Stories from the Zambian Homeless People’s Federation

Below are the stories of how two women, Margaret Mwale and Tilabilenji Nkhoma, joined the Zambian Homeless People’s Federation in order to save money and improve their own lives and the lives of their families. 

Margaret Mwale

Margaret Mwale was born in 1953. She is a widow with five children and nine grandchildren. She was married to her late husband Kingswell Sakala, who born in 1938. Her husband had diabetes and high blood pressure, which made him blind for nine years and lead to his death in September 2014. Margaret has lived in George for over 30 years and has a plot, which they developed over time. Over the years, however, they only ended up with one room because the other rooms collapsed due to low quality building materials used to build the house.

Staying in one room became more difficult when her husband got very sick. The room was not well built, had poor ventilation and the door could not close properly, presenting a health hazard to the whole family. The children where forced to move out of the house because of the situation and they went to seek refuge with other families. Margaret was presented with another challenge when her husband sold part of their plot secretly, sharing the profits the sale with his brother without her knowledge. After she discovered this, Margaret negotiated with her brother-in-law pay in instalments in order to buy back the plot for $3500.  Margaret was forced to stop her business of selling timber in Buseko market because of her husband’s health situation. He became too sick to do things on his own and had to rely on his wife’s support.

Since Margaret has been a committed member of the Zambian Homeless People’s Federation since 2002, she was identified by the Federation to have her house improved to help her family with the situation they where in. The family was assisted to build a two-bedroom house with solar panels. Even after the husband’s death in September 2014, she appreciates that her husband was kept in a decent environment and it became easy for her to take care of him. She also recalls that her husband was very happy, even in his last days, to have had an opportunity to live in a habitable environment. She says that he died a happy person because of the help of the Federation. Margaret now lives with her children happily and she now has grandchildren who stay with her over holidays.

Tilabilenji Nkhoma                                                                                                                  

Tilabilenji Nkhoma is an 85-year-old grandmother who has lived in George for over 30 years. When her husband left her to marry another woman, she was left to raise their four children on her own. She managed to take the children to school until college and secondary levels but none of the children work or have been able to get jobs. Sadly one of her sons is mentally disturbed and she doesn’t even know where he is now. Another son is very sick and he resides with her.  She joined the Zambian Homeless People’s Federation in 2001 and since then has remained active in the Federation because she has created a family that helps her to solve her own problems.

Tilabilenji has a two-roomed house that was built a long time ago with sub-standard building materials. Over time the materials have become weak and the house is at the risk of collapsing any time. In light of this, the Federation built one room for her to ensure her safety and that of her family; she also has solar power installed. She lives with 15 grandchildren, one daughter-in-law, and her sick son. Although Tilabilenji’s live has improved, she still has challenges as the other room needs to be renovated because they can’t all be accommodated in one room. Even with these challenges she still believes she will be able to overcome them through her group and she encourages others to save as well as join the Federation.