Frontline Stories

The World Turned Upside Down

by Laura Reinhardt

Suddenly, in my mind, I was once again standing in a field in rural Zambia listening to an 18-year-old young man named Bee who was telling me his family’s story.

“When [my father] died, the story turned upside down,” Bee told me. “It was easy to notice the difference. I used to wear nice clothes. I used to eat every day.”

After his father’s untimely death in 1999, Bee and his family went hungry quite often. It got so bad that his schoolwork suffered. “My performance was being affected. I couldn’t concentrate,” he says. He had to repeat 6th grade because he missed a full term. “It was hard to cope with hunger.”

His mother, Esnart, didn’t know what to do and where to turn. Her children cried about their hunger, driving her away from the home because she knew she could do nothing to ease their pain.

Esnart remarried in 2003 and hoped that the situation would improve for her children and herself. But frequent fights between husband and wife meant no return to the better days of her first marriage. A few years later, Esnart became deathly ill. Her husband didn’t take care of her, so she and her children returned to her home village.

Ultimately her marriage failed, but things did begin to look up for Esnart’s family. And it came in the most unlikely of forms — chickens!

Through World Vision’s Gift Catalogue, she received four chickens and one rooster. “My heart was ignited with so much joy,” Esnart told me. When the chickens arrived, she named them. “I gave them names because those chickens were a gift,” she says. “I had a special relationship with those chickens.” She wanted to be able to call them and have them respond to those names.

Esnart learned about livestock management from World Vision. Experts educated her about the right foods to feed her chickens so they would produce more eggs, multiply, and thrive.

And thrive they did! Within a year, Esnart’s animals numbered 200 roosters, 124 chickens, and eight baby chicks — all from the original five.

“God was so good. He made the chickens reproduce very fast as though He was looking forward to reducing our hunger,” says Bee.

That gift of chickens turned the world upside down again for Bee, his mother Esnart, and now his young stepbrother Resheal.

“The chickens have been a foundation,” says Esnart. “Without these chickens, my family would have been wallowing in poverty.” She began selling chickens to local restaurants. With those profits, Esnart bought turkeys and cattle, as well as seeds and fertiliser to increase the size of her garden.

Esnart told me that she wants her children and grandchildren — like 4-year-old Chansa — to have access to a better future. “I chose to educate my children because I wanted them to live a better life later in the future, not a difficult life, like what I had myself,” she says.

The animals allow her to keep Resheal and Bee in school, something she couldn’t do for some of her older children.

Bee and Resheal both dream of being doctors. Resheal is already starting to work on his medical skills. When his elderly grandmother stepped on a thorn, he tenderly pulled it from her gnarled foot — good practice for the young doctor-in-training.

“I want to be treating people. I want people to live a healthy life, and I would want to take people out of their old life,” he told me, his megawatt smile lighting up his whole face.

Esnart knows that due to the foundation laid by the chickens and the ongoing support of Child Sponsorship and the savings groups, she’ll have the money she needs to support his education. “My dream [for Resheal] is that he would have a fruitful future; that he would have a productive future,” she says.

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