Family strengthening – August 29 2017 Changing childhoods and futures through family strengthening Martin Chada recalls how his family’s life changed when his mother enrolled in SOS family strengthening eight years ago. Martin, 24, still remembers how difficult life was before he and his family joined the SOS Children’s Villages family strengthening programme in Lusaka, Zambia. “Our living conditions were very pathetic. My mother had no money to pay for rent, so we lived in a small tent – me, my mother and my four siblings”. Mary, his mother, had lost her husband some years ago. With five children to take care of on her own – and no job – life became very daunting. She was only able to provide her children with one meal a day. “This really affected us mentally and it also affected our concentration at school because sometimes we would go to school on an empty stomach”, Martin recalls. Before joining the programme Mary raised money for her family by crushing stones and selling the smaller bits on the street to people who would use them for construction or gardening. “When her business was slow, it meant sleeping on empty stomachs or going to school hungry. Therefore, we rather helped our mother in her stone crushing business – at the expense of attending school”, Martin explains. A reversal of fate When Mary enrolled in SOS family strengthening in 2009, the family’s life improved immediately. Mary and her children got access to decent accommodation and all the children were enrolled in school. She received financial support to ensure her kids would have the necessary school supplies. Mary also attended a course on how to establish a business, including lessons on economics and accounting – after which she opened her very first own business. “My mother owns a small restaurant within our community and from this small business she is able to provide us with decent and regular meals. We have three meals in a day, and we are living as a happy family”, says Martin. The family has a house of their own, built for them by Habitat for Humanity, an organisation which SOS Children’s Villages Zambia is partnering with to support families. “I’m proud of our house, proud of my restaurant and proud of the kids’ efforts in school. And I am grateful for having had the opportunity to bring these changes about in my children’s lives”, says Mary. Martin’s older brother has completed his studies and is currently looking for employment as an electrician, while Martin is studying power electrical at the SOS vocational training centre in Lusaka. The younger siblings are still in school. Benefitting the community Eight years after the enrolment in the programme, Mary and her children are not only committed to one another, they are also contributing to their community. In addition to supporting her own five children, Mary is now also able to support two orphans from her extended family. Her new business has also created a job for her sister Lucy, who now earns a living for herself and her five children. But the effect of SOS family strengthening has also gone beyond the family. As a committed member of the Village Savings and Loans Association and the local women’s network, Mary has given back to the community and supported other vulnerable families.