SEP–DEC 2009

10/16 10/19

Toronto, Canada

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....Daniel is one of 16 AIDS orphans, ages 2-16, who have been taken in by Padilla in Zambia in an effort to feed, clothe and educate at least a handful of that country’s 600,000 orphans. Almost all were orphaned by AIDS. Thousands are living with overburdened grandparents. Others live on their own. “Many of them are teenagers who are taking care of younger siblings,” says Padilla, 50, who helps set up gardens in the homes they’ve inherited from their parents.

A social activist with four grown children, Padilla quite her job and flew to Zambia in February to realize her dream of helping that devastated country. It was her third trip back. Earlier, she had met with a few like-minded folks – American and Zambian – and formed the Zambian Children’s Fund. With $55,000 raised from generous Southern Arizonans, she then made a down payment on a 100-acre plot that she hopes will one day support a boarding school, homes, clinic and farm.

Until that happens, Padilla has rented a three-bedroom house in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital. In May, she started taking in children. By July, the house was filled with 16. Bunk beds, four to a bedroom, help. So do fruit trees and a garden out back. Everyone does chores. Willingly. “The children are such a joy,” says Padilla. “It’s 8 a.m. and I’m working on the computer and listening to them washing dishes and singing in harmony.”

In a country with dozens of languages, most of the children speak at least three, says Padilla, who’s learned to converse with Daniel in the clicking sounds of Xosha.

Many of the children wear clothing donated by Tucsonans, including the sewing circle of Tortolita Presbyterian Church. Individuals and school districts alike have donated computers, chairs, tables and “five huge blackboards,” says Padilla.

Currently, Padilla is working with a Zambian teacher on developing a curriculum that reflects both Zambian and American cultures and values. Anxious not to be seen as “this white woman swooping in to help these poor Zambian children,” Padilla plans to “raise them as Zambian but have them know about the good parts of being American.”

That can be as basic as knowing good hygiene. Still, everything from mumps to malaria to intestinal worms has swept through the home. In August, three little girls taken in from the bush had head lice. Nothing left to do but shave the heads of all nine girls in the compound. A medical doctor donates his time, but not his supplies.

Besides the children sharing Padilla’s home, her organization is also helping about 100 other children who can’t afford the tuition, books or uniforms needed for school in Zambia.

While it’s a fortune in Zambia, the cost of all this, plus rent and food, amounts to only about $1,500 a month. Padilla is now on a swing through Southern Arizona, speaking to service groups, churches and anyone else willing to listen. Besides money, donations of everything from children’s clothing to household goods to Tylenol is needed. For more information, contact us by clicking this link.

In January, Padilla will once more return to Zambia  and the children she left behind. “When I left, there were 16 children sobbing on the front porch,” she says. “It was awful.”

Please donate by clicking here so more children will receive help!