Learning from the Zambian Experience


By James Seitua


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
January 19, 2006


The sky is the limit when a genuine humanitarian effort mixes with a heroic national spirit. The coming together of forces such as these, no doubt, generates a tremendous power not only because the people involved are selflessly dedicated, but also because the mission they set for themselves – service to humanity is greater than the power of the world’s most notorious tyrant. Inarguably, what seeks to uplift people and inspire hope for their future is honorable and therefore greater than any force that oppresses them into hopelessness. Reason? Good has always, will always triumph over evil!

And so when the helping hand of the Communities Without Borders found partnership with resilient women groups, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as well as faith-based groups in the southern African state of Zambia, where the deadly disease AIDS is having its toll, hope was enlivened and tears were wiped into smiles

Based in West Newton, Massachusetts, the Communities Without Borders was founded by Dr. Richard Bail following a successful tour of duty as consultant for UNAIDS to estimate the costs of the Zambian National HIV/AIDS Program

The mission of the organization is “to establish and nourish mutual understanding and support between local communities in developed countries with local communities in developing countries…” This is accomplished by identifying common interest in developed and developing countries and supporting the long-term growth of this relation, with the current primary focus being centered around providing educational support to AIDS orphans in African.

Besides Zambia, the Communities Without Borders has a project in India, and it has worked in Rwanda, with plans underway to start some activities in Kenya, according to the organization’s founder and president, Dr. Richard Bail who said his organization works through NGOs and community-based institutions such as schools, churches and health centers.

During a staff meeting at the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center south of Boston last week, where some employees are sponsoring AIDS orphans in Zambia through the Communities Without Borders, Dr. Bail made a moving video presentation, detailing the activities of his organization in the southern African nation, where women actively participate in, and in some instances spearhead, the construction of educational facilities for the orphans.

The impact of that presentation immediately translated into a desire for some of the health center’s employees to visit Zambia this summer and meet the children they are sponsoring. A similar trip took several sponsors to Zambia last August.

“The trip is expensive, but the people need to see for themselves the wonderful job their money is doing," Dr. Bail told this writer in an interview.

It’s not known exactly how many children the killer disease has orphaned in Zambia, but official estimates released in 2003 put AIDS deaths in that country to 89,000 and people living with HIV/AIDS to 920,000, out of a population of a little over 11 million people.

Without international support, Zambia, with its own share of the global economic crunch, would find it difficult to combat this disease. The country is landlocked and prices for its natural resources, which include copper, zinc, silver, and uranium, have significantly declined. What makes the future of Third World countries such as Zambia even bleaker is that the big donor nations are cutting back their assistance programs to make up for emerging challenges such as the global war on terror.

In the midst of this gloomy situation, the people of Zambia have taken their destiny into their own hands, making the most out of the little they receive. “Women groups are working all over the country to help our children,” Dr. Jane C. Ndulo, Communities Without Borders’ Special Envoy to Zambia said in an interview during a visit to the United States last week.

A former senior lecturer at the University of Zambia, Dr. Ndulo relinquished her university job to take up assignment as special envoy of the Communities Without Borders on a purely humanitarian, voluntary basis.

The former university professor said although the fight against AIDS is difficult, there was no doubt in her mind that the battle would be won. “If we could overcome the ‘African Liberation Struggle’, which seemed nearly impossible, why we can’t defeat AIDS?” she wondered in a serious mood.

Dr. Ndulo then extolled those sponsoring AIDS orphans in her country, saying the people of Zambia are overwhelmed by their generosity. “One hundred dollars to you here is nothing, but to us, that’s a lot of money, “ she told a group of sponsors at the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center, thanking them and others who are concerned about the future of Zambian children.

The interview with Dr. Ndulo during her meeting with the sponsors created mixed feelings for this writer. Less than a quarter of a mile west of the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center, stands the old Brockton court house, where former Liberian rebel leader and president Charles Taylor was facing extradition proceedings for theft just before he “broke” jail in Walpole to launch the bloody Liberian civil war on December 24, 1989, using drugged and unschooled children as child soldiers.

Aid agencies estimate that over 250,000 Liberians died in the war, which raged on for 14 years, leaving Liberia’s limited infrastructure damaged, the economy ravaged, and the West African sub-region destabilized. Thousands of children born since the war began have not attended school, but had either witnessed or physically participated in some forms of violence, leading experts to describe them as a “lost generation”.

As Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf assumes responsibility this week as president of post-war Liberia and Africa’s first female head of state, with a Herculean task of post-war reconstruction and national healing, Liberians are hoping that international goodwill would flow to help her administration make Liberia rise from the ashes of war to a new height among the comity of nations. But like the people of Zambia, the people of Liberia must realize that no matter what level of international assistance they receive, fixing Liberia still remains a primary responsibility of Liberians themselves.

The author is former editor of Liberian Daily Observer currently residing in the United States. He can be contacted at jksisg@yahoo.com or jseitua@verizon.net