Saved by volunteer’s death

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VIOLET MENGO, Lusaka
ESTHER Chansa is a graduate of the University of Zambia (UNZA). She studied Environmental Education through the support of Cecily’s Fund, a United Kingdom (UK) charity.

“When I qualified to Grade 8, my parents could not afford school requirements, so I turned to Bwafwano Integrated Services Organisation (BISO) for help,” Esther says.
At BISO, through Cecily’s Fund, Esther was supported to further her education from Grade 8 to 12. She was supported with books, school uniforms and school fees.
When she completed secondary education, she was further assisted to secure a Government bursary and place at the University of Zambia (UNZA) where she pursued a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Education.
Esther is now a facilitator for BISO’s fresh start programme under which she trains her peers in entrepreneurship.
She is one of the over 20,000 children that have been assisted by Cecily’s Fund, since the charity was established in 1997.
The UK charity was established in memory of a 19-year-old British youth Cecily Eastwood who died in a road traffic accident in Kitwe in 1997.
Who was Cecily and what are the origins of Cecily’s Fund?
Cecily was a young woman who after finishing high school secured a place at a Cambridge University. She chose to spend the one year preceding her entry into university working as a volunteer in Zambia.
During her stay in Zambia, she taught at Lechwe School in Kitwe and also volunteered for a charity called CINDI where she helped run a homework club for orphans.
Cecily’s life was cut short when the pick-up truck she was travelling in crashed after hitting a pothole and experiencing a tyre burst.
After her tragic death in Kitwe, Cecily’s parents Basil and Alison Eastwood came to Zambia during which time they met some of the orphans that their daughter worked with.
The Eastwoods decided to do something to help the orphans, so they managed to collect £6,500 from friends, family, and other well-wishers in the UK who learned of the volunteer’s tragic death from media reports.
This marked the birth of Cecily’s Fund, giving hope to orphans and vulnerable children in Zambia who are being helped to get a good education.
The decision to found Cecily’s Fund was made in 1998, when during their visit to Zambia, Basil and Alison learned that CINDI had used up the money that was raised at Cecily’s funeral and the charity did not know how to sustain its help to the children from poor families.
Through its support to poor households, Cecily’s Fund has been helping children with school fees, uniforms, entrepreneurial training and peer health education to encourage responsible behaviour, thereby reducing the HIV incidence among adolescents.
The organisation operates under four thematic areas – enabling Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) to go to school, supporting children to succeed at school, preparing children for life beyond school and strengthening community support for children’s education.
Since 1997, Cecily’s Fund has shown that education can transform lives just like Esther’s, who is now a university graduate.
Isaac Zulu is another of the 20,000 children that have benefitted from the UK charity.
When Isaac scored six points at Grade 12, he had no one to pay for his tertiary education despite being an A-grade school leaver.
Cecily’s Fund helped him to get a government bursary and today, he is a second-year medical student at UNZA.
Isaac also runs an arts gallery which he registered under the Patents and Companies Registration Agency (PACRA) after receiving entrepreneurship training by Cecily’s Fund.
“Being a product of Cecily’s Fund, it is my duty to help other people in society. This is the reason why I want to be a doctor so that I can help the sick,” Isaac says.
Cecily’s Fund programme manager Steven Barlow notes that the charity has helped transform lives of underprivileged children in Zambia through education.
He said the charity has grown from a small family run charity to a professional non-governmental organisation (NGO) with programmes across Copperbelt and Lusaka.
It also has a small paid team.
In its over 20 years of existence, Cecily’s Fund has spent over £500 million on OVC.
In Lusaka, the charity has partnered with BISO to provide educational support to OVC. BISO a community centre in Chazanga, runs a community school, clinic, a skills training programme in partnership with Cecily’s Fund. The two NGOs forged partnership in 2002.
Cecily’s Fund fully funds BISO’s community school, targeting children orphaned by HIV and HIV positive children, among other OVC.
The children are sponsored from pre-school up to primary and secondary level in government schools of their choice.
BISO executive director Beatrice Chola said 1,126 children have completed their education in Lusaka with the help of Cecily’s Fund.
“The community is indebted to Cecily’s Fund because many children have benefitted while others are still being supported,” Ms Chola says.
Seven children have completed their university education while 68 are in university, about 650 are enrolled at the community school, whereas 800 are served with a meal every school day.
In Kitwe district, Cecily’s Fund is paying school fees, providing uniforms, and books for children in about 58 schools. This it has been doing since 2003.
Among its other programmes on the Copperbelt, the organisation is coaching mothers to generate income at community level and save it so as to support children’s education.
In Chingola, the UK charity is sponsoring 900 school girls.
These are girls who had previously dropped out of school and are helped to get a second chance at education through the provision of school fees, uniforms and books.
“We also training them (girls) and their mothers in entrepreneurship and saving so that the mothers and guardians can continue supporting the girls in school,” Mr Barlow says.
Cecily’s Fund supports about 5,000 children per year across its projects in Zambia with financial help from individual donors, Department for International Development, UKAID and Comic relief.
The organisation’s director Cheryl Hooper, during her visit to Zambia recently noted that most financiers of Cecily’s Fund are from the UK and there was no support from Zambians.
However, the organisation wants Zambians at home and in the diaspora, to come on board and sponsor OVC in school through Cecily’s Fund.
Ms Hooper said those that would like to help should visit the organisation’s website, www.cecilysfund.org.
Lookout for another article on Cecily’s Fund-sponsored projects next Friday.
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