The AIDS pandemic has hit almost every home in Zambia. The population of Zambia is approximately 11.5 million, of which over 1 million are children under the age of 15 who have been left
abandoned or orphaned by HIV, AIDS, Tuberculosis or Malaria. Because there are few resources designed to care for these children, many of them live in the streets, begging for food. There are 30 thousand street children and child prostitutes just in the nation's capital city, Lusaka. Extended families of
these children are poor and, often, unable to properly care for them. When extended families do take
in nieces, nephews or grandchildren into their homes, the children may find themselves unwanted and in
After working as a volunteer with children in Zambia in 2005, Malerie Pratt, a college student and native of Bend, Oregon, realized that something desperately needed to be done to help children.
She met social worker Violet Membe who had always dreamed of starting a home for
Thus began the commitment to help local residents in Mikomfwa, Township of
Luanshya, to build a small home for
children left in abusive situations. When she returned to Bend, she
and Marlena Bellavia founded a non-profit
organization called VIMA LUPWA HOMES raising funds to build the
first home, not an institution, but a family-style home.
The first VIMA LUPWA HOME, Lupwa meaning “family” in the Bemba language, opened on December 16th , 2006. The small home provides a safe, loving family atmosphere for up to
in which their basic needs are met, including proper nutritious meals, beds, clothing, education, health care and most importantly – love and nurturing by parents Violet Membe and her husband,
This is a Zambian project -- built by and fully staffed by Zambians in the attempt to honor the children's cultural values and raise them to love and want to improve their society. By having Zambian staff and workers, it gives the members of the community employment and an opportunity to help themselves. Our common long-term goal, for VIMA LUPWA in the U.S. and in Zambia, is for the home to become totally self-sufficient. We started building the home, communicating with local authorities to meet the basic requirements for the home, providing financial support and lending a hand initially with the goal that little by little the first VIMA LUPWA home can become financially independent of us here in Bend. Once that is done, we’ll start raising funds for a second home; increasing the number of homes rather than the number of children in each home – to maintain the family atmosphere.
"It takes a village: One step at a time – one person at a time; the 14 children who will be living in this home will enjoy a home atmosphere, with proper care and parents to nurture them. As a result they will become productive and educated members of their Zambian communities, who in turn will be able to help other
children – the goal being that the original
14 will each support 14 more, then each of those 14 more, and so on. Imagine the
potential impact!!!" [Marlena Bellavia]