Mother and young son walk through bush in rural Zambia together

Community spirit in action in Zambia

Hear how this community in rural Zambia is pulling together to provide hope for the next generation

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Chimulambe Primary School is located in a rural part of Zambia’s Mambwe District. The school sits in a clearing in the bush and is attended by 294 children. Many of them have a long walk to school, and in the rainy season, they have to cross streams, but they come every day because they know they will receive Mary’s Meals here. The hot, steaming mugs of nutritious porridge are handed out around 10am, giving the children renewed energy to participate in their lessons, as well as to run around and play during their break times. 

Most of the community here work as subsistence farmers and the village can only be reached on rough dirt roads. But this is a community that works together to solve problems. They regularly hold meetings in the school building to discuss the challenges they are facing and how to overcome them. The community is especially proud of the Mary’s Meals feeding programme and takes responsibility for ensuring the food is properly stored, logged and prepared. 

Jane Laura Tembo, Deputy Head Teacher at the school, explains that before the feeding programme began, only 180 children attended and there was a lot of absenteeism. She says, “Most of the parents here are not educated. Some of them see the value of education but others have to be convinced. If the feeding stopped, we would really see very low attendance and a decrease in enrolment.”

Son and mother sit beside each other in floor of home in rural Zambia

Within the community, there is a strong desire to work together and ensure the next generation is given the chance of a brighter future.

Skeva is a pupil at Chimulambe. At just seven years old, Skeva is enjoying school and the food that he eats there everyday. He loves to play football with his friends once his classes are over. His mother, Theresa, explains that they don’t have enough to eat at home. She says: “Sometimes I cannot provide the children with enough to eat. It pains me.”

She and her husband, who live with Skeva and his sister in a mud hut within a short distance of the school, are subsistence farmers and they only grow enough for their own family. When the harvest is poor, it is a struggle to feed the family. Theresa says: “The rainfall has been changing and it’s affecting my family. I fear for the future.” 

Theresa has three other children who live in Chipata, a city around two hours' drive away, with their grandmother. She explains that it was too much pressure on her and her husband to feed them all from their small patch of land. She says: “I wish I had been educated. I could have been a nurse or a teacher. Life would be better than the way I am living now.”  

For Theresa, it makes a huge difference to know that Skeva will be fed each day and that he’s growing well and making the most of his education.

Children in playground at school in rural Zambia raise hands and smile

With everyone in the community pulling in the same direction, Theresa has felt the impact of Mary’s Meals on the village. She says: “The children are more healthy since eating porridge. Many were malnourished before, but now they are more active. Now they can even take part in sports.”  

Neither Theresa nor her husband can read or write, but they are determined that things will be different for Skeva. Theresa says: “I hope to see my children educated and to work as teachers or nurses.”  

Gabriel, 14, is also a student at Chimulambe, and he is football-mad. Each breaktime, he is given a hot, steaming mug of nutritious porridge provided by the volunteer cooks here.

Volunteers, who are most often parents of the children who attend the school, arrive early in the morning to prepare and cook the porridge. The school has a rota so that each surrounding community takes a turn every week in sending volunteers. This ensures the programme is truly owned by the community.

After he has eaten, Gabriel can be found honing his skills on the school’s makeshift football pitch. He says: “The porridge gives me energy.” 

Child kicks football towards camera as children gather round to watch in playground at school in rural Zambia

But it hasn’t always been easy for him to attend classes. When Gabriel first enrolled in school, there was no feeding programme here and he says: “I was always hungry. Now, my stomach is full and I can fully participate in class.” 

Only one of his older siblings stayed in education and is now a teacher. The others “failed, got married or got sick and didn’t finish.” 

Yet, Gabriel, the youngest sibling, is determined to finish his education. He loves maths and also wants to be a teacher, so that he can educate the next generation in his village and help play his part in lifting the community out of poverty. He says: “School is a good thing and when you get educated, you can lead a better life.” 

You too can play your part in changing the future path for the children at Chimulambe Primary School and thousands of others living in poverty across the world. 

By supporting our important work and raising awareness and funds for our mission, you can provide the fuel to fire communities, like this one in rural Zambia, into action. 

Community isn’t just confined to a school, a village or a town. Community spirit can cross borders.