to ‘purchase’ the other half so they could utilize their new skills immediately and work more productively from home.
As of December 2018, 30 artisans were employed by the ministry. 90% of these artisans have been with the ministry since its beginning in 2008. Numerous artisans are the young adult children of members. A modified shipping container, equipped with doors, windows and electricity, serves as their comfortable workshop on the secure ½ acre plot that includes a ministry house with library and chicken house. Artisans are learning kingdom-focused business principles while learning a trade which enables them to always have a trade to rely on.
Artisans creating merchandise for sale earn a fair trade wage in the Zambian economy. They receive 60 % of the Zambian value of the product when it passes quality control inspection. An additional 20% is deposited into a savings account they can access at the end of each month. Being unfamiliar with saving accounts, they initially asked, “Aunt Tracy, why are you stealing our money?” Now, after 10 years, they say, “Please just give me a little of my earnings and put the rest into savings.” The remaining 20 % is money used for the running of the ministry, teaching them the business principle that some monies need to be reinvested into the business. With increased funding the percentages will change and the income earned by each artisan will increase.
Micro-loans are also available to members of the ministry when a need is established. With the loan, budding entrepreneurs have the capital to start a business or build up an existing one. They provide services to the community and begin making more money of their own! Many younger women pay off school fees that have prevented them from advancing in their education after dropping out of school in the past. Each member is responsible for re-paying the loan and a system is in place ensuring a pay back schedule.
A new financial future is on the horizon for many of the RecycloCraftz artisans.
Members of RecycloCraftz and their families are living in a country that has been missionized since the days of David Livingston in the late 1800s. Governmentally, Zambia has been devoted to Jesus Christ. However, with one of the highest AIDS orphan population and a rampant alcoholism rate there is a disconnect for most between their faith and their behavior. In the RecycloCraftz community the early Church in Acts is modeled. They are being led into relationship with Jesus and taught what that means to live a Biblical lifestyle. We know that regardless of what other financial, nutritional, educational, or vocational principles we teach, we must model what life in Christ looks like in order to nurture what matters most – an eternal relationship with Jesus.
RecycloCraftz leaders are always relating daily experiences back to Biblical truths and using Bible illustrations to narrate present-day situations. The artisans’ journeys also include being missional, right where they are. They are taught what it looks like to reach out to others within their own communities to be the hands and feet of Jesus within Kamanga.
Cultural changes are challenging to address, however, because we are invested generationally, we are being trusted to train children and speak truth to older people about spiritual matters and domestic violence. This is typically a male-dominant culture and boys and young men are trained to dominate girls. We are teaching a Kingdom-culture, however, and trained young men that women are equal and should be respected as fellow Children of God.
RecycloCraftz is fostering improved/safer living conditions in the compound of Kamanga. Life is improving by helping to finance and encouraging the purchase of clean mattresses and mosquito nets, focusing on clean water and family based toilets. Seeing electricity installed in homes and providing a way to purchase the pay-by-unit fees there is new power and a sense of pride in homes. Adding sturdy doors, windows and metal security bars decreases rampant robberies within the poverty-ridden compounds where the members dwell. We have witnessed increased home ownership, less moving from one unfinished rental home to another, and more stability within the households in general.
RecycloCraftz microloans have played a vital part in establishing these improved living conditions. Members have dug wells on their property, expanded their homes after living in cramped and overcrowded rooms, added roofs to their homes where bed sheets have previously protected them in a country where it rains only three months of the year. Very few Zambians know about or use credit cards. Because bank accounts are costly to maintain and require trips out of the compounds many Zambians invest in building materials when they acquire a few extra kwatcha (dollars). Turning any extra funds into crude cinderblocks, bags of cement or door and window frames is their way of looking to the future. No one who borrows and then can’t repay needs to borrow those investments. It seems like everyone in Zambia has a building project going on somewhere within Lusaka or in their familial remote village far away. Sadly those who do need to borrow cash are often the victim of high stake usury when they can’t borrow money from family and friends.
RecycloCraftz is fortunate to work in the capital city of Lusaka, not too far from the local hospitals. The problem is most people in the compound of Kamanga do not have extra money to afford healthcare nor the funds to hire transport to take a sick family member to the local clinic. In focusing on a multi-faceted encouragement of our people group, we foster improvement of living conditions for healthier living – clean beds, mosquito nets, feminine hygiene materials, and financial gifts when crises situations arise.
