My husband was born in Zambia, so our children are Zambian. We have always told them where they are from, and they know about their family here. They are learning a bit of Nyajna (one of the languages Sly speaks) and are familiar with some Zambian culture and food. Living in the US, we just want to make sure that they understand who they are and learn to be proud of where their father came from.
Sylvester came to the US in 1993. He was 14 years old and came with a missionary as part of a singing group. They were taken to Texas, and performed all over the US. That group, although now with less members, still tours the US full time singing at churches, schools, and festivals. They have chosen to live far from their families, and work full time because the 5 remaining members of the Zambian Vocal Group believe that God has called them to help the children of Zambia. They created a non profit ministry named Teach One International that the 5 members co-run. They money they make touring with the singing group, goes towards running the school that they built in Zambia. They hope is to empower the youth of Zambia through education and at the same time they empower the youth in the US to stay in school and take advantage of the educational system that is available to them.
The Zambian Vocal Group Academy is in Chainda, Zambia. It’s about a 20 minute drive from where the guys grew up in Kalingalinga. (it would be closer if the roads were paved and not so bumpy and hard to maneuver a car through). There are about 250 students currently enrolled with 3 teachers including the principal in charge of them. We are in the process of hiring two more teachers as we just recently lost our grade 3 teacher. The school is funded entirely by Teach One International which means it depends entirely on the Zambian Vocal Group getting donations at their concerts. They pay the teachers, pay the two onside security guards, supply uniforms and shoes for the students, provide all of the school supplies needed, pay the bills at the school, and keep the building in working order.
We are here on a mission trip. We are here to work with the children and the teachers at the school. We are here to oversee the projects going on at the school right now… but we are mostly here because we feel like God has called us to be here. I knew as I stood in the airport in Zambia last year that I had to come back. There is more work to be done, and for once in my life I KNOW, not just think that this is where God wants me to be. It just happens to be an awesome bonus that Sylvester’s entire family lives here as well. In our down time we get to visit and spend some quality time getting to know them. He has 9 siblings from his mother’s side, and 7 from his father’s side… so plenty of cousins for my children to meet and play with.
I’ve been gathering information about Sylvester’s family members. I want my children to have access to their family history when they are ready for it. Last year I spent time collecting names and birthdates from all of his siblings from his mother’s side of the family. This year as we visited the village where his mother comes from I was able to get information from his great grandparents down to his nieces and nephews… and some of their children. I was also able to get some new information from his father’s side of the family. We even got to meet his half brother and sister and some of their children. I’m grateful that I can gather the information for records, but even more grateful that I can finally put all the names and faces together.