Since age 11, UWS human nutrition and functional medicine student Monde Leck, had a dream of helping Zambian street kids develop themselves into outstanding citizens. Here’s her story.
When I was young, I lived in Zambia and did volunteer work at an orphanage. There I witnessed the kind of suffering that leads children to search for a better life through begging, stealing or street vending. The children at orphanages are rarely adopted into families, and those that are taken in by living relatives are often abused or taken advantage of (made to sell goods, clean house, care for the caregiver’s actual children or cook, rather than going to school or playing).
In my adult years, after having gone to the U.S. for university, I returned to Zambia in the hopes of rehabilitating street kids but found that I could not – I didn’t have the skills. I could help give them food, clothing, health care or brief shelter but they would run back to streets after they got what they needed. Many street kids do drugs (they take battery acid, petroleum, fermented sewage, glue, discarded alcohol or anything else they can get their hands on). I helped many of them through the stressful and harrowing drug withdrawal period, so knowing that they were going back to the streets and back to the drugs was a painful sense of loss for me.
Street kids, many of them no older than 11, are not treated as human beings due to their questionable behaviors. But in my opinion, these kids are simply a product of their environment and everyone deserves a chance to reach their full potential.
I decided that the only way to really change these kids for the better was to create an infrastructure, a social support structure and an environment that the existing social system and overwhelmed institutions failed to create a place where they could really thrive as children and develop as human beings.
After researching best practices in education, writing up a business plan, making connections and finding access to resources I decided to make my dream a reality and open up my school. But I decided to open it up to all of the kids in Zambia, instead of just underprivileged. My efforts and ideas have shifted toward giving all of the children in Zambia equal access to a quality education and future opportunities.
When I first met my husband, Bongo Kanga, he had a similar vision, so we collaborated and came up with a plan for our school, The Giving Tree School of Advancement. It will offer all levels of education, from kindergarten to post graduate fellowships. Currently, we only have enough resources to begin with the first level (kindergarten through grade five). By the time the children reach grade 12, we plan to offer international qualifications so they’ll have the option to pursue university degrees in Zambia, any other nation around the world and of course our school¹s own university levels. We hope to offer scholarships for their foreign education and travel as well.
We are currently entering the construction phase of the plan. Since my husband’s expertise is finance and architecture, he has been working on architectural designs suited to enhance learning and encourage spiritual and psychological health by applying principles of Feng Shui and its Indian counterpart, Vaatsu. We would like the premises to be beautiful and comfortable so that students do not have to worry about their basic needs. Food will be grown in our own permaculture forests and prepared by chefs trained in nutrition, as well as the culinary arts. We are also looking forward to supporting volunteers from abroad.
I have done a few small educational projects before, like teaching students English, as well as leading very successful community nutrition and sanitation workshops. But overall, I have never done anything of this magnitude before- it’s my biggest project yet! Our goal is for the education system we provide to far exceed the quality that is usually provided to underprivileged children in Zambia, so that students have a real chance at developmental opportunities.
Stay tuned to UWS social media for updates on Monde’s amazing work. UWS is holding a supply drive to collect resources for this mission. Check out what Monde needs for the school here and drop any donations at the student services office, located in the administration building. The drive will be held through November 14. Please contact student services if you have any questions.