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BREAKTHROOUGH

I have an NGO and work in LIvingstone Zambia with street orphans and vulnerable children in this developing country. This of course includes contact with and help for aunties and grandmothers, many of whom are forced to take as many as 18 little related children rather than move forward with their hopes and dreams.

I get very discouraged because most of these children's brains are not usually the best. Many damaged by malnutrition when young, dehydration, abuse, genetics, etc. They are very concrete at best. You can teach them one plus one equals two. But the concept of multiple choice is like putting a fish in the desert. To make progress is almost impossible. I, on the other hand, have always questioned life with "What can we do with what we have left?"

I am often in Livingstone because I believe "hands on" is necessary to progress and one way to guard against corruption, using money for self-gain, etc.

My kids who come to the hotel each evening for food discussion, debate and a motivational movie are very concrete. I always say they cannot see beyond their nose. As you can see, this is very limiting in terms of making good decisions. But I keep going.

Last week, Derick, one of my older street orphans emailed me in America and asked "Do you want me to get the Movie projector now from the Convent so this time when you come, we will be sure to have it to watch your motivational movies?" This does not sound like much to you but a few months ago when I was there Derick had waited until the last minute to pick up my movie projector from St. Mary's school, they had closed and we were unable to watch the movies they so enjoy and learn from.
This was a breakthrough moment. It doesn't sound like much to most people. BUT for all the years and times of working for change, this was a BIG deal. Perhaps the lesson is not to give up but to expect a lessor level and longer time frame and know that change can come if only on a small level.

Beverly, another male street orphan we sponsor, is not academically smart enough to do well in high school. In fact, he does not pass. BUT he sees me reading all the time and sees me pushing reading to others. Recently when I sent him 10 USD for soap, lotion and anything he deemed important to him he used part of the money to by a library card. Yesterday he emailed me asking about if a person can get over a nervous breakdown. He had been reading about this at the library and was curious to know. While is is 19 years old and it is took late to academically succeed, I think it indicates that progress can be made at a young age IF the quality people know how to work with this population. Curiosity has always been an indication to me that people are smarter than they may initially seem. I share this in the hopes it will incite action to look for opportunities, wherever you are, to make a difference.

Would like to hear comments.

Wendy Stebbins

Comments

Amei's picture

Dear Wendy,

This is a beautiful story of working with people and not working for people. Well done. Working WITH people takes a longtime to see the benefit. Once the people learn then it is what rewards the hard work.

I visited your journal to read more about you when you noted that people get more depended on NGO's and expecting to receive and do nothing for themselves' on a feedback you wrote. I was thinking your were working FOR them rather than WITH them.

I lived in Maldives and NGO's (with the assistance of local counterparts) give stuff to people who live in the remote island but the locals really do not know what to do. In the end the stuff given go to waste or used up. Now the political situation is so bad I fear for the Maldivians.

I am glad I was curious to know more about you. This article touched my heart. I am sure both kids are on the right track. Well done. I can see the Breakthrough! The Big deal. congratulations!

with high esteem
Amei

Wendyiscalm's picture

HI AMEI

Hi Amei.

What country are you in?

I was so happy to know that my info touched you. That in turn touched me. I want you to know I will write you a much longer email to tell you about me and learn about you.

In the meantime, if you have access, you can go on my website iamoneinamillion.ch. You will see I am different and have a different vision and how to get results, although I must say it is Very difficult and I feel like I am in a headwind much of the time. I am not making the progress I had hoped. It is slow and painful.

It gets very discouraging. I have the same problem. The natives do NOT help each other and they don't want to. And most of the people cannot think beyond their nose because that part of their brain was not developed fully. But my street orphans that come to the hotel, we have discussions and debates to teach them options. But it is hard. I really want to discuss all this with you more because your interest shows you have a big heart and desire to help your people.

I plan to get back to you. PLEASE tell me about yourself, what you do, your hopes and dreams, etc. You have given me more encouragement than you know just by your curiosity.

A problem street orphans and vulnerable children have in Livingstone Zambia is they do not do well in Math and English which means they cannot go far above 7th grade. That means there are no jobs for them. The schools are English speaking because it was ruled by England until 1964. So, one requirement is when they are with me they can ONLY speak English and we watch English movies. It is amazing how in 2 1/2 years they are so good at English. However, they only can think in black and white, concrete terms. That is not good for multiple choice test questions.

