"A friendship forged in adversity turns into family for two former street children at DAPP children's town."
When Aaron Lungu (l) ran away from home to live in the streets of Kitwe on the Copperbelt, his mother searched everywhere – including mortuaries at various hospitals for unclaimed bodies in the fears her teenage son had died in the dangerous, unforgiving streets.
“I called his sister in Ndola and his father’s village in Petauke to find out whether he had gone there, but he was not there. I continued praying for Aaron wherever he was. That is all I could do at that time. I was worried, but I did not lose hope I would reunite with my son,” recalled Aaron’s mother, Elina Kumwenda.
In 2017, after almost three years on the street – Aaron said he boarded a train from Kitwe to Lusaka with a friend without any money and continued his life on the streets of Zambia’s capital.
“It was not too long after I moved to Lusaka that I met officers from DAPP Children’s Town and Social Welfare encouraging us to come and learn skills here. I reluctantly agreed at first, but after coming here, my life changed for the better. I now know agriculture. Something I never knew before and had no interest,” Aaron explained.
At Children’s Town, Aaron’s paths would cross with Justine Tembo (right) – another run away child who spent years on the streets of the Copperbelt and Lusaka. Justine and Aaron both graduated with Certificates in General Agriculture at Children’s Town and forged a friendship that has turned into a family.
“…the boys are relating and working very well together. I am happy to have Justine in my home. The Social Welfare Office is assisting us to formalize Justine to be a member of our family. I have a big farm with water and everything. If they are willing, Justine and Aaron use their skills and knowledge there as they work together to better themselves. They are my sons now,” explained Elina.
“My parents are late,” explains Justine while adding, “I have lived on the streets for many years. The skills I have learnt here have changed my life and I just want to say thank you. I am grateful for the new family that I have found. I cannot go back to my past with what I have learnt.”
Aaron and Justine are among 56 students, including 14 former street children who graduated from DAPP Children’s Town School in Chibombo district after undergoing a 2 years’ vocational, entrepreneurial and life skills training programme.
During the Graduation Ceremony on 10th November 2023 - DAPP Managing Director, Elise Soerensen encouraged the graduates to continue working together.
“…the next step on your journey to a bright future is in front of you. It is not going to be easy one. But you have learnt here in Children’s Town that moving alone might break you, but moving together as a group will make you strong. Never forget this – stick together with your fellow graduates, with your families and or members of the communities. And reach out to government and other partner empowerment programmes,” stated Elise during her remarks at the ceremony.