Just when I thought I was done with teen boys, in comes our electrician saying, you have to meet Jackie, she’s an American and a very good person. He told us this the first week we were in Lusaka and I said, yes, I’d love to meet another American, just give me two weeks to settle in. The electrician came out two more times and each time persisted, when are you meeting Jackie? You have to meet Jackie, she is very good. The fourth time he came out (yes, fourth, he’d fix things and they’d work for a day or two and then not work again) he handed me his cell phone and said, Here’s Jackie, I called her for you. Okay, I guess it was time for me to meet her.
We set up to meet on a Saturday. I canceled the first Saturday because we went hiking with friends. This past Saturday I called her and she said, oh, I’m sorry but I can’t meet because we’re having a small crisis with our rent money and I’m selling paintings someone donated in front of the Arcades grocery store to raise money, how about next week. I was literally right now to the Arcades shopping mall so I said, I’ll just stop and meet you now.
There were a couple of fundraising tables in the corridor to the grocery store but of course I saw the paintings and a white blond-haired woman and knew that was her. The paintings she was selling were donated by a famous Zambian artist named Poto Kabwe, whose work as been exhibited all over the world. Here are some of his paintings:
He is known for painting “a day in the life” in Zambian portraits, as you can see here.
Jackie showed me her favorite, which was of women cleaning pots. I liked the one of women with chickens and said I missed my chickens in the U.S. Then Jackie said, I’m really tired of doing these fundraisers and living month-to-month and grant-to-grant. We have to figure out a way to become self-sustainable. We just moved to a farm where we plan to do all types of income-generating activities like raising chickens and rabbits for restaurants (remind me not to eat at the Chinese restaurants here, tell you why later), gardening for our own food, anything else we can think of to become self-sufficient.
Knowing how much work our very busy teen son did when he was motivated (i.e., broke), I think she has an excellent chance of quickly realizing her dream. We made plans to meet during the week where she’d introduce me to the boys.
My friend Cassie (in the Moses House post) came with me. We were instructed to drive just a few minutes off of the main road and look for the “Heroes Farm” sign — this was their new home, owned by the Egyptian embassy and apparently a former residence of the Egyptian ambassador (the uprisings in Egypt apparently have had no bearing on their employees in Zambia, yet!).
First we met the boys. There were 13 of them and they ranged in age from 11 to 20. Through a glass door we could see the boys all working quietly side-by-side on their individual work. When we walked through the door they all stood immediately (out of respect for ladies entering the room, for those of you like me who wonder why they did that).
You can see these are older teen boys, young men really, all with aspirations of going to college and being a doctor, lawyer, member of parliament, business man, pastor and of course, footballer (soccer pro).
They are essentially home schooled and the teacher creates an individually-tailored course of studies specific to each teen. In this photo the first young man was doing algebra. The one to his right was doing a Bible study.
Next, Jackie took us outside to show us the grounds and what was available for making her dream of self-sustainability come true.
It’s hard to see here but this fenced-in area with buildings at the back is where former residents have raised broilers, rabbits, turkeys and goats. The room at the back left is the goat room, next to it on the right is the rabbit room with hutches and a nursery for newborns. Next to that on the right is the chicken coop that can hold 250 broilers. This is where Jackie wants to start — from hatching to table only takes six weeks and the neighbor who is currently using the facilities has been selling fresh chickens to the local big hotels (the Intercontinental and Taj Pamodzi — the two best hotels in town). She’ll get 22,000 kwatcha (about $4.50) per chicken. Times that amount by 250 and she has enough to cover one month’s rent. To the right of the chicken coop is a turkey coop.
They have about six newly hatched turkeys and they plan to sell them to the rich ex-pats here who want their traditional turkey for Thanksgiving in a land not native to turkeys. By the way, notice how his head is blue? Apparently when they’re angry their heads turn red and when they’re turned on and courting they turn blue. For some reason I have this effect on swans too — they start spreading their feathers and call me to be their mate. This turkey did the same thing, spreading his feathers full-throttle to the ground and strutting close (and turning blue). I grabbed a stick and let him know I was married.
Here are some meat rabbits. It takes about four months from birth to table for rabbits and they bring about 40,000 kwatcha per head. Apparently the local chinese restaurants snatch them up, though I’ve never, ever seen rabbit on their menu. Now I wonder if every time I’ve had Mongolian beef I’ve really had Mongolian rabbit? ewwww!
Currently the neighbor has a herd of goats he keeps in the goat pen at night. I told Jackie I had a dream of making my own cheese and yogurt and selling it and that, in fact, I had driven my father-in-law crazy last spring in Hawaii because I was so enthused about having my own dairy and talked about it incessantly. I said I’d love to help with this. It’s the best of both worlds — I don’t have to take care of the animals but I can make as much or as little yogurt and cheese as I want.
Finally, here’s Jackie, who in a former life lived in Colorado and was a flight attendant, retail manager, marketing specialist and ski bum. She saw a note in her church bulletin saying they needed volunteers for a teen boys orphanage in Zambia and she came for a year. Four-and-a-half years later she’s become mom to dozens of young men.