Losing more than education

For the children of Mercy House, it’s more than their education that’s being impacted as Zambia shuts down schools in an attempt to slow and stop the spread of coronavirus. “For some of the kids, we are their only decent meal in a day, and to others, we’re the only ones who take time to love and be with them,” explained Anne, the ministry leader.

Mercy House is a day-care centre in Makululu — the largest and one of the poorest shanty compounds in sub-Saharan Africa. Started in 2012, Mercy House provides a safe and loving environment for kids to learn and grow. The 81 students are taught basic education lessons, learn Bible stories and games as well as receive a hot meal and snack. 

As it is common for those in Makululu to eat only one meal a day, Mercy House’s feeding programme helps supplement the growing childrens’ diets. Though a four-week holiday always occurs around this time of the year, all schools closed an additional two weeks early, with the date when they can start up again still to be determined. 

“We had money left over [from the budget] because we shut down early, so we bought bars of soap and extra mielie meal (the local staple food). So the kids went home with some stuff,” Anne said. “We taught them how to wash their hands, and we told them how important it is.” 

“The weeks will be long, but I know the kids are tough. …We prayed God would provide for them, and they also prayed for this and are praying against the coronavirus,” said Anne. “They have become strong in prayers, and we have taught them to ask God for all their needs and worries. Prayer comes naturally to them.” 

“Please be with them, Lord, protecting them,” Anne added, “We love them very much.”

In addition to operating as a day-care centre, Mercy House also has a safe house for young girls who have been trafficked, abused or otherwise neglected. A second home was scheduled to be opened in the coming weeks but because of the country-wide closures, it has been delayed. The nine children from the original safe house have moved into the second safe house temporarily as it is bigger. “For us, it’s amazing that we have this house in town that we can give the kids a bit more safety and security,” said Anne. “It’s easier to isolate them [in town].”

When Anne drove through Makululu after the closures were issued, she could see little difference. “People [are] still moving about from house to house,” she said. “Everywhere else in the world streets are dead — no one about. But not Makululu. They are sociable people, and no virus will stop them.”

A student at Mercy House counts with the aid of a number puzzle.

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