I ﬁrst met Sam while conducting our initial vulnerability assessment into the impact of the drought on the community in Mwandi. I drove up to the sunbaked huts that pass for a school, offering apologies for adding my trailing dust cloud to the lesson being taught in the tiny sand-ﬂoored classroom.
Twelve pairs of eyes peered out from the dark, windowless classroom. I had come to ask Sam what impact if any the drought was having on his ability to deliver an education to his students.
Dismissing the pupils, he beckoned me into the classroom and showed me the attendance register with its plummeting numbers, clearly displaying the impact.
Also inside the register was a bundle of letters from parents who said they would no longer be sending their kids to school because they did not have enough food at home to send them to school with a lunch—certainly not enough to sustain the kilometers of walking involved in attending school every day.
Sam had replied to every letter, telling the parents to send their kids and explaining that he would share the little food he has with them.
So it was that behind the classroom we found a small wood stove with a bubbling pot and the twelve children sitting quietly in the shade, waiting to share their teacher’s lunch. This has affected me deeply; it displays not only the “face” of the crisis but also everything about how we respond. I drove away with my sunglasses ﬁrmly in place and a lump in my throat, humbled, shamed, and embarrassed but also absolutely resolute and encouraged by the selﬂess actions of a 20-year-old.
World Renew, with the support of the Canadian Food Grains Bank and the Canadian government, will be setting up school feeding programs and local agricultural production units in Sam’s school as well as eight other schools in the area. This feeding program aims to entice kids back into school while addressing some of the food shortages for the short term. This school-based program will run alongside a larger food relief program targeting 2,500 of the most vulnerable households in this drought-affected region.
World Renew Zambia