PART 3 OF AN EXCLUSIVE 3-PART SERIES; READ PART 1 AND PART 2
The light-hearted Zambian woman in a red-red A-line dress takes me to an alley in one of the more shrinking slums of Lusaka and makes a turn and stops at the empty shell of an improvised hut. The rough skeleton of uneven wooden posts, double and tin plates mixes with hundreds of others.
A collapsed plastic sheet, which offers no protection at all, is wrinkled underneath.
& # 39; I was here & # 39 ;, says Shalom. & # 39; Here I would sleep. & # 39;
The 20-year-old points to a pile of dried grass in front of the coarse hut – the improvised litter that has largely reduced a roaming charcoal stove to black powder. She is smiling for a photo.
Shalom came to the attention of Family Legacy as a 10-year-old orphan. The social workers of the Texas social service saw her in the Buseko Market slum and took her home. Some children there, & # 39; she says, & # 39; still sleep in the drain. & # 39;
Her mother had sent her and her two sisters to Lusaka and remained in a village about 260 miles to the west, about the distance between Washington and Pittsburgh. She hasn't been back for years.
& # 39; I can't remember the face of my biological father, & # 39; says Shalom. & # 39; Not at all. He died when I was about three or four years old. I was too young and nobody even has a picture of him. & # 39;
Shalom, 20, shows the spot at the Buseko Market compound in Lusaka, Zambia where she slept until she was 10 years old; the native staff of the Family Legacy charity seized her and gave her a safe place to grow up; she never knew that her father and mother live in a remote village; she yearns to become a pediatrician
More than 1 million children in Zambia grow up without parents, largely as a result of an AIDS pandemic claimed by countless fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles and other extended family members; the current generation of Zambian youth can often be seen in the streets of the slums of Lusaka, children raised by children
The area where Shalom grew up is called Buseko Market; people live between a stone wall and a sewer canal, sleep on washed-out bales of dried grass and get water from a common well; there is no electricity or public sanitation
Family Legacy shares Catherine's photos before and after photos at the age of three (left) and the age of eight today (right); Catherine was born in a teenage prostitute on Buseko Market; she and her sister Beatrice, then seven years old, slept in roadside heaps alongside a road where trucks regularly passed, according to the organization's chief relationship officer Holly Scurry.
Scurry walked the streets and alleys of Buseko Market with Shalom as an expert guide; she has been there hundreds of times and keeps an eye on the boys and girls who go to one of the 26 free education schools in her organization
When a Zambian orphan says her father died more than 12 years ago, nobody asks how he died.
Like most sub-Saharan African countries, the landless nation has lost a generation of men and women to AIDS. Shalom and a million others went on without one or both parents.
Her sisters have seven children between them, and she lives with them all in a neighborhood in Lusaka that, although poor, is an upgrade from where she started.
Her children are not in Shalom's plans. This luminous, rebuilt orphan is trying to receive medical training.
& # 39; I want a pedia, a pediatric, you know, a doctor for children, "she laughs, unable to spit it out in English.
Shalom hopes to enroll at Cavendish University in Lusaka, where medical training is offered.
She and Holly Scurry, Chief Relationship Officer of Family Legacy, walk through the dusty alleys of the slum market just before sunset and buy yellow bags of rice and corn flour, the ingredients for a breakfast grit with baguette. A little money buys a bucket from a larger bucket.
They divide it into smaller bags and give it to families they know. For some, it is the only meal of the day.
Zambia, a six-year-old mother named Fatima, told me days ago in a different slum, & sometimes the food is gone, but we never have children anymore. & # 39; She also cared for the three children of her deceased sister.
Zambia must turn that limitless crop of orphans into doctors, lawyers, and financial wizards, Scurry says. If you choose them over the ocean, you will not get the big picture.
EMMA, BUPE AND ESTHER
Emma, 21, sees herself in the same light.
& # 39; We want to change our nation. If most Zambian children were adopted, Zambia would not develop at all, & she explains. Family Legacy found her at the age of 11 in the Kamanga compound, a softer word for slum. Her younger sisters Bupe and Esther would follow.
