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“I am a mother of over 50 children. If you want to marry me, you should be ready to be their father.” That is what young Faith, in her early twenties and fresh out of nursing school told, Kaumba Liyena, the man that would become her best friend and confidant. Faith Mukumbo Liyena, founding manager of Faith Orphanage Foundation (FOF) was raised in Kamuchanga, Mufulira on the Copperbelt in a three bedroomed house which was often filled beyond its capacity, sometimes accommodating 16 children at a time. Inspired by former Mukinge Mission Hospital matron, Doreen Ross (now in Canada), Faith has been burdened by the sight of orphaned children roaming the communities. She initially started by taking care of the educational needs of a few children and found herself taking care of more as the years went by. Gradually the concept of establishing a home based facility for orphaned children was cemented in her heart and she founded FOF in 1992.

“While I was working as a nurse at Mukinge Mission Hospital, I took keen interest in knowing who would take care of orphaned children. Whenever I saw a parent die I would go round the villages to find out who was taking care of these children and found that in most cases, their helpless grandmothers were keeping them, simply taking care of their basic needs but the children would mostly be out of school. That spurred me on,” she says. Driven by a passion to care for young underprivileged children’s educational needs, FOF has helped countless children from an initial 25 at inception to well over 4, 000 today “I was amazed that at some point running or purporting to run a non-governmental organization such as ours could be used as a money spinning venture. It broke my heart when I came to learn that some people were taking advantage of others’ misfortune to enrich themselves. Children hold a special place in my heart and that is why, even without any resources I told God that I would open up my home to less privileged children trusting that he would provide the means to take care of them.

My father was Pastor at Kamuchanga Baptist church for many years. My parents had big hearts and I guess that’s where it all begun really. I would pester my parents regarding the welfare of other children and together, we prayed about it and after that, in 1992 established FOF. ”I initially started with 4 children, who I took care of unofficially. I was advised against ‘adopting’ the children but instead to help meet their academic needs while they stayed with their guardians.

This is what I adopted to do from the time that we founded FOF. The number has grown, tthe foundation for over 4, 000 children today.” Faith talks about how FOF helped more than 500 grade 12 pupils last year alone and sent 5 students each year, since 2007, to study as teachers. She talks about the FOF Skills Training Centre in Kitwe which is empowering the ‘children’ with carpentry, tailoring and design, theology, Information Communications Technologies (ICT’s), welding and, basic agricultural knowledge and skills. The center caters for 50 students instead of the projected 30 as intended in 2000. FOF operates 34 centers manned by over 100 volunteers in Northwestern and Copperbelt Provinces. Some of the activities at the centers include the running of women’s clubs at its Solwezi and Mwembeshi ‘stations.’ To celebrate 25 years of operations, Faith says the foundation has set on an ambitious project to plant 25, 000 trees this year. She says children must be taught the importance of trees to the environment so that they can better preserve them. This exercise will be done in partnership with schools, churches and communities. The Silver Jubilee anniversary is meant to be a weeklong affair, starting 6th to 12th August, 2017. FOF to will also celebrate its association with Teen Missions, with whom it has worked Faith Orphans Fund – a Canadian charity. Some of the achievements FOF has recorded over the years include the construction of community schools catering for grades 1-4 in Solwezi and Lufwanyama districts, as well as sinking 15 wells.

“The future looks bright and ambitious for FOF,” she says “We hope to build 2 secondary schools, one each in Lufwanyama and Solwezi to cater for approximately 1, 000 pupils. This is to reduce the distances that the children to cover to access upper secondary education in these areas.

“We have constructed an agriculture college in Malembeka area – Kitwe rural on the Copperbelt. The infrastructure is
in place and all it requires now is the furniture and funds for running costs. It will initially cater for 300 students. “FOF further wishes to intensify its health education program which focuses on HIV/AIDS awareness among others.” Faith has 4 biological children, a girl Nelly 22 and 3 boys Pola 20, Mukumbu 18 and Butemwe 16. She stresses that it has not all been rosy and that FOF has had a lot of challenges including financial as most partners have only met specific needs of the children. But Faith says her bearing trust in God is what gets her through all situations.

To women who are faced with challenges she says, “God has put so much in us, you know what they say about women – we are suppressed but I urge them to soldier on. You are the vision carrier and must at all costs achieve your goals as long as you put your trust in the Lord. You may be going to a particular place, either on foot, on a bicycle or in a taxi, it does not matter, just make sure you get there. That’s the most important thing – to reach your desired destination.”

Faith she remembers with great sadness the deaths of her mother, Evelyn on 6th June, 2004 and her father, Reverend Edwin Mukumbo on 8th December, 2015.

“I was sad when mum passed on but devastated when dad went to join her. I know daughters are supposed to be closer to their mothers but dad was my confidant and a very strong influence in my life. After retiring from pastoral work we worked together at FOF and he was very instrumental in helping the foundation reach the heights that it has done.” The smile returns as she looks forward to FOF’s next 25 years leading to the jubilee year for the organization. “I know the challenge is immense but I trust God will grant us renewed energy and resources to reach out and touch the lives of our lovely children. Our goal is to give an individual a chance; Changing the world one child at a time,” she ends. – Suma Systems.

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