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While I am specifically referencing Livingstone Zambia, my point is to sensitize all of us well meaning people in whatever country we find ourselves wanting to help about the importance of understanding the multi-layered culture and inherent problems so that our help doesn't make the people more dependent and the change has sustainability.. My goal for sharing this article is to encourage you to dig below the surface, to know that you do not have all the answers and that the answers sometimes are found in the most unlikely places through people you least expected to teach and educate you.

This article will be written in three parts.


December 2006 through December 2011

The Short Version: I have concluded my 4 year study begun in December 2006 focused on why there is little or no progress in Livingstone Zambia despite a plethora over many years of missionaries and volunteers. At that time, my first experience in Africa, after 3 days I asked myself "Why does nothing seem to work long term here?" I focused on Livingstone Zambia. 4 months out of the year I am there taking in quietly the people, the customs, the traditions, listening more than talking. For the most part, since December 2006, I have been almost embedded with the 110,000 citizens from judges, to mayors to street orphans. After 4 years, I believe the main reasons and causes for the little if any lasting progress in Livingstone Zambia are:

1. DISEASE: AIDS/TB, cholera, malaria and other indigenous disease threaten and control much of the Zambians life expectancy and quality of life. Between January and July of 2007, 3 adults I knew died from TB. Cholera during the rainy season gives a native maybe 2 weeks to live. Malaria is like the flu would be to us as they have built up an immunity to this disease. Yet very young and very old die from Malaria. If it is not medicated, people of any age can die. However, it is not all about physical life. Bill Gates completed a revealing longitudinal study. Results: If in a vulnerable country a mother has a disease while pregnant the child will ALWAYS be born with an I.Q. of 80 or less. The higher the disease the lower the I.Q. Three quarters of these cases are in southern Africa where my NGO I Am One In A Million is. If I.Q. is not affected, they are all damaged. In a clinic where I worked, I witnessed AIDS patients being given the wrong medicine.
I was also told by the doctor I was working with in this poor-excuse-for a clinic that he was leaving in 6 months for Libya because he had worked in this job for 6-7 years and had seen NO progress.

2. DEHYDRATION: Lethargy, lack of focus and memory are not due so much from lack of nutrition as from dehydration. We will discuss brain development and malnutrition later. I have a program when I am in town where 9-11 select street orphans come daily to my hotel to learn manners, eating at a table, showering, using toilets, computers, swimming, studying, interacting with other hotel guests and then at the end of the evening dance and watch a motivational movie before they return to their hut for the night. At the hotel prior to our hydration, water bottle program I noticed their urine was thick and yellow. Signs of dehydration. So, I started an 8 glass a day program along with a multi-vitamin. Their energy, memory and focus was noticeably improved after 3 1/2 months when I returned and they met me at the airport.

3. NUTRITION: Everything centers around hunger. Over-riding hunger is the desire "to be somebody". Signs of malnutrition in early years up to age 9 or 10: large head disproportionate to body size. Cannot be educated about nutrition because they are starving. For example, mango trees are quite plentiful and the fruit is FREE. The street orphans and vulnerable children eat the outside of the mango also rather than peel it because it is roughage/fiber and fills their stomachs despite knowing the outside rind is laced with bacteria, they may get ill or even die. Many school age children have morning stomach problems because they are hungry. This means they cannot focus on school. Nshema/maize/corn is the staple of Zambia. The government has recently reduced the cost. Some street orphans go to school only to get one meal 3-4 times a month from the World Health Organization. Except since the recession the meal does not always come. It is 3 USD to feed one street orphan per day, 2 meals a day. Common relief from hunger: if given anything (a teeshirt, an old battery, shoes, a book) they often sell these at the market to buy food. Benson was given a new expensive bicycle by a white tourist who felt sorry he had to walk 10 miles to school and back. As soon as she left the country, he sold it for money to buy food and/or "cool" clothes. I AM ONE IN A MILLION knows several young boys who have stolen televisions to sell and buy food for their families and then have been jailed for months. Everything centers around hunger as stated above: the lies they tell non-residents, the stealing, the giving away of what has been given them. If one has been almost embedded as I have, you understand this. 2007: I AM ONE IN A MILLION gave Christmas wrapped new sports watches to 25 street orphans in school. Later I was told by one they had been hoping the gift was food as they were so hungry. Common to hear is "I can't help it, as the teacher is talking I try to imagine how a piece of bread going down my stomach would feel."

4. SABOTAGE: Family sabotage: i.e. Levi was getting ahead. his auntie each night would yell at him all night as he studied with his solar lamp. She would chase him out of his closet where he sleeps and studies. He would go outside the hut. She would follow him and continue yelling "Why don't you make Wendy your mother she does so much for you. If you go to tutoring/tuitions tomorrow that Wendy has set up for you, I will not feed you at night. It is your choice." He would think "Wendy said without an education I cannot be somebody. So, I will choose study over eating though I am very hungry."

At the school, teachers will take the children's books and sell them at the market. Or if books are sent to basic government schools the teachers or headmaster will often sell them. It is not uncommon for the kids not to get them.


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

Wendy Stebbins


lamees's picture


this is truly remarkable wendy . no one will ever get over their delay till they are honest with themselves .

Wendyiscalm's picture

Your message

Thank you Larnees. I appreciate and value your words and acknowledging this.

Please when you have time could you tell me about yourself.

Ubuntu (I am who I am because of who we are together.


Wendy Stebbins
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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