Emma & # 39; s life almost ended up in the hands of her mother, an alcoholic, single-parent widow who raged one night after a fire, consuming everything in their barracks. She then blamed the girl for nine years for overthrowing a charcoal stove that was their only nocturnal source of light and warmth.
Emma ran into the flames to save her baby sister, without knowing that her mother was too drunk. Baby Esther survived but was so badly burned that now, 12 years later, her hair is growing in more than patches.
& # 39; My biological mother would drink a lot. She would hit me, & Emma says. & # 39; If something was missing at home, I would be the culprit. She hit me so hard. & # 39;
Emma, now 21, tells a story about how her alcoholic and insulting mother once threw a knife at her and hit her in the head for a minor offense; her step-uncle later tried to rape her; she is a success story and enrolls Family Legacy to save her and her two sisters
Emma once ran into a fire to save her then young sister Esther (photo 4), who was burning but alive; her mother blamed Emma for the fire and hit her
Today Esther, 12 (right), and middle sister Bupe, 15 (left), live in the children's village where Emma has moved to the university; Bupe alternates between soft crying and a run of cheerful teen language about how much she likes a & # 39; skinny jeans & # 39; want to have
Fifty-seven Zambians die of AIDS-related diseases every day. Twenty-three are children; asked where his mother and father are, this boy (left) in the Chainda compound in Lusaka said: & I don't see them now & # 39;
She remembers one day in her years in which she had misunderstood what her mother had sent her to buy at an open-air market, and returned with eggs instead of oranges. The eggs broke.
& # 39; My mother was so upset that she threw a knife at me. It hit me somewhere in the head, & she remembers. & # 39; She would hit me with a metal stick. She would hit me with what she had. & # 39;
And then, just like shopping, she drops a bomb: & # 39; My step-dad tried to rape me. & # 39;
Her mother did not believe her. She chose the side of the man to keep the peace with her then last husband, his brother. Today she sells vegetables and has another son, Emmanuel, who is three. Emma thinks her mother might be pregnant again.
Bupe, the 15-year-old middle sister, lives with Esther in the children's village & # 39; Tree of Life & # 39; from Family Legacy. Emma says that Bupe & # 39; will literally cry all day & # 39; about minor negatives.
The girl who inhales Nancy Drew mysteries keeps details of her traumatic past with her, but cries quietly about how & # 39; life would be bad & # 39; if she would still live in the compositions because & # 39; I would not go to school & # 39 ;.
Bupe has amazing scientific figures. Doctors in Zambia can earn a lot of money, she muses softly. Moments later, she and her sunny eyes are fifteen again. Bupe likes to eat rice and sausage. She yearns for skinny jeans. Her chuckle is contagious.
Two girls in the children's village & # 39; Tree of Life & # 39 ;, a group of 64 purpose-built houses where the most desperate orphans of Lusaka can live safely, are portrayed washing their clothes outside the house they share with ten others girls and a few houses. mothers who change shifts
Dalitso was retarded and devastated by AIDS (left) by the time he first received antiretroviral drugs; although they kept his HIV under control, the virus had damaged his spine to the point where he later lost the use of his legs; he stopped taking the drug at some point in the hope that he would die, but today he is a healthy 20-year-old (right)
THE SHY, THE SUICIDAL AND THE FUTURE
Other children in the orphan, the saved future of Zambia, hide their suffering behind photogenic masks.
Joyce, flyweight at the age of 18, bounces on a model railroad and giggles a universal teen language that hides a subject she will only describe as & # 39; a very difficult situation & # 39; – words whose overtones carry gravity. With her eyes down, her neck hanging, her lips raised, she suddenly stopped.
& # 39; You cannot know what I feel if you are not close to me & # 39 ;, she says. & # 39; Look, I am a talk, talk, talk person. And I love to sing. Church songs. But I'm shy. & # 39;
On the first calm and then reedy, and finally in full copper, Joyce sings an worship song that has been made popular by Nigerian gospel singer Mercy Chinwo.
