Mwanya Evans leads a brief Bible study in one of the classrooms at Chisomo Drop-in Centre, in Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia. Chisomo, which means "grace" in the Nyanja language, is home to 30 children who have lived months or years on the streets of Lusaka. MCC has partnered with the center for eight years by providing financial support, staff training and support for children to attend school.
Aaron and Josephine Chilunjika are the founders and directors of Chisomo. For 16 years, they have worked to build a place of safety and growth for children living on the street. Through Chisomo, they hope to provide the children with a sense of home, give them access to education and help them reintegrate into their families when it is possible.
At Chisomo, the song of 20 young people resonates through trees, buildings and fences as they call and chant to each other. Standing in a circle, their joyful song turns to dancing, with each girl and boy taking a turn in the center.
Tom Situmbeko relaxes in a bunk at Chisomo. Situmbeko, 17, left home when he was 10, spending four years on the streets before he began living at Chisomo in 2005. When he arrived at Chisomo, Tom had missed important years of primary education. He could not read or write. Taking basic classes at Chisomo, Tom spent two years catching up on the lost schooling. In 2007, he finished the national grade seven examinations with the highest marks in his school district.
In addition to providing classes at Chisomo, the center's founders, Aaron and Josephine Chilunjika, also arrange sponsorships for children at the center to continue their schooling in higher grades. Tom Situmbeko receives support from Chisomo to go to Chunga Boarding School, where he is in grade eight. Last year, he attended a youth conference in Senegal on human trafficking, as a representative of Zambia.
Ireen Chibwe has lived at Chisomo for two years. She is 14 years old and is currently attending grade five at Northmead Basic School. When she was very young, Irene´s father passed away. Then in 2006, her mother became ill and also died, leaving Ireen and her brother to fend for themselves. Ireen wants to become a nurse after she graduates, so that she can dedicate herself to helping others. She says that she has known people who have died because there was no doctor or nurse around. She wants to care for others when they are in need and help them to get better.
Naza Saka, 8, and Patrick Chanda, 9, pose for a snapshot. They have lived at Chisomo for seven months. The hope of Chisomo founders Aaron and Josephine Chilunjika is that Naza, Patrick and the rest of the children they care for will be able to feel safe, loved and transformed at Chisomo. "The greatest result has been seeing a child respond to the love of God," says Aaron Chilunjika.