Friday, September 14, 2007

Almost Hell

Posted on behalf of Damon Guinn of Children International.

Another day has dawned in Kanyama, Zambia, and Shadreck Mukanjo waits outside his cracked mud hut for customers. Squatting on his haunches, he digs in the dirt with a cobbler’s tool and surveys the baked surroundings.

He’s sent his sons, Mukanjo and Biemba, to school, and now he has all the time in the world. But there isn’t a customer in sight. Who in this community of shoeless stragglers has any need for a cobbler?

Shadreck lifts himself with a heavy sigh. Hefting the weight of the world can be hard on the bones, and his are growing weary from worry. How will he ever earn the 20,000 kwacha (about $5) to pay the rent on his crumbling hut, he thinks to himself. The owner will surely come and threaten to evict them again, he frets.

It’s hard for Shadreck to imagine a greater insult than being evicted from a hut with listing walls and a huge crack that threatens to collapse the whole place at any moment. The hut’s so grim, he and his sons have spent nights trapped in a corner, waiting out the rains that flood the dirt floor. Then a disturbing thought creeps in...What if he and his sons are are buried alive when the house finally collapses?

Life has not been kind to Shadreck and his sons. Ever since his wife died and he lost his job more than 10 years ago, each day has been like purgatory. Shadreck does everything he can to scrape together 2,000 kwacha (about 50 cents) a day repairing shoes, but it’s hardly enough to cover both food and rent. There have been days when they don’t eat anything at all and must turn to their neighbors for help.
Waiting is nothing new to Shadreck...waiting for work, waiting for food...but waiting for impending disaster is hell. At least his sons have found some peace, some happiness. They are both sponsored, and the support they receive helps clothe them and keep them healthy. The fact that they are both in school definitely gives Shadreck a reason to be thankful. Having two sons in school is not common in these parts.

“My hope lies in the future of these children,” Shadreck has said reassuringly when asked about his family’s circumstances. Their future is certainly guaranteed, he believes, now that they have help from sponsorship.

And yet, there’s always a gnawing fear that he and his sons will be evicted or the house will collapse on them. But all he and his sons can do is wait. Maybe someday, Shadreck ponders to himself, they’ll find some saving grace...their waiting will end, and they’ll know what it feels like to be safe and secure.

Writer’s Note:
I met Shadreck and his sons a year ago. I had wanted to meet him ever since I heard about our staff’s first attempt to enroll Biemba and Mukanjo in sponsorship. Frustrated and enraged, Shadreck had chided our field officer, exclaiming, “I don’t know how many NGOs have come to my house to get information about me and my family, but look at my life, it hasn’t improved in any way!”

One look at his hut and Shadreck’s hostility seemed entirely justified. Their home wouldn’t even make a decent storeroom. Other groups had come and gone, leaving locals without so much as a trace of support. Why should Shadreck trust a group like ours when so many others failed to help?

During my visit, Shadreck confessed, “I trust CI because of the wonderful gifts I have been receiving together with my children and the services the organization offers.” At that moment, I desperately wanted the power to tell him we’d build him a new house. Unfortunately, regular sponsorship can only do so much.

My hope is that by writing this story, someone out there might feel compelled to build a new home for Shadreck and his sons. For them, even the simplest new home would be heaven on earth.


evergreen3 said...

I can provide something towards improving Shadrack's situation, if someone can contact me.

Anonymous said...

what would a simple structure like this cost? could a fund or something be set up for multiple donations so that the money could be raised? im sure there are many people out there, including me, that could contribute some but not the full amount... many small donations add up .. :)

Damon said...

That's great! Thanks to both of you for replying so soon. We'll contact the staff in Zambia right away and find out what the current costs are to build a modest home in Kanyama. We address these needs on a case-by-case basis since they require funding beyond the scope of sponsorship, although setting up a fund would be ideal.

Anonymous said...

be very interesting to know how much a new home costs in zambia,
how wld interested readers donate?

Alice said...

I am very interested in helping because I have two children in Zambia that I sponsor. I would like their situation to get better too. If you could put on the blog the cost and if there is going to be a account set up for this project. It touches my heart to hear this story because of my sponsored children. That could be there neighbor. He needs our love and help.

Jennifer said...

Thank you all for your interest in helping Shadrack and his family. We are contacting the field for specifics in regards to the cost for the house.

Because this falls outside the realm of sponsorship benefits, we handle donations on an individual basis. Please feel free to contact us at if you'd like to make a donation to this family or any other.

As soon as we have the amount, we'll post it!

Thanks again for your support!