Category Archives: Zambia

The Joy of Coloring

Coloring and drawing are some of the first ways children express themselves. It’s fun, easy, and even if initial attempts are not much more than scribbling, there is no denying that creativity and imagination are developing! You can find all kinds of articles and charts about when your child should start coloring if that’s your thing….   And of course even in such a seemingly simple pleasure there can be controversy about the importance and benefits of this activity.

But really….isn’t it just fun?

Lately, even adults have gotten in on the act.  Adult coloring books were one of the “it” gifts for Christmas 2015 and the #grownupcoloring hastag is popular on lots of social media outlets (Pinterest , Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr,  and more).  Adult coloring centers are opening at libraries and many workplaces offer coloring stations in their break areas.  I even was seated next to a passenger on a recent flight who was getting in on the action.IMG_4864Adult coloring has been touted as a stress reliever but of course this comes with more controversy… “Are adult coloring books the stress relief tool they’re hyped up to be?” You can decide for yourself. But I digress.

On a recent volunteer trip to Zambia with Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village Program, I witnessed the joy of coloring first hand. During my stay I spent one week living with 13 other volunteers in a very poor (by monetary standards only!) rural community.  The children were naturally curious about the foreigners who were visiting for the week and our house was a mob scene every day – in the best of ways. 🙂  We were escorted to and from meals and work by hoardes of children who wanted nothing more than to hold our hands and practice their English.  And each night when we came home, there were many curious eyes watching our every move.


One night, we had a surprise for them – coloring books! We brought them out and immediately the joyful ball tossing, jump roping, chasing and laughing stopped. Silence descended on us all and eager eyes were glued to the prize.

Because of the large number of kids, we needed a system. We literally drew a line in the sand in our yard and asked them all to line up, which they did quickly and efficiently .:-)

IMG_6387Next they were asked to choose a “Spiderman” or “Animal” and one coloring book page was given to each child.  Nobody ran off.  Still standing perfectly still in line…  A few milled planks were in the yard and served as a table for the kids. We distributed a few crayons and let them have at it!


IMG_6390The result was a bunch of happy kids as well as a group of amazed adults. I guess coloring really is for everyone. 🙂



Meet my friend “Wisdom”

IMG_6356I met Wisdom while volunteering with Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village Program in Zambia. Wisdom worked tirelessly with my group volunteers over the course of a few days as we built a home for a Emilia, an elderly caretaker who is benefitting from Habitat’s Orphans and Vulnerable Children Project (much more on Emilia soon!).

One day Wisdom was feeling ill so he left us to visit the local clinic (the bags cement we used to build this home were being stored in his bedroom and caused him some respiratory distress). Despite our protests, he tried to jump back into work immediately upon his return. He was so proud to be helping us and wouldn’t let anything slow him down. Even when he could only “supervise” from a seated position, Wisdom told us that “a sleeping dog is better than a dead lion” – a reference to his inexhaustible desire to contribute, no matter how strong (or not) he was feeling.

IMG_6255Wisdom is 40 years old and lives with his wife, Maureen, and their three children (Justin (4), Susan (7), and an older boy whom I did not have a chance to meet) in two rooms of the house where Emilia currently lives.  The house is unsafe, and has already partially collapsed.  Wisdom’s rooms are at the back right of the photo above.  Here are some photos of the inside of the house where he and his family currently live:

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Clockwise from top left:  1) families clothes hanging in bedroom where cement bags are stored 2) leaking roof which allows water in during the rainy season 3) living room storage with family supplies 4) living room seating

Wisdom rents these rooms for 100 Zambian Kwacha per month, the equivalent of about 13USD. The conditions of his home are substandard, but Wisdom constantly insisted that he was grateful to have a roof over his head. He is, himself, an orphan and was excited that we were there to help Emilia and her family – even though he will not directly benefit from the new home.

Maureen works each day as a house maid and their eldest child is able to attend school. Justin and Susan were home, gushing over their dad and full of smiles. Even in poverty they find happiness:

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Wisdom told me that when his parents died and he had nowhere to live, he had to teach himself a skill so that he  could provide for his family. He now spends his days repairing shoes in the shade of the tree in the yard. His advertising is a small cardboard sign tacked to the tree on the street:

IMG_6344Neighbors know Wisdom and his quality work. There are regular customers but the work is still sporadic, with money for “unnecessary items” often scarce.  At most there may be 3 repairs per day. There are also plenty of days without work. It takes Wisdom about 15 minutes to perform a simple repair by hand and the charge is approximately 1 Kwacha ($0.15).


I’m proud to call Wisdom my friend.  By all standards, he lives a very difficult life. But in him I see a spirit that we would all be lucky to possess. He is determined, caring, resourceful, and giving.  He is open, friendly and welcoming, takes pride in providing for his family, and does not allow life to defeat him.  When I next worry about where to go for dinner or whether to buy that next pair of shoes, I will certainly think twice about Wisdom and his family.