Just last week, Melinda Gates challenged the world to start doing a better job supporting grassroots women’s movements in her article  “It’s Time for a New Era” (Jan 4, 2018), when she proclaimed ” You may never know their names. They work beneath the headlines and far from the spotlight. When they receive formal recognition from the bodies like the Nobel Committee, it is the exception, not the norm. But the fact remains: under the radar, grassroots organizations led by women are quietly changing the world.” Media Melinga is one of these “under the radar” exceptions.

When Media lost her husband to HIV, and subsequently discovered that she was also infected, rather than crawling into a hole and feeling sorry for herself (like I probably would have done), she determined to leave a legacy for her children. Up until this point, there had been no school in her per-urban community of Makululu, Zambia. For their education, the children simply met under a tree and were taught to read by a community elder who etched letters with a stick in the sand. The Zambian government does not initiate the building of schools; it is left to communities to collaborate with NGO’s, and in order to convince a local NGO to build a school, the forming of a school board is required. Media determined that her school board was not going to be a board made up of just any trustees; her school board would be made of other HIV infected widows like herself. She was adamant to not only leave her own legacy, but to empower other single mothers to leave legacies for their children as well.

In 2004, Media’s vision was realized; Bwafwno School was built with the help of a group of Canadians from Calgary, Alberta. Not only was the two-room cinder block school erected, but a latrine and a deep-water borehole installed. That meant that Media and her resilient board not only brought education to the children of Makululu, but also sanitation and clean water to their entire community! Moreover, once a proper school had been built, along with sanitation and water, the government of Zambia stepped up and sent qualified teachers. Sadly, Media succumbed to her illness in 2007. This wonderful woman is sorely missed by our WOW team but nevertheless, her legacy lives on and we would like to honour that legacy.

I am always amazed at how God is able to make beauty out of our ashes; to take wrong things and make them right, and dark things and make them light; how his resurrection power is always busily at work on behalf of his children by working all things out for our good, and even then, always exceedingly and abundantly beyond what we could ask or imagine. As a single mom myself, Media’s storey is an inspiration to me. First, there are always the financial challenges, especially during back to school time, but there are also those days when your university student comes home and you find the entire contents of their dorm room dumped all over your living room floor, and couch, and hallway. Equally, there are those days when you come home from work, and, not to mention bussing children around from practice to practice and find the kitchen cluttered with dishes leaving you with hours of work still ahead (that’s if you want to avoid hours of fighting), rather than that warm bath you were so looking forward to. When I get frustrated, Media’s story keeps me grounded. More than that, it inspires me to go above and beyond, even if that means simply giving to support a student or running an event to help spread the word and get some of these children in Zambia to school.

Today there are 1.2 million orphans in Zambia. 800,000 have lost their parents due to HIV & AIDS. That’s more than the entire population of Hamilton, Burlington, and Stoney Creek combined! 

Though, in Zambia, primary education is free, unless children have the required school supplies and uniforms they are unable to attend. Amazingly, the cost of supplying these required items is just $25 for an entire year! For the month of February, our goal is to send 100 of these orphans and vulnerable children to school in Zambia and Uganda and change their lives forever, orphans like Media’s children. You can help by donating today or by becoming a WOW Advocate by hosting an event in your church, school, friend group, or workplace.

$25 not only promises to help ensure that an orphan or vulnerable child, like Media’s children, are able to attend school for a full year, it also helps fuel the local economy, as the school supplies are purchased locally in Zambian shops, and the uniforms are sewn by local widows who have started their own tailoring business. Let’s help Media’s legacy live on and send 100 kids to school!

WOW is a Canadian Christian NGO which partners with local leaders in Malawi, Zambia, and Uganda, helping widows and orphans affected by HIV&AIDS access education, medical care, gender based violence counselling, and facilitating business start-ups and vocational training.