Despite many problems, rendered even more difficult by the Covid-19 pandemic, despite limited access to basic sanitation and severe everyday hardships, life in tropical Africa is filled with faith, hope, self-confidence, and determination that never cease to astonish me. In Zambia, I witnessed, and experienced a way of life we could not even fathom. Just try to imagine what it would be like to have no material possessions whatsoever at this very moment… Africa, with its deep warmth, and its agony-ridden people, evokes such compassion, sympathy, and emotion. Experiencing that way of life is a cathartic experience for anyone coming from the West. Here, I wish to depict their circumstances – to portray a life so far removed from the safety and comfort of living in the western world.
This year, I spent some time in the Nawinda mission and visited several mission stations: Namenyu, Mbomu, Ibolelo, Sabelo, Samisisi, Mbuluminu and Santandu. The scenario is always the same – hardships, no food, no clothes or shoes, but a wealth of smiles and playful children, full of joy and vitality… They are the living proof of the old saying that happiness is not about having more, but needing less. When you enter the world of these villages, you have the impression you have entered another dimension, a dimension of the unbearable lightness of being, as Kundera would put it.
I have never encountered such humanity, kindness, honesty, sincerity, helpfulness, concern for others, and deep genuine joy in the face of such extreme poverty. And being humane and poor at the same time is a difficult task. When I suggest that people in Africa are happy, I am frequently met with the response, “Well, they don’t know any better!” That is simply not true! They are well aware that there are better clothes and shoes, there are solar panels that can provide them with electricity, and blankets that can keep them warm in cold African nights. They know there is better food than the polenta they eat every day… They are aware of it all, they just can’t afford it. The Heart for Zambia Foundation, with the support of kind people, is seeking to help these impoverished people through educational projects, because “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” (N. Mandela).
Thank you to everyone who made it possible for the hundreds of youngsters I met this year to be happier and smile more. Thank you, Žabac Food Outlet, for providing each child with a lollipop or a candy, and thank you, Croatia Airlines, for permitting all of the gifts to reach the children despite the fact that they were in the excess baggage. Thank you to Josip Jović Elementary School in Aržano for donating soccer balls to the children of Samisisi and Sabel, as well as the children’s T-shirts, which brought them great happiness. Thank you to those who made it possible for each mission station to get a Bible and catechetical materials in Lozi, and thank you to everyone who has contributed in any way to the work of the Heart for Zambia Foundation. You can read more about our projects in the posts to come.