My wife and two adult daughters came with me on a CWB-coordinated trip a month ago, and it has changed all our lives. We were volunteers, helping schools operating on a shoe string, in the poorest neighborhoods of one of the world’s poorest nations, Zambia.
Much of the age 20-40 generation is missing entirely, a result of the AIDS epidemic. In a nation now numbering 14m people, the 24-year combined death toll from AIDS has been 1.35m. About 35% of the entire population is under the age of 11, many of them living as second-class members of the households of distant relations, or in households headed up by minors, or in no home at all.
The government schools are insufficient to cover the needs of all those children. Even the $100/year cost for books, shoes, uniforms and fees to a government school is impossible for these kids and their families. So about 3000 “community schools” have sprung up, operated by volunteers. The schools that CWB supports with money, in-kind donations, and volunteer work are a carefully chosen few of these community schools.
CWB has only one paid staff member, a former teacher from one of their community schools, who coordinates things and monitors to ensure the proper spending of the CWB contributions to the schools. The rest of the work is done by a cadre of incredibly dedicated volunteers in the US, some of whom travel each year to Zambia to visit the schools, create and maintain the necessary relationships, and even pitch in with the nuts & bolts work of operating the schools. One of my daughters helped with teaching and running health clinics; one daughter was the official trip photographer, and my wife helped run clinics and “Tree of Life” workshops for teachers and health workers. I helped with fixing broken desks, painting buildings, and establishing ties with local leaders.
The Zambians themselves are the ones who do most of the work of daily teaching and caregiving for the orphans and other children at risk, though. It is a perfect partnership of people on both sides of the pond doing what they can to extend a hand of help to some of this world’s neediest children. Although the sex-breakout is roughly 50-50, special attention is given to girls, who have often suffered additional trauma and who need additional support to stay in school and succeed. One of the appealing things to me about CWB is that a donation of only $100 pays for a child to attend a full year of school. Try finding a cost-benefit ratio like that anywhere else!