The world bank classifies Zambia as one of the worlds least-developed countries. Seventy-eight percent of Zambians live below the poverty line. Fifty percent of the children have stunted growth and twenty five percent have stunted brain development due to inadequate access to food. The number of orphans in Zambia due to AIDS, sickness, and poverty is overwhelming. The disease leaves children alone in a country with no network of support other than family members, who are often too poorly equipped to care for them. While Kasisi is by no means solving Zambian's orphan crisis, it an integral part of the solution in Lusaka, Zambia. Kasisi's children are fed, clothed and receive simple medical atention, which is more than can be said for the majority of Zambia's children.
I lived in Zambia for five years during my childhood. While there, my 6th grade class did a study: we wanted to find out if the average Zambian earns enough income to afford a minimally nutritious diet for a family of 6 (a small family by Zambian standards). The answer? No. The average Zambian worker did not earn enough money to afford a minimally nutritious diet of foods sold at local markets, let alone pay for school, housing, coal for heating the fire, medical expenses-- anything else that a family needs.
I liken Kasisi Orphanage to an oasis. All in all, these orphans, are the fortunate ones. Perhaps that's what made those 7 weeks so difficult-- knowing that these children are the lucky ones. These kids are fed. But there's a whole country outside of the gates of Kasisi where the children aren't fed enough. Their bellies are bloated from malnutrition and they're hungry all the time.
My photo essay is aimed towards allowing those here, half a world away, to identify with the faces of Kasisi's children in the hopes that they might see the orphanage's struggle to provide adequate care for its children, internalize the problem by looking at the photographs, and by doing so, be mobilized to make an effort to change the situation in whatever capacity one is able.
During the summer, I shared lemons, stories, games, songs and time with the children of Kasisi Orphanage. Despite the hardships of living in a third world country with no relatives able to care for them, the children of Kasisi are resilient and generally happy. While some of the photographs reflect the difficulties of orphan life: sickness, loneliness and a lack of individual attention, I hope to also convey the message that Kasisi is not a place of sadness. The children are well treated and cared for. The greatest part about Kasisi is that even in a country that seems to be falling apart, Kasisi harbors the country's greatest assets: happy, healthy, educated children.