Derick who is one of the brighter ones in Grade 11 only got 34% out of 100% in English . The problem is that no university will take him if he does not get at least 45% as that is barely passing. I asked him vocabulary words from his Grade 11 book. He only got 5 our of 12 right. BECAUSE he did not even understand the question. So, he couldn't even make an educated guess. So, it isn't even learning the material for the next day, it is also about having a foundation to UNDERSTAND the information from past years so he is on his level. I knew he could not pass English exams. No way. So, I told him that since comprehension probably could not improve that he should focus on raising his grade by learning grammar and punctuation as that is basically memorization which he can do. Well, guess what? He just emailed me that he got 73% in his term 3 English exam. WOW !

I am in Chicago now going back to Zambia August 29th. In Zambia they have a problem of BRAIN DRAIN which Zimbabwe has been experiencing for years. People with brains have left the country as they are not paid enough or they could be jailed(in Zimbabwe at least it was that way). So, journalists, teachers, doctors,etc. are a real problem. The teachers in the government schools, called basic schools do not all have degrees and their teaching leaves a lot to be desired. It is discouraging. I know an educated couple who both teach. But they left Livingstone for another part of Zambia where they will get paid better. So, we keep losing. I have seen student teachers come into a school all excited and motivated. In 2 weeks they look so discouraged.

For example, Derick is good in Algebra and was studying for his upcoming test one time. Beverly(a boy) cannot remember 1 plus 1 equals two even.. So the kids were all studying together for an Algebra exam the next day.. Derick, said "Well I think we need to go back and learn addition because these other guys can't learn the algebra if they cannot add".

I said "NO!". There are 4 hours to study before algebra tomorrow. if you spend that time teaching Bev to add, how does that help you get a good grade in ALGEBRA tomorrow. You will fail. You need to do your own learning.

Now where did that idea come from in Derick? Well, his teacher, Mr. Gilbert, had been at a week-end teachers conference. The instructor had them get into small groups and the goal was to COOPERATE and come up with an answer to something. SO, Mr. Gilbert and the other teachers at this school came back and told all the kids in their classes, they must cooperate at all times not compete.

I told Derick there is a time to cooperate and a time to compete. If you are married and you and your wife have a difference in opinion you need to cooperate together to come up with a solution to the problem. But if you want to be the best in Algebra you must compete. it is nice to help others learn but this is not the day.

I went to the teacher the next day and we discussed it and he agreed with me. But you see if I am not there to monitor, and I am not always, things remain the same a lot.

Plus you know how hard it is for you and me to change a habit. Imagine them. They have no frame of reference and if they do, there are no support systems or role models for street orphans and vulnerable children.

My kids are REQUIRED to help. Last year they did tuition/tutor young kids twice a week, make the sandwiches in our room at night, clean the floor, go get my money changed to kwacha, and on and on. Right now they are negotiating the roof seal for our work project. Also each kid has to get seven other kids to be on their team so we can cover more roofs.

Anyway, I got carried away but will write more things as I think of them and hope and pray you will keep writing so we can help each other.

Ubuntu (I am who I am because of who we are together),

Wendy

Wendy Stebbins
Founder/CEO
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

Amei's picture

Better picture of what you are doing.

Currently I am in Australia.

This is very similar to the situation in the rural islands in Maldives. It is hard work and slow progress. Without continuous help and assistance your kids in Livingstone will progress slow. I am so proud of you and you are doing an amazing job.

A bit about me. I was a primary teacher, secondary teacher, a teacher trainer, lecturer and was conducting education and professional development workshops in Maldives. I moved to Australia to provide better opportunities to my two kids. Hence, I had to restart my life. Now, I work at an International office, in a University, assisting International students from India, China, Nepal, Kenya, Vietnam, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia - around the world. I enjoy assisting these students but I cannot say this is my passion. it also helps me learn about their country and cultures. I would like to work with people to develop them and see them succeed. I am currently working as a developmental coach as well in my spare time. Working with people keep me motivate to be life long learner. I still see me as an educator rather than an administrator and my education background and training always moves towards assisting people to learn.

You are undertaking a challenging job. I wonder how I could contribute to you. I have a dream to help orphans and that was one reason your work touched me. With kids like Derick and Bev the education they need may be different from going to a university degree. We may have to explore their strengths and work with those for their advantage. We may have to thing out of the box them. I don't know what to suggest without experience.

I know I have to generate money to assist orphans/disadvantaged kids in my birth country, specially in the rural islands. sometimes money becomes an issue even if I want to help. I visited Maldives recently and the situation for people living in small island communities are getting harder with the political turmoil in the country. It effects the economy and it is the people in the rural islands that gets effected mostly. some people in the islands are still struggling to recover from the 2004 boxing day Tsunami. My heart goes to them and I feel helpless. One day I will be able to do something concrete for them.

