Janela’s deep brown eyes tell a forceful, poignant story. She’s 8. Her mom is dead. Janela doesn’t remember her or how she died. Her dad is a struggling farmer who can’t afford to feed his children.
Janela lives in an orphan home in the rural village of Chongwe, Zambia, where education is paramount in preparing children to successfully manage the harsh social and economic circumstances this region of Africa presents.
The local school is just a short walk up the dusty road from Janela’s home. With eight classrooms, 19 teachers, and almost 800 students, the school day is broken into three two-hour sessions to accommodate enrollment. Attending here are the fortunate kids who can afford the required uniform and books in order to get two hours of daily education.
But Janela sees something bigger than this overcrowded school.
Up the road is a 25-acre piece of land that a local chief donated to GEMS Girls’ Clubs. Home to The Esther School, the land will one day be the site for a school that trains, equips, and educates orphans and children from poor families in a distinctly Christian worldview, addressing the spiritual, practical, emotional, and financial needs of the vulnerable girls and boys living there.
Incorporating sustainable practices, The Esther School will aim to become totally self-sufficient and will use solar power, reuse waste water for irrigation, and include gardens, orchards, and house barns for raising livestock.
Students will learn about and become responsible for many of these self-sustaining components, which will generate income for the school and produce food for the children.
Construction is currently underway, but a total of 180,000 bricks are needed to make The Esther School a reality. GEMS Girls’ clubs have held fundraisers to help. Girls across North America have declined Christmas and birthday gifts to support the GEMS brick campaign.
“We wanted to give people a tangible way to get involved,” explained Jan Boone, executive director of GEMS, “and the response has been so heartwarming.”