Education is the Heart of our Mission
Despite its natural beauty, and its status as a top safari destination among adventurous travelers, Zambia remains one of the poorest nations in the world—one that struggles to provide even the most basic services for its people: access to clean water and sanitation; quality maternal-child healthcare; essential food aid; and more. In Salesian communities throughout the country, our missionaries work hard to address the root causes and effects of such deprivation.
In many ways, their work is more crucial now than when they first arrived in 1982. During the past several decades, family incomes have fallen to historic lows, with dire implications. In rural areas especially—where 80 percent of the population can’t afford to feed themselves—children suffer acute deprivations that threaten their health, growth and potential. In fact, nearly 100,000 girls and boys under the age of five die every year. Those who survive remain challenged by a lack of educational opportunity that forever traps them in devastating poverty.
But there is hope according to Father Timothy Ploch, interim director of Salesian Missions. “When children can go to school—and when they are truly supported in their learning—they become capable of transforming their futures,” he explains. “For this reason, education is at the heart of everything we do in Zambia. Alongside our work to meet immediate humanitarian needs, our missionaries strive to make school accessible—and successful—for as many children as possible.”
In the capital of Lusaka, for example, Salesian missionaries operate City of Hope—a program that serves some of the area’s most impoverished children and families, including youth who have been abused, abandoned or trafficked. An on-site shelter provides safe accommodations and wraparound services for at-risk girls. Together with nearly 800 other youth between the ages of 9 and 17, they can also attend the Open Community School, where students receive a basic education free of charge, and can prepare to enroll in vocational training.
In the village of Lufubu, younger children have the opportunity to attend school thanks to funding recently provided by Salesian Missions. At the newly constructed Salesian Early Childhood Education Center, more than 100 preschoolers will enjoy a safe, healthy environment where they can build solid foundations for their future learning. Previously, many of these children would have been left unattended during the day without childcare because parents had no choice but to go to work.
Students attending Salesian schools throughout Zambia receive other vital support, too.
“We know that hunger is a daily reality for kids,” Fr. Tim says, “and so is the risk of water-borne disease. Both of these things work against their educational achievement … malnourished students suffer higher rates of cognitive impairments than their peers, and chronic illnesses keep them away from the classroom.”
That’s why our missionaries also provide clean water and nutritious daily meals. And the students are so grateful for the food that they call the meals “vi musanina”—loosely translated as “you will gain weight” or “you will grow healthy.”
Reversing Zambia’s trajectory won’t happen overnight, of course. But our missionaries are committed to changing lives, one child at a time. And each Salesian-run initiative represents a positive step in the right direction.
“Our missionaries have always understood the significant obstacles they face in turning things around—for children, for families, for Zambia as a whole,” says Fr. Tim. “Rather than be discouraged, however, they draw strength from the kind and generous support of our many friends who make their work possible each and every day.”
Learn more about our work in Zambia.
Our mission provides much-needed educational opportunities to impoverished children and young adults. What’s your mission?