I came across WorldPulse by chance. It is good forum to be in as it inspires and encourages to continue to work towards what I want. Small steps but not to give up.

Wish you all the best for your trip to Zambia. In my travel list I have USA and Africa under want to visit places. Last year I had the opportunity to visit Nepal and Bhutan. Two very different countries and a major culture shock for me.

I am so glad I met you here. All the best.

Amei

Hi Amei,

It is a pleasure to hear from you and very exciting to get to know you because you remind me of myself.

First of all, looked up Maldive and am learning the history. Interesting, it because independent in in1965 while Zambia because independent from the Brits in 1964. It has a rather complex history I look forward to reading more about.

Second, if you choose to you can communicate me with me anytime on my email address which is www.headingforgreatness@gmail.com. I check that regularly. I took just somehow stumbled upon World Pulse and love it. Even the name is wonderfully energized with the expectation of progress.

Third, I have to tell you that you remind me so much of myself several years ago. I had children, I had a business, I had what most would consider an okay and complete life as others do. But I would feel guilty that I did not feel fulfilled. I would think, is this all there is? With all there is to do in the world why am I doing this mundane stuff? I knew I wasn't complete but thought there was something wrong with ME not my situation. I can to learn there is a life purpose which we set for ourselves, being a teacher, a doctor, a musician or whatever. That is our goal. But internally we know that we are not "enough" by our standards and the feelings inside of us. THEN , there is our SOUL purpose, that thing that we came to earth in the first place to do before we die. It is NOT something you can sit down and think about. In fact, it comes when you are not thinking about it.

I had heard that the way to find out what to live for is to ask ourself "What would I die for?" Whatever your answer, is what you must live for.It is your passion. It is your soul purpose. So, one day I asked myself the question. My answer was "my children" (Of course). But that seemed a little difficult as they were basically grown and really didn't want me around that much. So, there I was depressed again.

Then one day, I was driving along and without thinking I asked out loud "What would I die for?"

Again, without thinking or filtering the answer it came out of me "Injustice". And I KNEW that was my soul purpose. When push comes to shove, no matter what , seeing people treated unjustly is something I cannot stand and I would sacrifice for. I knew this was my soul purpose. But how to start. Well, I had heard of an organization called Amnesty International. So, I went on that sight. I joined the smallest amount allowed $50 USD. Then they have the action boards where you write letter to the governments or officials of say a Chinese journalist who is unjustly jailed, or a woman who is buried up to her neck and will be stoned to death in a week. You can take action as often as you want for many many causes and it really really helps and worlds. I get letters sometimes showing how it worked.

I knew it wasn't the who picture of who I was but it was a good start. But I am a hands on, eyeball to eyeball conversation kind of person. which lead me to what I now do on a small scale. I need help to grow though. I hope you will learn morea bout us and if the good lord is willing we will do something together. At least for now I hope I can inspire you and help you find your soul purpose.

I "Get" that your working as you do in education you appreciate but you know it is not all of who you are and that is your frustration I imagine.

ALSO, it is important that you know that I was quite shocked that you are probably the only person who has gotten my vision. While I know education is very important to the persons future. It is NOT number one in Zambia. I mean when the kids are starving for days, have no clean water,no blankets to sleep clay floors and they are freezing so cannot sleep, when rain is pouring in from the large holes in the ceiling so they are up all night shoveling it out instead of sleeping, filthy clothes and smell, no one to help them, are chased out of school for not having school fees,are diseased or their relatives, brothers, etc. have had malnutrition when their brains were developing as children, no light to study at night, education simply is not number one or the answer. You are also right, maybe there is something else for Levi and Bev. I paid for then to go to Taxi School for a month. They did not pass the first part (written) but they studied and then passed again. Then for the driving part their provisional license had run out as well as their medical exam so they did piecework to get those re-instated. Then they did not pass the second part because of the "cones" they said. They can retake. But when I get there I will have my driver practice driving with them every day so the get experience and then they can take the second part. It is HARD as you seem to "get". THANK YOU. Then if the can work for a year for a taxi company they will not be paid well. But after one year of this experience I will buy one taxi and they will have shifts and make good money . We decided we will call it "WEndy's Kids" taxi service. When I tourist gets in they will give them a brochure telling them how they started.

I have taken up enough of your time. I hope to hear from you.

Hang in there. Your time is coming.

Love and ubuntu,

Wendy

Wendy Stebbins
Founder/CEO
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

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