MIKE MUGALA, Lusaka
THOUGH the number of street kids, orphans and vulnerable children roaming the streets of Lusaka has increased rapidly, efforts being made to address such challenges by orphanages like Fountain of Hope cannot escape the eye.
Since April 1996 when it was founded, Fountain of Hope has greatly contributed to transforming the lives of some street kids, orphans and vulnerable children.
Currently, the centre is home to over 160 vulnerable boys, and it provides medical, educational and spiritual support to the children.
The centre, which only offers primary school education assistance, also helps to link children to sponsors who provide educational support up to tertiary level.
When schools open, the number increases to about 500 boys and girls, many of whom come from high density areas such as Misisi, Chawama, Kanyama and John Laing.
The programmes offered at the centre are counselling, outreach programmes, sports and interactive forums to transform the minds of the street kids in order to integrate them into a normal home setting arrangement.
Penza Nyangu, a former street kid is happy that days of sleeping in the cold on the streets are over.
Penza, who lived on the street for five years explained that life there was his worst experience.
“Life on the street is very painful and challenging. At times I went for days without bathing. Here at Fountain of Hope, my friends and I are given three meals a day and we are provided with other amenities like health and also recreation,” he said.
For Given Mulenga, a grade seven pupil at the school who comes from Mtendere township, Fountain of Hope has given him a glimmer of hope and he has made it a special place more than his home.
His mother who is a maid struggled to provide for him and his siblings since she separated from her husband.
“I don’t regret coming to stay here, I feel at peace because people treat me like family. Once in a while I go back just to check on my mother,” he said.
Given, who aspires to pursue journalism when he completes secondary education, says he wants to uplift the status of his family.
And another pupil, Martha Mwanza whose home is in Misisi township said Fountain of Hope has helped her with educational support.
Martha who lives with a single mother who runs a restaurant, says life has been challenging since her parents went their separate ways.
Charles Mwanza came by from Kitwe to the orphanage. He can now see that there is a change in his way of living since he made his entrance to the home in 2014.
“My stepfather was unable to take me to school. He always argued with my mother and this made me feel like home was a hostile environment. When I heard about Fountain of Hope, I ran away from home and came here. Now I have a huge family and I am glad to be here,” he explained.
Proprietor of the centre, Rodgers Mwewa was inspired to open the centre after realising that the number of children on the streets of Lusaka was alarming.
Then he worked for Zambia Red Cross Society as a volunteer. In 1994, he was sponsored by Street Kids International to study streetism at Helsinki University in Finland.
When he came back to Zambia the following year, Mr Mwewa, with the help of a few friends, started Fountain of Hope drop-in centre in Kamwala with the aim of addressing and alleviating the challenges street kids face.
“We first started with outreach programmes and later realised that the vulnerable children needed shelter and education. We lobbied the council and we were allocated a piece of land which is currently housing this building,” he said.
Mr Mwewa said the centre will soon open up a dormitory for girls with the first intake accommodating about 100.
He expressed happiness that he has over the past 20 years greatly contributed to touching many lives of the under privileged in the country.
Mr Mwewa said the great challenge in running Fountain of Hope has been providing food and he called on well-wishers to help transform the lives of the vulnerable children.
“God has been faithful and always provides for us. I don’t care what car I drive or the clothes I put on, what is important is that I touch a life out there, “he said.
Mr Mwewa said Fountain of Hope is constructing a bakery at the centre and once completed, all proceeds realised from there will be used to alleviate challenges of food purchases and staff emoluments.