By George Poulakos, Member of the Rotary Club of Ventura, United States
The only crossing between the South African country of Zambia and its neighbor Botswana is in Kazungula. The Zambesi River flows between the two countries, and all vehicles must be carried over on a pontoon. Commercial trucks wait in a queue for up to 10 days, and during this time, many of them entice vulnerable young girls to “entertain” them. This is much easier than it should be in an extremely impoverished town with a history of sexual abuse and child marriage. With no source of income in their families, many girls and young women become victims of this sexual abuse.
Prominent civic leaders in nearby Livingstone, Zambia, a tourist destination, have already taken action. They’ve identified three vocations where trained young women can find employment—tailoring, computer work, and food preparation. They formed an NGO and opened The Grace Centre to provide counseling, training, and in select cases, funds for secondary school education.
The founders have ambitious goals, but they were only able to solicit enough funds from individual donors to build the facilities and get the tailoring program started, which has now enrolled 30 young girls and women.
For The Grace Centre to become a reality, additional operating funds are now required. Once the funds are acquired, The Grace Centre should become self-sufficient within three years. The center will generate revenue by employing graduates to create tailored goods, operate an on premise restaurant, and provide catered meals.
I have been involved in several projects managed by the Rotary Club of Livingstone in Zambia including an orphanage, hospice and a safe house for abused children. Our club has been discussing The Grace Centre project for some time. Last year, the Rotary Club of Ventura in California committed to supporting their first global grant which led to our joint partnership to support The Grace Centre.
The global grant will provide:
- Equipment, building modifications and furniture to begin operations
- Seed funds to operate the training programs for three years
- An opportunity for 50 girls to finish secondary school while attending The Grace Centre—a necessity for employment in some sectors
We are looking for additional partners to make this grant a reality. Please write to me or call 954-494-4387 for more information.
This project has the potential to change the cycle of despair, early marriage, and sexual abuse for generations of young girls. Help us empower this community.