Children skipping 

St. Francis Day Centre is a Community Based Faith Organisation started in 2002 by a group of volunteers in Chipata Compound at St. Paul's Catholic Church. Its sole purpose is to provide basic nursery education to vulnerable orphans within the community. 

Chipata Compound is situated 4.5km from Lusaka in Zambia.  It is a shanty place measuring about 2 x 3 sq. km.  It has a government clinic, over 20 churches of various kinds, a mosque, a government basic school, a Catholic basic school, SOS village, three police stations, two private Home Based Care units and over 40 drinking places.  Most draw water from communal taps that are opened at fixed times morning and afternoon.   Diseases like Dysentery and Cholera are common in the rainy season.

Sr. Paula with children
Sr. Paula with children
Chipata Compound is youthful, with 60% of its nearly 150,000 inhabitants aged between 3 and 24.  Of these, 15% have finished school or are attending school while 35% cannot afford basic school requirements or have dropped out. 80% of the population live on less than a dollar and have one meal a day.  Unemployment runs at 90% and the main source of income is prostitution of young girls, while others make a living selling vegetables. The main employers are bus owners, who employ drivers, who in turn, must employ conductors and pay them our of their own small salaries of 80-100 dollars a month.

Despite the huge number of adolescent who involve themselves in crime, alcoholism and sexual activities at an early stage, orphans are often marginalized from the current service delivery with respect to basic education and reproductive health.

The idea of starting a Day Centre for orphans came from a group of Community Home Care givers who realized that the number of orphaned children was increasing due H1V/A1DS and TB. They resolved to do something about the problem.  They put their ideas to individuals oversees and these generous people have been supporting the project since its inception.

ImageThe project is community based in the sense that the selection of orphans to be enrolled is done by the community and in the community.   Guardians meet with St. Francis staff to discuss the well being of the child

The programme is linked to the national, regional and local plan to provide education for all by 2015.  Sixty percent of the Board of St. Francis Day Centre is comprised of local community members.  Some childcare supporters provide care and support to orphans, especially those kept by old grandparents or those infected with HIV or TB.  Others help the children’s grandparents with laundry and general household work. Caring for orphans is a community effort.

The Centre provides a safe place for the children and respite for their guardians.  The staff meet with the guardians at the beginning of each year, and whenever the need arises.  This is done to improve the health of the child.  It helps the staff to follow up the child’s behaviour both at home and at school.  It also provides an opportunity to educate the guardians on basic health care, e.g. hygiene, nutrition and pastoral care.  A child counsellor provides child counselling.

Teaching aids
Teaching aids
The guardians have had a workshop on children’s rights, memory book approach, hygiene and nutrition.  They learn to keep their children and their clothes clean and how to use local vegetables, which are cheap and nutritious.  We got the parish involved in cleaning classrooms, grounds, windows, desks and kitchen.  This is their contribution to the work of the Centre.

Currently the project has 77 children at the Centre and supports over 700 children who are now either at government or private primary and secondary schools.

The Objectives of the Centre are:

  • to improve the quality of life of orphans whose parents have died of HIV/AIDS and related diseases 
  • to provide love and care and to offer counselling services
  • to provide pre-school education
  • to equip the orphans with life skills
  • to provide basic needs to the orphans where and when possible
  • to provide nourishing meals and attend to their medical needs
  • to raise awareness among the orphans about HIV/A1DS

Sr. Paula Healy, FMSA