Zambia has the 7th highest AIDS infection rate in the world. More than 1 in 7 adults is infected with HIV. Talking about the disease and one’s status is taboo but we seek to openly communicate with our people and those outside the ministry about the importance of purity before marriage, decreasing the incidence of pre-marital pregnancy and seeking medical help to determine the presence and treatment of the HIV virus.
Zambian hospitals and clinics operate differently than what we are used to in the US. Family members are required to bring food to feed their loved one whom they bathe and tend to as they lay on wire frames with minimal bedding. In the past our contribution of yogurt, $10 and a trip down the street to the pharmacy to purchase medicine that had run out in the clinic saved the life of a member’s husband who made it through 47 days of a 60 day regimen to treat TB. TB occurs when one is struggling with HIV. In addition, women are developing uterine cancer after treating their AIDS with ARVs ( antiretroviral drugs) , good nutrition and vitamin supplements.
19% of the people, including children, in Zambia die from malaria. This is just one of the common diseases that can be controlled with a simple mosquito net and treated with proper hygiene and medical care. The average life expectancy in Zambia is 52 years of age, compared to 78 in the United States. One statistic says that 10% of the children die before reaching the 6th grade. Sadly, the young daughter of one of artisans died in January 2019 simply because mom delayed in taking her to the clinic. The child’s widowed grandmother, also a RecycloCraftz member has not been to a weekly meeting nor out of her house in over a year due to pain in her knees limiting mobility. $5/ week would provide transport, physical therapy and medication that would restore this woman to her normal activities.
Another widow and member, Mary Daka, has been blessed by the RecycloCraftz ministry. Long ago she lost her leg in bus accident. Hobbling on crude wooden crutches, Mary was fitted for a prosthesis, but it was such an anomaly and required many trips to a distant specialty clinic, she never used it on a regular basis. However, Mary has received lightweight durable aluminum crutches that have been adapted as she ages.
As a pediatric occupational therapist, founder Tracy Murray looks forward to living in Zambia again to share the knowledge she has with those in need. It is said that there are only 2 OTs in a country the size of Texas. Currently Tracy is privileged to work with friends running a compound based therapy ministry when she is in country. Organizing therapeutic mission trips is one of the visions Tracy has once she returns to full time Zambian living in 2021.
It is one of life’s cruelest ironies that people in the developed world die from too much food, while people in the developing world die from too little. RecycloCraftz understands that education, financial security and even a spiritual life are nearly impossible to address when hunger and dehydration plagues those we are serving. Malnutrition affects much of the country that survives on the staple of nshima- a very thick porridge made of fine ground corn served in lumps and eaten by hand. This, combined with the large consumption of white bread and highly sugared candies and sodas, causes many to lack the nutrients required to sustain a healthy lifestyle. Good nutrition, critical to the lifelong development of babies and small children, affects the survival rate of those on the ARV (Antiretroviral drugs) who are fighting the HIV disease.
There is a 40% incidence of stunting of growth in Zambia and those affected most by poverty and hunger can have pigmentation changes in skin and hair by malnutrition. RecycloCraftz has established a garden area at our ministry center where members are able to grow some of their own food and nurture a sense of accomplishment and pride.
Tomatoes, cabbages, greens, onions, peppers, small eggplants and carrots all grow in a large patch were members have access to space not available in their crowded compound living situations and a consistent source of water and fertilizer.
A microloan was used by project manager, Barnabas Mwindula, to start a chicken raising business at the ministry center. Members who are willing butcher the chickens and receive heads, intestines and organs in payment for their work.
From an employment standpoint, RecycloCraftz has been very successful in enriching lives in our people group. We strive to teach skills which are transferable to income generating opportunities and can be pursued at home and in the workplace. The sewing skills taught in our workshop can translate into seamstress skills as a source of employment or as occasional piece work. Bookkeeping and organizational skills have been used to achieve full time employment for some. Attention to detail when evaluating products created by the artisans, development of new products, adjusting sizes and preparing orders for export to the US develops skills transferable to many vocational opportunities.
With an unemployment rate over 47% in Zambia it is very difficult to obtain full time employment. Building confidence and vision casting for a new and improved way of life educationally and economically with a Biblical based world view are foundational to any vocational advancement for our artisans.