I love asking children the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Some have their answers instantly ready, my youngest son from age 4 would always express his ambition to be “a pilot”. His ambition has never changed, and he is beginning to see his lifelong ambition realised. Some children go for what looks successful, a footballer or actor, that they have seen or heard of. Some hesitate…they don’t really know what the options are. What can the world offer them?
Ask any child in Zambia that same question and the answers follow a similar pattern. Some know instantly, a teacher, a doctor, a nurse. Others will describe a famous footballer. Some hesitate…for those their very real question is, is whatever is out there ever available to people like me. These are the children who know that the only way to be anything in life means education, education that is not available to them.
I remember hearing my son express his ambition to be a pilot and feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of all that it would cost him to see his dream come true. Everything in you wants to encourage him to aim low so that he won’t be disappointed if he fails. I have felt that same feeling when I have listened to the many children express their ambitions to be doctors and nurses knowing full well that the journey to get there won’t be an easy one for many. Do I just let them down gently…or do I rise up and champion their cause? I know that having an education gives them a fighting chance to be the best they can possibly be and whilst I can’t open every door, maybe I can open this one.
Poverty is a trap for our young. It keeps them where they are, it tells them that it doesn’t matter what is in your heart to do, or how capable you might be, you cannot ‘be’ or ‘do’ because you don’t ‘have’.
I really love to see that turned on it’s head. Children who have faced every door closed to them, are often those who will walk boldly and confidently through every door opened for them. And they usually lead the way for others. That has certainly been our experience.
This is why we do what we do. This is why every year we ask for support at this time, in readiness for the start of the academic year in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Kenya. We know in January we will receive our ‘list’ and on that list will be the names of those who have an ambition in their hearts to achieve something in life. They have the willingness and drive to learn, to work hard to demonstrate they can, if someone would just give them a ‘fighting chance.’