A child's life

I've been thinking a lot about how very different the life of a child is in rural Zambia than one in America. In an area where nearly 45% of the people are under 18 it's easy to find yourself surrounded by children. I've met newborns and teenagers, babies learning to walk and children who can count their age on their fingers.

When I meet children who are the same age as my own three kids, I usually pay more attention to what those children are doing. I'm fairly certain that my 9, 12 and 16 year old children wouldn't be able to last a day in the village. My kids have it unbelievably easy.  They are responsible for very little.

After driving for two hours up a mountainside on roads that we would barely call hiking trails in the Pacific Northwest, we came upon a 13 year old girl named Nerott.  Nerott was in a uniform walking to school.  It was nearly 10 am so I inquired what time her school started.  She pointed to the sun and we were told that school starts at 1 pm.  She was just leaving so that she could make it to school on time.  She had told me that she had already fetched water, made food and did work around the home before starting her nearly three hour walk to school.  A walk that she makes every day.
Nerott starting her long walk to school.  She walks about 15 kilometers (9.32 miles) one way to school

Charrlwe and Nsabata are 10 and 11 year old brothers. Every day they herd cattle, fetch water, cultivate the fields and as they put it "do anything else that we are instructed to do."  This could mean taking a maize crop to the hammer mill or bringing items to other village members in this very large community.  The boys said that they rarely have time to play because they are busy with chores and are usually in the home.

Beauty is 13 and is often expected to take care of her ailing grandmother. She often misses school when her grandmother is sick.  Lointia, 16, fetches water, cooks and washes dishes and clothing.   The difference with Beauty and Lointia is that they now have a borehole that is very close to their home that provides them with clean water and a much shorter walk. 
Their health has improved and they are able to actually have free time now to play ball and be children.  A luxury that Nerott, Charrlwe and Nsabata don't have because a borehole has not yet been brought to their area {one is slated for the end of this year}.

I've seen small children {some as young as four} with babies on their backs caring for their little brothers and sisters.  Toddlers fetching water in jugs that are as big as they are struggling to walk just a few feet before they have to take a rest. 
I've seen boys driving ox carts to plow fields, children watching over a herd of goats or cattle.  I've heard stories of early marriage and girls as young as eight having babies.

My children rarely make the soft beds with the comfortable mattress and warm sheets and blankets that they have been given and that are regularly laundered. They seem to disappear when we ask them to set the table before eating the third square meal that we have provided for them with food that is usually pushed around and rarely finished. They complain when we require them to clean the bathrooms that they use or put the dishes that they dirty into the dishwasher that automatically cleans and sanitizes them with very little effort on their part. Clean clothes sit on piles on their floors just waiting to be put away.

It's amazing how very different the life of a child is on the other side of the world. Children have lots of responsibility and are looked at as an extra set of hands.  Rarely do children in rural Africa get to be children.  Providing easy access to schools and bringing clean water to the community are some of the first things that World Vision does through their child sponsorship program.  These don't alleviate the amount of responsibility that a child has, but it certainly helps free up some of the time that a child misses out on to just be a child.  

To find a child that is available for sponsorship, visit here. Click to learn more about the water effect and how World Vision is meeting that need in some of the most desperate areas.

A collection of stories from my week in Zambia
Rainbows and Water
Looking Forward to the Future
The Needs are so Great
Welcome Home
Spirit Lead Me Where My Trust is Without Borders
Preparing for Zambia

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