Maybe two or three times in our lives we meet a person who leads us where we never expected to go, in a totally new direction. Such a person for a number of us was Sister Baptista Kaoma. She was in Tacoma 2007-2008 for a year receiving training in hospital pastoral care at St. Joseph Hospital and home care through Catholic Community Services in order to teach these skills to others in the Northern Province of Zambia, Africa.
While she learned a great deal, she also taught us about the work of her Order, The Sisters of the Child Jesus, centered in Kasama, the capitol of the Northern Province. The more she shared, the more people caught the excitement and the dreams of these beautiful and caring women who were giving their lives in service to the most vulnerable children and families. We learned that their resources did not match the immense needs they were addressing in their beloved homeland. So in 2008 we formed Hearts for Zambia to attempt to help support their work and received our 501(c)(3) status from the IRS.
The project that was most dear to Sister Baptista’s heart is the Tetekela Day Care Center. It has become our major focus in fund raising. Serving one meal a day for up to 150 children ranging in age from 3 to 16 whose families have suffered from the HIV/AIDs pandemic is no small task.
Through the generosity of our many donors the children are now receiving two meals a day and a snack. In addition, this report from Sister Baptista:
“Dear friends and benefactors, Just a note of appreciation of what you have been doing to raise funds to help us feed and educate children at Tetekela Day Care Center. This year we have managed to support 69 children who are in formal school with food, school fees and clothes. This has been made possible by your support. Without you we could not manage. We have been able to grow our own vegetables and maize to feed our children. This year we did not have to buy all the mealie-meal, we just had to top up.
In the coming year we will have to buy more mealie-meal because of a poor harvest we had. The need for a vehicle and boarding house is still a big problem. We are still looking around to scout for donors. We still have to work on improving the water system at our farm to help us in fish farming. We are also working on the project for free-range goats and chickens for meat and milk.”
This report is both heartwarming and heartrending. When the doors at Tetekela are closed each day at 4:30 p.m. a good number of children are sent out onto the streets to fend for themselves until the doors open the next morning. They have no place to live. The most earnest desire of the Sisters is to build a 50 bed facility so their students can have safe housing and a place to study. Plans have been drawn and they have the skills to make the bricks and build it. All they need is more money to make the building functional.