Joyce, rescued from one of the terrifying slums of Lusaka, wears a smile that hides a secret trauma, something she doesn't talk about but silences her when she thinks about it
& # 39;Jesus, you love me too much, & # 39; she sings. & # 39; All your promises are "Yes" and "Amen". & # 39;
& # 39; You are not a man. You never lie. & # 39;
For some in Lusaka, the will to live is the success story.
Dalitso, 20, once stopped taking his HIV medication and prayed that he would die as his mother. She died when he was five years old and his father died seven years later.
The virus, his only birthright, left his immune system powerless to ward off an infection that attacked his spinal cord. He walked to his knees and moved one leg and the other with his hands like a puppet.
& # 39; When I was eating, I always vomited. My legs were paralyzed, & he remembers. & # 39; I developed the sores in my mouth and nobody knew how to treat them. & # 39;
That was six years ago. When Dalitso returns to the compound to visit a distant uncle, he doesn't talk about it.
& # 39; In Zambia if you have HIV, it's hard to share with people & # 39 ;, he explains. & # 39; It will go around. They keep no secrets and you will find some who commit suicide. But it's like it's fine. If you understand, it's fine. & # 39;
Dalitso is walking now, but low on the ground like many his age. Forty percent of Zambian children are on the rise at the age of five.
The ruthless illness and malnutrition kept his bones short. A long-awaited teenage growth sprout never came, making him just under 5 feet tall.
Dalitso is a born hobbyist and can repair almost anything. He had long wanted to be the captain of a ship, but has never seen an ocean.
Instead, becoming a psychologist, he says, can help him short the next round of national hopelessness.
& # 39; I have changed my career & # 39 ;, he announces. & # 39; At the moment I want to do counseling. I can be the captain of a ship. I can achieve what I want, but my heart is for this. & # 39;
& # 39; I like to share and talk to young people, those who are lame, those who can't do anything. & # 39;
Richard, an enthusiastic chess player who never owned a chessboard, now has his first set (the pieces are in); he wants to become Zambia's Minister of Finance, and then the president of his country; The only pediatric infectious disease specialist, an American from Alabama, rescued the orphan child from probable death when a painful and persistent bacterial infection ate through the tibia in his right leg
Poor children in Zambia usually play chess and checkers with two-color water bottle caps and hand-drawn grids
& # 39; I AM COMPLETELY HEALED & # 39;
The trajectory of a child's life in the United States can seem bleak to that at the bottom of the scale. Emergency walk-in departments, social benefits and insufficiently funded public schools are experiencing too slow a rise to the middle class, but the lifelines are free, even for undocumented migrants.
Zambia is a land-locked African country whose Third World is hiding its status as an oasis for Congolese fleeing war and Zimbabweans escaping the economic collapse; but because AIDS condemned a generation of adults, the median age of Zambia is less than 18 years old
Thousands of miles to the east, health is a luxury. Dinner is often what you can steal. Books are expensive and teachers are rare.
Richard, the boy whose leaky wound once dropped a piece of his leg into a surgeon's hand, is a success story. He's going to college.
& # 39; I think I am completely healed & # 39 ;, he says. & # 39; I suffered a lot. & # 39;
With scars and silence beside him, Richard can be any American teenager in the middle class. He is not sure if he wants to date, but he knows some girls who want him to decide.
Children in Lusaka play chess as they play dams, with two different colored caps of water bottles and lines that are inked on cardboard or scratched in the dirt. Letters in black magic marker identify the pieces.
& # 39; I am one of the best, & # 39; says Richard, a rare boaster, although he has never seen a seasoned opponent.
I bought him a chess game from a professional. It cost 200 Kwacha, about $ 16.
Richard passed the national exams given after the 7th and 9th grade. He plans to enroll in a university with financial help from US sponsors who have followed his progress from pain to victory. He dreams of becoming an economist.
Not that he can bring in the Kwacha, he claims. For Zambia.
& # 39; I want to work as finance minister, & # 39; says Richard, & # 39; so that I can become president. & # 39;
& # 39; LAND OF A MILLION WEEKERS & # 39; IS A 3-PART SERIES; READ PART 1 AND PART 2.
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