KELVIN MBEWE, Lusaka
THE Sunday Mail found him on the flyover bride on Church Road in Lusaka. Out of curiosity, they engaged him in conversation. Moses Sakala was just one of the many street kids there.
“About 15 years ago, I was staying in Kabwe with my parents, Edson Sakala, a medical doctor and Hellen Zulu, who was a house wife,” Moses says. “In 2003, my father died, and this changed my family’s welfare as he was the breadwinner. We started going through financial challenges and my mother also became sick because she was depressed.”
After life became tough for him, he ran into some friends who were surviving on the streets of Kabwe, mostly begging for money and food from well-wishers.
“I joined these friends who were from Makululu township [known to be one of the biggest shanty towns on the continent] and that is how I left home until today,” Moses says.
“I came to Lusaka in 2005, and me and my friends started staying in the streets. When we came to Lusaka, we were sleeping under bridges and in drainages until an orphanage called Fountain of Hope adopted us.”
When now Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Catherine Namugala was Minister of Community Development and Social Services, she made one observation in 2007 – that most children on Lusaka streets come from Kabwe’s Makululu compound.
“If you went and asked those children on the streets they would tell you we are from Makululu compound in Kabwe” she said when she paid a courtesy call on then Central Province Permanent Secretary Denny Lumbama in Kabwe.
“The closure of a number of companies in Kabwe has sent a lot of people on the streets, therefore failing to provide for their children,” he said.
A story for another day perhaps.
When Moses was taken in by Fountain of Hope, he was enrolled in school and his life resembled somewhat normal.
Fountain of Hope, located in Lusaka’s Kamwala, was founded in 1996 by a group of local Zambians as a way to help rehabilitate the growing population of street children in the country’s capital.
It provides a safe place for these vulnerable children, many who are AIDS orphans, abandoned or living off drugs, to attend school, get a meal, play sports, receive health care and learn skills through its technology programme. But even best of all, it is or was a loving place that is off the streets where children can or could experience a sense of normalcy in their troubled lives.
“[But] after returning to school at Fountain of Hope, two of my friends namely Martin and Jack convinced me to run away from the orphanage so that we could go back to the street,” he says. “It was at night when they woke me up and said ‘let’s go’ and that is how I left with them.”
Fountain of Hope outreach coordinator Hau Kenneth says he remembers the name Moses Sakala but does not remember what exactly happened to him.
“We have a lot of kids that come and go because this place has been in existence for more than 22 years,” he says. “Those that have drug problems run away because we don’t allow them to continue with the habit but others reform.”
But how does Moses survive without any financial support?
“In the day I collect empty bottles of mineral water and drinks and I pack them in a sack and take them to Mi
sisi township [another depraved township in Lusaka] where they buy them and use them to pack munkoyo and water for sale,” he says. “The money I get is what I use to buy food to eat.”
He says he makes around K13 a day which he uses to buy food from a lady in Misisi that sells nshima or rice and chicken.
“I also ask around for assistance from well-wishers,” Moses says. “When it comes to bathing I go to City Market where we are charged K4 for a shower, but as you can see, I have not bathed for a long time.”
But Moses is not happy with life on the streets.
“There are a lot of things that happen on the street, you get to fight with friends over petty issues, that is why I don’t mix with a lot of other kids,” he says, although at 25 years old, he is older than most kids on the streets. “Some of the girls are HIV positive and I try as much not to indulge in sexual activities.”
He says drugs are an everyday experience for most street kids.
“Bostik [wood glue] is very common but other guys go to Chibolya compound to bring marijuana but I don’t smoke that, I stopped a long time ago,” he says. “There is also beer drinking. I stopped the vices for fear of being attacked when in an intoxicated state.”
Moses says that he is slowly pulling out of bad vices.
“I even study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses because I want to reform completely,” he says. “Am taking it step by step to change because I can’t continue storing water in a damaged bucket. Yes, I do sniff bostik, but it’s only in the night time because it gets really cold and bostik makes me feel warm. I have been to school and am aware of the effects on the brain and body.”
Moses says he is thinking of going back to school.
“I really want to go back to school and I’m thinking of looking for a sponsor that can help me. I have to start either night or day school,” he says. “I know a lot of good people in Kabwe that will help me with finances. I want to be educated so that I can be like you [author]. I don’t want to die in the streets. One thing I despise about the streets is that you cannot find a good girl in case you want to marry.”
Moses says some of the children on the streets are from well to do homes but are victims of abuse.
“Some of the kids that we leave with come from Mufulira, Chingola, Kasama, Mpika and other parts of Zambia,” he says. “Some come from as near as Misisi, Chibolya and Chawama. Some come from good homes and I wonder why they insist on staying on the streets.”
Moses says he has not spoken to his mother since he left Kabwe although she has been sending messages to different emissaries asking her to go back.
“I will be going back soon, and once I go, I will not go back to the streets,” he says.