The Other Side of the Track

You step across the railway track to get into the Misisi slum. And, when you cross the track, you enter a world of squalor and suffering. Children with nowhere to go and nobody to care for them sit silently along the edges of the streets. Unloved and forgotten, there are no smiles to be seen on their lips, no hope to be found in their eyes. Mothers, seeking to provide for their children, are often forced into selling themselves for a pittance before they can purchase scraps of food. Young men, with no opportunities, no prospects, and no chance, get stoned on the local brew, get into fights, and fall headlong into a life of crime. The streets of Misisi are oppressive; a place where fear and the threat of violence are constant, unwelcome, companions.

There is no sewage system in Misisi. The stench lingers wherever you go and worsens as the temperatures soar. It is the rainy season now, flooding the streets and ramshackle, makeshift houses with water and human waste. This is a place where the rats thrive. Big, savage rats. They are everywhere. Waves of disease sweep mercilessly through the camp at times like this. There is no escape from it. Malaria, cholera, AIDS all take turns to strike down their victims. Yet death is an everyday event in Misisi. And, for many, when it comes it is almost welcomed - a relief from the agonizing, daily struggle just to exist.

I can leave. And I do. I step back across the railway track, leave Misisi and return to a better, safer, world. For its inhabitants that is just a distant dream. Tomorrow will be the same on the other side of the track. Segregation. Deprivation. Starvation. And the desperate need for salvation.

FIND OUT MORE about our work in Zambia here

Martin and some of the lads at Lilato
Martin and some of the lads at Lilato

When I was invited to join a team of volunteers on a trip out to Zambia this Autumn, I didn’t know what to expect.  I went armed with my electrical knowledge as a resource for the team and my enthusiasm!

The experience was a sobering and yet moving time for the team from the UK.  Hope for Kids International, based in Yeovil is the UK arm of the Kids Alive charity, which works in many countries of the world.  We visited the Zambian capital Lusaka on this trip and also Mongu, an area very near the Kalahari desert in the west of Zambia.   

Our mission on this occasion was to build relationships and gain an understanding of the needs of the homes and schools supported by Hope for Kids.  Somehow we also managed to fix buses, lorries and cars, wire classrooms and security lights and also taught children and provided a teacher training afternoon in both areas of Zambia!

Before our trip we decided that we wanted to take something out for the children themselves that they don’t easily get hold of – football kits! Martock Rangers Football Club donated a lot of their old strip as did several families from the area and we split this into two lots – so the two homes we visited had at least one full strip and more. The children were overjoyed and were stripping off in front of us getting organized with a game of football – getting a photo of them was really tricky!  We also took out school resources, clothes and some solar panels for safe lighting during power cuts.

The needs in Zambia are great.  Water is a big problem as the country is suffering one of its worst droughts ever, and the country runs on hydroelectric power.  So, no water means a reduction of electricity across the whole of Zambia with regular power cuts, no water means the failure of the crops, no water basically means life is harder than we can ever imagine.

Even with all these hardships, the children still attend school with a smile on their face, they are so keen to learn and want to have a bright future.  They have so many ambitions - doctors, nurses, teachers, accountants are all on their list of possibilities.  They have so little and yet are so full of optimism – we all should learn from their example and thank God for all we have.

I shall be heading back to Zambia next year, I must.  Hope for Kids are always looking for more people to get involved – you too can join the charity in helping to make a difference - as a member of a team, as a child sponsor or as a prayer partner.

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