Current Enrollment: 496
THE GROUNDS SURROUNDING FAITH CHRISTIAN ACADEMY ARE FESTOONED WITH THE TRAPPINGS OF A SCHOOL SOMEWHERE IN MIDDLE AMERICA.
A soccer field. A basketball court. A playground – complete with swings and other modern equipment. Even a baseball field – believed to be the only one in all of Zambia.
And there is the campus itself, with its well-lit classrooms, grassy courtyard, and a library with paintings, stuffed animals and hundreds of new books.
The anchor of Family Legacy’s Tree of Life Children’s Village, the school and its surroundings belie the histories most of the school’s 496 students (and some of its teachers) have overcome – pasts that include parents who have died of HIV/AIDS, physical and emotional abuse at the hands of relatives and “friends,” stark poverty, and all the shame and isolation that attends these afflictions.
Bupe Sulwishi, now 10 years old, moved into the very first home at the Tree of Life Children’s Village – Lahema’s House. Born with HIV, Bupe will never feel the hard effects of the disease because she has been properly cared for since the age of 4. Currently in fifth grade, Bupe is number one in her class, speaks beautiful English, and knows every character in the Bible.
“I feel blessed to live at Tree of Life because three of my six siblings didn’t survive. They passed away when they were little babies and four years old. Here, I know Jesus will keep me alive. At Legacy Academy, we are blessed to read many interesting books in our school library and in our classrooms. Our teachers invest into our lives. They love us and help us when we don’t know our way.”
James Chama, 16, is one of those students. Slim and serious, James is a seventh grader whose father and little brother have passed away, and whose mother is too poor and too sick to take care of him. Before he came to the school, he didn’t know how to read or do math. Now he dreams of becoming a doctor:
“Before I came, I didn’t know how to do mathematics. I didn’t understand the questions. But I’m getting good results now. I put in more effort, more concentration. I study more hours. Also, I couldn’t really speak English before, but now I’m getting better because of the teachers who help me to understand. I want to study more about the human body because I was in the hospital with sickle cell anemia, and I stayed there for three days. I like the circulation system in the body. That’s how blood is supplied to all parts of the body. “I heard the story of Dr. Ben Carson in March and that’s when I decided to become a doctor. He put more effort into studying after his mother told him to pick some books from the library. He became a surgeon, and I want to be a surgeon, too.”
Legacy Academy’s students wouldn’t progress without teachers such as Felisters Mwale. Mwale, who joined the school’s staff earlier this year, has an openness and optimism that have served her well during her often difficult 37 years.
Her father disowned her when she was 9 years old. She and her siblings were forced to live in a chicken run. Sometimes they went a whole day without eating. A few years later, after her mom died, her stepmother abused her, forcing her to do all the household chores before school. Sometimes forgotten at school, she had to find her way home on her own, weeping as she trudged the six or seven miles in the dark.
Here’s what she tells her students today:
“Looking at what I went through, I thought, ‘I never want another child to go through the same thing.’ I used to hear other children talk about their parents and the things they had at home and it was mental torture. I wanted to open an orphanage myself, but God had other plans. When my children [at Legacy Academy] aren’t paying attention, I tell them my background, and they start crying, and they say, ‘Teacher, you really suffered.’ And I say, ‘I don’t want you to suffer. I want you to make something of yourselves.’ “I tell them education is the only weapon. I also tell them that I knew the Lord when I was young. I say, ‘Look, if you don’t follow what the Bible says, you’ll be in trouble.’ I tell them, ‘Some of your friends are in the street with nowhere to go, and they’re envying to come to this place.’ I tell them, ‘You have a good home. You eat every day. You have a good school. You are privileged. Everything you have has been provided by the Lord through your sponsors. So work hard that you will glorify God and appreciate those people who are investing in your life.”