A Community of Family Support
In the wake of the HIV and AIDS epidemic in Zambia, the founders of Lupwa Lwabumi Trust (LLT) found that the greatest impact on children was the loss of traditional family and community structures. That’s when this grassroots organization, established in 2004, decided to address issues of family disintegration and child separation. Families are typically the safest place for children to grow up, so LLT provides support to children who have lost their parents through family and community support groups that reinforce a safety net for them. LLT has formed Family Circles, which are clusters of families who live in close proximity to each other and who develop solutions to local problems by talking among family groups and through community-based savings and loan groups. Families share challenges, collaborate, and develop community-wide solutions. If there is an issue in a family, community facilitators hold a family conference to reflect on how to positively change a child’s wellbeing. The success of their approach is documented in part by their reach: upwards of 800 children receive wide support from 38 family circles and 85 self-help groups. By creating a social safety net for children, LLT’s model ensures community responsibility for caring for the vulnerable.
LLT’s approach to community involvement is unique and organic. They understand that each family has its own culture,
personalities, and history and that these factors influence how a family will function and the inherent problems it will face. With this understanding, they utilize community participation as a core strategy to lasting change. This grassroots group remarks that because they have been “walking together” with children and families, they have seen community ownership over the Family Circles and support groups.
LLT has successfully expanded a network of support for children who have lost their parents and who are progressively becoming their own advocates. They have done this through their support groups and by linking government ministries and organizations that provide critical services to families.
By linking and networking key stakeholders, LLT hopes to bring greater attention to the issues concerning children and families and to effect national-level change. LLT engages their beneficiaries in a way that places trust in the hands of the community to find sustainable solutions to the problems they face.
As a result, the communities have embraced the Family Circle model and have assisted each other on a daily basis without LLT prompting. It is this model of support that LLT hopes will bring about improved child welfare, whereby children experience security, protection, and dignity.
This blog was written by Mia Schmid. Mia is a Firelight Globally Engaged Youth Volunteer and a recent graduate of the University of Denver where she studied International Studies with a focus on International Development, Health, and Gender.