In a small community in remote rural Zambia, a group of seven industrious teenagers run a bee-keeping business. With their very limited resources, each of these boys has set up a traditional beehive to sell the honey in the village for little bit of pocket money.
Life in their community is hard. Their crops do not sustain them all year round and often they go hungry. There are few services in the area and children like these boys are needed to work, so they have little chance to get an education.
But this community is determined to change their situation. Working with Baptist World Aid Australia’s partner, the Reformed Church of Zambia – Diaconia Department, they have committed to transforming their village into a place where all children can grow and thrive.
This ten-year program involves community members at all levels, from the children themselves through to parents and teachers, community leaders and even the local government. Everyone has made a pledge to work together to address the major issues that are harmful for children.
When the Diaconia Department staff first started building relationships in the community, they identified the resourcefulness of these seven teenagers as a great asset. The staff talked with them and came up with a plan to make their little projects not just something that can give them a treat every now and then, but a building block towards their futures.
The field worker encouraged the boys to join their operations together. Some of the older men in the village taught them how to weave baskets to boost their income and they have now joined the Zambia Honey Council, which will give them access to a wider market. The Diaconia Department gave the boys a loan so that they could purchase modern, safer beehives that are more productive, and now they can make 5,000 Kwacha (about AUD$1) per kilogram of honey. With this income, they can pay off their loan in nine months, whilst also paying the small costs necessary for them to return to their education.
With a growing business and literacy and numeracy skills under their belts, these young entrepreneurs will soon be equipped to support themselves and face future challenges when they come.
The experience of these seven boys is just one of many in their village, and the program is only about a year old!
Over the next four years, the Diaconia Department plans to have programs running in 15 Zambian villages and our other partners are working with many more communities from the fishing villages of the Philippines to the jungles of Sri Lanka and the mountains of Nepal.
In these programs, Baptist World Aid is praising God as we see greater transformation to end poverty than we would have thought possible. The transformation Jesus began when he stood up in the synagogue and said, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’ (Luke 4:17-19).