“Our living conditions were very pathetic. My mother had no money to pay for rent, so we lived in a small tent – me, my mother and my four siblings.”
Martin, 24, still remembers how difficult life was before he and his family joined the SOS Family-Strengthening Program in Lusaka, Zambia.
Mary, his mother, had lost her husband some years ago. With five children to take care of on her own—and no job—life became very daunting. She was only able to provide her children with one meal a day.
“This really affected us mentally and it also affected our concentration at school because sometimes we would go to school on an empty stomach,” Martin said in a recent interview.
Martin, his younger sister, his mother Mary, and two little cousins at home in Lusaka, Zambia.
Before joining the program, Mary raised money for her family by crushing stones and selling the smaller bits on the street to people who would use them for construction or gardening.
“When her business was slow, it meant sleeping on empty stomachs or going to school hungry. Therefore, we would rather help our mother in her stone crushing business at the expense of attending school,” Martin said.
In 2009, Mary enrolled in the SOS Family-Strengthening Program, and her family’s life improved immediately. Mary and her children moved to decent living accommodations, and all the children reenrolled in school. Mary also received financial support to ensure her kids would have the necessary school supplies.
Across four locations in Zambia, there are about 1,500 vulnerable families like Mary’s who participate in the program. Many of them—like Mary’s family—are women-headed households. SOS Children’s Villages supports all families in ways that empower them to provide a loving and safe family environment for their children.
In Mary’s case, she attended a course on how to establish a business, including lessons on economics and accounting—after which she opened her very first own business.
“My mother owns a small restaurant within our community, and from this small business she is able to provide us with decent and regular meals. We have three meals in a day, and we are living as a happy family,” Martin said.
Mary works at her own restaurant, which she opened with the support of SOS Children’s Villages.
The family has a house of their own, built for them by Habitat for Humanity, an organization with which SOS Children’s Villages Zambia partners to support families in Zambia.
“I’m proud of our house, proud of my restaurant and proud of the kids’ efforts in school. And I am grateful for having had the opportunity to bring these changes about in my children’s lives,” Mary said.
Children dance around Mary in front of her family home.
Martin’s older brother has completed his studies and is currently looking for employment as an electrician, while Martin is studying power systems engineering at the SOS Vocational Training Center in Lusaka. The younger siblings are still in school.