I’m really not sure how they were able to organize and pack all of these things. It’s an amazing blessing but a lot of work on both ends. Thank you to every single person who donated items, money, or their time to make this happen!
Sylvester and I quickly realized that it was going to take a team of volunteers to help sort through all of the clothes and prepare them to be given to the students at the Zambian Vocal Group Academy. We asked family and friends to come and help us sort through the things on a Saturday morning. We designated a classroom for mens, womens, boys, and girls clothing to be sorted into. The more boxes that were opened, the more we realized that this was a bigger job than anyone had really anticipated. After working for several hours, we sent someone out to get lunch for all of the volunteers. We hadn’t really realized how much time we would really need to get everything sorted. By the time we decided to wrap up for the day, it was getting dark and hard to see what we were sorting. We decided that we would need to come back the next day to finish the job. As a thank you for all of their hard work, each person who had been sorting for 8 hours was given a box to fill with clothes for themselves or their families. They were SO excited!
The following day, now knowing what we were really up against, we brought a van, and two carloads of people with us to help. We sorted by gender, by size, and by item. All of the children’s clothes were put aside for the students, and the adult clothes were given to the teachers, community, and the volunteers that helped to sort them. It was pretty funny to watch the volunteers “shop” for their choices. At this point, they were getting pretty tired, and very silly. The boys were wearing their choices instead of putting them into a box, or wearing dresses that they had chosen for other family members. I loved their spirit about the whole thing.
Many of the volunteers that we gathered over the two days were family members of the 5 guys from the Zambian Vocal Group. I thought it was pretty cool that their family members were able to lend a helping hand as well as receive some clothes. The 5 guys in the group come from a city where most families are truly struggling to make it each day. Many in Zambia make about $1 a day working and with large families, it takes more than that to run a household. The stories I have heard about how some of these guys grew up (hurting for food, no shoes, no proper clothes) really makes me proud to see where they are today. They have committed more than 20 years working in the US away from their families to be able to fund a school in Zambia. They truly believe that God has called them to empower the younger generations through education. Their families still live in the same city, and many are still struggling to get by each month. The 5 members of ZVG work day in and day out to help the students of Chainda, but all of that work unfortunately doesn’t help to benefit their personal families. Their brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews depend on the guys sending money to help support them. It was really special to be able to involve so many of the family members in helping the school, and even more exciting for the families to receive some clothes to help them as well. I was at Sly’s family house when the boxes of clothes were unpacked. I love that each of the volunteers from our family seemed to think of others and not just themselves. My nephew’s box of clothes contained something for each one of his sisters, brothers, and parents. All of those clothes to choose from and this teenage boy spent his time choosing things for his siblings. Really makes me smile.
On Monday morning, when the students arrived at school, they found us laying out clothes on tarps in the courtyard. You could literally feel their excitement. Nothing was announced and they were asked to continue about their day as usual. I rounded up some volunteers from the girls in grade 7 and started our day of shopping. I brought in the girls from grade 1 and each was handed a bag. They were told that they were allowed to pick 10 items and that they got to keep them and bring them home. Their eyes were wild with excitement but their actions were very calm and respectful. You can tell that these children are taught discipline at home and at school. The older girls helped the little ones to find dresses, pants, shirts, jackets, and skirts in their size and load them into their bags. We didn’t have enough shoes for each student so we kind of stood back and watched to see which students really needed new shoes. Those students were quietly pulled aside and given a new pair. I know they were excited, but they are still kind of shy around visitors, as they were led back to their classroom you could see them giggling, and showing each other their new prized possessions.
The boys went about things a bit differently. They seemed to have more trouble deciding what to choose than the girls did, so we just started lining them up and handing each a shirt. If they liked it, and it fit, then they put it in their bag, if not, then held it up and we traded it out for something else. Then the same process with pants, pjs, long sleeves and so on. They just stood perfectly still in their line and smiled bigger and bigger with each item handed to them. I heard one of them whisper to another “I can’t wait to show my mom my new clothes!”
It took all day for the children to choose clothes, but by the end of the day, they each went home with a bag full of new things. I went home with a happy heart and a sunburn ;)