African Joy

Hi Shanta family! I am just back from Zambia and want to give you a report on the amazing work being done there thanks to your support.  As a reminder, we are working in four villages in southern Zambia near the town of Mazabuka. (Click here to see the area in google maps: That link will take you to a map centered on the primary school in the area, Siyowi Primary School; incidentally, we are hoping to bring resources to bear on that school in the future because it is wholly inadequate for the needs of the community. In the area around that school, we are working in four villages so far, and we have plans to launch a fifth village partnership in that area next year. Our current partner villages there are Siyowi, Nachili, Kabanje, and Mpasu.

This trip was focused on several large infrastructure projects that were selected by the villages as their top priorities. At the beginning of a village partnership, Shanta facilitates several village-wide meetings to help the villagers learn about Shanta’s approach, get organized, choose their leaders (the VDT) for the partnership, map their existing resources, and determine their development priorities. As we did this initial work in these villages, access to safe water and bridge construction were identified as the top priorities. The water is somewhat self-explanatory, but the reason they need bridges might not be as obvious.

In the middle of these villages, there is a small river that usually floods during the rainy season. In fact, when it bursts its banks, it often floods the whole region. As a result, children (nor teachers) can safely get to school for months on end. There are even documented cases of children being swept away and drowned trying to get to school. So, in addition to the risk of death, the lack of safe bridges discourages families from sending their children to school for long periods each year. This elevates dropout rates because children are much more likely to drop out when they fall behind due to missing school. Moreover, while they are not attending school, they are more likely to get pregnant, and that also contributes to higher dropout rates, child marriage, and gender-based violence. A lack of infrastructure like a bridge can be a contributor to extreme poverty! And that is without mentioning that the lack of a bridge also makes it harder for farmers to get their crops to market.

So, with the leadership, expertise, and assistance of the Village Aid Project at Fort Lewis Project, we set out to build two clean water systems and two bridges in the Siyowi area. Thanks to significant contributions from VAP, the Durango High Noon Rotary Club, and Shanta donors, we were able to embark on this aggressive development agenda. And here, I need to pause and single out one person, in particular. Dr. Matthew Klema, an engineering professor at FLC, was the project leader and did an amazing job helping the students plan and execute this complicated and multi-faceted project. Without his persistence, expertise, and courage, we would not have been successful. Thank you, Matt!

Drumroll please…. I am thankful to report that the trip was a HUGE success. The villagers contributed significant amounts of labor and money, and the team from Durango (FLC students and faculty plus local Rotarians and Shanta staff) worked alongside local people to execute the plan. This isn’t merely a project; rather, it is part of a six-year development plan with a robust sustainability apparatus to ensure the work is maintained. For example, local men and women were trained to repair the water system, and the community bank plus water user fees will generate enough revenue to create a maintenance fund. Moreover, the villagers are creating a security plan to ensure the tower and solar panels are safe from theft or vandalism.

I am overjoyed to see so many groups come together to make this dream a reality. Shanta village sponsors, Durango Rotarians, Fort Lewis College, and local villagers all played pivotal roles in radically changing the reality of life in the Siyowi villages. Education, health, and livelihoods will all be improved immediately. I hope these pictures will inspire you to dream big when you think about what is possible. Together, anything is possible….even eliminating extreme poverty, one village, one family, one child at a time!

Much love- wg

P.S. If this story touches your heart, take action! Go to and make an investment (or an additional investment) in the lives of people mired in desperate poverty. Together, we can change their reality forever!