A Development Hero Reflects on His Work

Moses Zulu is the former director of Children's Town* in Zambia—a skills-training center, school, and home to approximately 300 former street children, AIDS orphans, and at-risk children. Because of his contributions to the children of Zambia, Mr Zulu was the focus of a 2005 PBS Program called "The New Heroes" hosted by Robert Redford (see video below). Today, Mr. Zulu works in Botswana where he is continuing to help those suffering from HIV/AIDS and assist communities in improving the condition of their lives.

Planet Aid spoke with Mr. Zulu about his work during a recent visit to its Maryland Headquarters.

How did you first get involved in development work?

I wanted to become a teacher, that was the first thing. It didn't come my way easy. My background was poor. It was tough. I was also in a small village where Humana People to People was starting some projects. I applied and was hired doing some office work, bookkeeping and administration.

But I found myself very much together with the children in the project. So I was asked, "Why don't you give some skills to the children on how to study business and so fourth?" I said to myself, I think I'll give this a full arm. So that's how my association began with the children.

When was Children's Town started?

In 1990, the economy had gone very bad in Zambia, which means it left children on the streets because parents were not having jobs anymore. But also, it was the coming of HIV/AIDS.

So that is when Children's Town was established in Zambia by DAPP Zambia. It started as a boarding facility for children coming from the streets. There were many whose parents died of HIV/AIDS and the kids were left as orphans.

The center had 300 children. They were coming with a lot of violence from the street, because some of them were drug addicts, some heavily abused, or coming from abusive homes.

How did you help the children?

If you provide a chance to any disadvantaged child it may not be too much, but give them your heart, give them a nice environment free from violence, they can become someone.

We would provide meals but also they didn't have an opportunity to go to school. It was only in Children's Town that they could because of the donors or partners that contributed, like Planet Aid, for example.

One educator was in charge of eight children, making sure each child is going for skills training, basic life skills, survival skills, and also some vocational skills. There was also a component of primary education.

One of the things I remember very well is that a child who is very vulnerable and on drugs, cannot trust anybody—cannot easily trust people because the people they thought they could trust, misled them and put them into the conditions they were in. If you take in a very vulnerable person, you think you should be appreciated immediately, but it takes a while to win that trust. To achieve that and know that those kids were able to tell me the true story of their own background, was remarkable.

I valued these children like my children. I put my children in the same school because I didn't want my children to get another education somewhere because I had the privilege myself.

Has the situation changed today?

Because of treatment, very few parents are dying of HIV/AIDS today in Zambia. But there is still the vulnerability because of poverty. So we still have children that end up on the streets in Zambia, because of the problems the country is facing. The need of the Children's Town is still there now.

I can say to you that the program has had impact. A number of children that were together with me from the beginning, they are today social workers, teachers, or engineers. Some of them have created centers for children. That is the kind of influence it has had.

*Children's Town is a joint initiative of DAPP Zambia and Humana People to People and was supported by Planet Aid.