A new discipleship programme in Zambia aims to involve young people in learning how to protect themselves by taking them on a journey of self-discovery, learning who they are in Christ.
‘Discipleship’ is currently running in six different communities in Lusaka, Zambia. Each community was asked to suggest twenty 12-18 year-olds to attend, particularly focusing on children who are not in school, those who have reported abuse, those with physical disabilities, or those who have been orphaned or head up their households.
Most houses in these communities have no running water or electricity. They are densely populated and have high cases of abuse. Houses are built so close together that, if child abuse happens, neighbours will know but sadly not report it.
Children living here who are educated often attend church-run community schools, which have poor infrastructure and are run by volunteers with little access to quality educational material.
We have around 86 children altogether coming for ‘Discipleship’ sessions. Some children are inconsistent in attending because of distance to travel or needing to help with household chores.
The series is designed to be completed in three months, with one session every fortnight, lasting three hours. In each session, children have discussions and participate in activities around specific Bible-based topics with weekly tasks given to work on before the next meeting.
The course has three clear aims: to build positive friendships, self-esteem and confidence; to equip children to be able to participate in discussions and to empower children to protect themselves both in the real world and online.
Throughout the journey so far, it has been amazing to see how some of the shy children have grown in confidence and now participate in the discussions, volunteer to pray before or after a session and offer personal experiences for others to learn from.
One girl in Chelstone community shared how her mother had sent her to buy something from a nearby shop in the evening. Following the session on child protection, the child told her mother she did not feel safe walking alone in the evening, and her mother listened to her.
We are excited to see where God is taking each young person and we are so glad we can be part of their journey!
By Sam Fairs-Billam, a co-ordinator of the Samalani Children at Risk (SCAR) network in Lusaka, Zambia
This article first appeared in Life magazine, issue 12