The journey for Hands of Hope began with a seventeen-year-old girl from Aiken named Savannah when she took a short mission trip to Zambia, a nation in southern Africa. Zambia is one of the poorest countries in the world with 60 percent of the population living below the international poverty line and 40 percent of those people living in extreme poverty. While it is a very peaceful country full of people who prioritize community, we still see theft, hunger, disease, child marriage, and lack of resources running rampant as an effect. After feeling called by God that Zambia was where Savannah was supposed to be, she stayed with a local pastor she had met on the trip two years earlier and began working for the summer in schools that served children in poverty. There were small kids running around on streets filled with trash and dirty water. People burned plastic to start fires in order to cook food. School children were packed in small rooms with barely any space to sit and left unattended for large amounts of time simply copying from a chalkboard. It was clear that God had more in store for the people in front of her.
So, the next summer, as a twenty-year-old college student, she and Zambian Pastor Bitwell Njovu started a school for orphans and vulnerable children in a few rooms of a rented house. They spent the summer renovating, planting a garden, finding quality teachers, and identifying those who didn’t have access to education. By the end of that summer, there were fifty children orphaned or in desperate situations in the school who were given access to daily nutrition and quality education. Currently, 25 percent of Zambia’s poorest children between ages 7-13 are not attending school. Also, 28 percent of 15-24 year olds have not completed primary education (up to grade 7) in Zambia. In the midst of so much need, God is bringing revival and hope to His people by putting those who can help in front of it all.
Since then, the school that is now called Hands of Hope Trust School has over 300 hundred children from pre-K to grade seven. Surrounding schools and local leaders are amazed at the success of the children that attend this school, and the school continues to pray for room for all of the children in need that hope to attend. What started as two very different people following what they feel God led them to do, has now become a nonprofit with many areas of ministry- Hands of Hope. Nancy, Savannah’s grandmother, accompanied her for the first two weeks one summer and felt passionate that these children needed help at home. She began the child sponsorship program. They, along with people from around the CSRA, created a nonprofit to partner in God’s mission in Zambia, and Hands of Hope is now a registered 5013c nonprofit organization.
Hands of Hope’s child sponsorship program serves individual orphans and vulnerable children by providing food at home, clothes, and access to education. There are currently sixty children sponsored as well as four individuals under college sponsorship where they are given advanced education to help transform communities through their line of work. Hands of Hope also has plans in the bush where you can find people living in mud homes without running water or electricity. They plan to build a place for children and families to promote transformation using church plants, a trade center, business center, school, and sustainable agriculture.
Since coming to Zambia, guests and board members of Hands of Hope have experienced life and God in a whole new way. There is amazing beauty in how the people who are given very little in life have amazing compassion and warmth. Zambian people practice generosity that knows no bounds, hospitality that continues to create close friendships, and whole-hearted worship that shows God’s fullness and joy. Zambians experiencing hardship are not afraid to ask for help, and their neighbors will share what they have in order to lift others up. Experiencing such blessings is certainly two-fold for Americans who come to serve, oftentimes feeling like they received more from the Zambian people than they were able to give while there.
Currently, Savannah and her husband, Luke, live in Zambia working full-time with Pastor Bitwell as God moves in and through Hands of Hope. If you would like to learn more about Hands of Hope’s story and missions, please visit handsofhopeus.com. There are many abounding needs for these children and families experiencing poverty in Zambia.