Elizabeth Ngosa of Zambia

by - 7:19 PM

Elizabeth Ngosa is a 23 year-old Zambian living in the bustling capital city of Lusaka. We got in touch when I was still engaged with travel and missions in Zimbabwe last December. I was intrigued by Elizabeth’s unwavering passion to alleviate the plight of underprivileged children and young people in Zambia. Now, she shares her story with both a resolute determination and a heart of gratitude that I believe will invigorate many others who have a heart for social justice. It is no surprise that she has been serving for the past ten months as a volunteer Child Development Facilitator at Thankful Thinking, a non-governmental organization that empowers Zambian children and young people of diverse and challenging backgrounds in Lusaka. When asked about her motivation, Elizabeth responds, “What I love about working with these children is that, each one of them has a unique talent and personality. They are amazing kids, full of life and ready to try new things as they strive for the best.”

Elizabeth was born in the village of Kalasa in Kawambwa district, a town located in the Zambian province of Luapula. For a period of time, she lived with her late grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Chishimba, who she recalls were figures of significant influence in her life. Growing up as a girl, Elizabeth was raised in the Homes of Joy orphanage in the outskirts of Lusaka, where she was cared for by ‘Mummy Rita’, a former volunteer at the home, and her foster parents. The orphanage is supported by the Congregation of Immaculate Conception (C.I.C) and the sisters of Marian Shrine in Lusaka as well as international benefactors. Elizabeth takes the opportunity here to express her gratitude to Caroline Kalunga, Nelly Chishimba and Mummy Rita for their irreplaceable presence in the defining journey of her growing years.  "Words cannot explain how grateful I am today and forever will be. They have played the role of a teacher, mother and father, sister and friend in my life. They made me realize my full potential at an early age and helped me develop into the person that I am today."

Elizabeth hanging out with the feisty children and teens at Thankful Thinking in Lusaka!

Even through the hardships and the disappointments, she looks back at what she has gone through and says with assurance, “The people God connected me to makes me realize that God works in mysterious ways. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it were not for this.” The anchor of her faith gives her the intrinsic strength to open her heart and arms to the orphaned and destitute. Despite the difficulties in her field of work, Elizabeth is emboldened by the conviction that, “God has got a plan for each one of us, and he makes sure he brings the right people in our lives to help us realize our purpose.”  

“Everything that has happened in my life – good or bad – I call it a blessing. There are times I feel like giving up – but when I think of how amazing God has been to me I just smile and let life happen according to His plans.” 

The children and youth at Homes of Joy orphanage in Lusaka, Zambia. Photograph: Elizabeth Ngosa.

At Thankful Thinking, Elizabeth gives motivational talks on career pathways and HIV/AIDS awareness for young graduates while also promoting the rights of disadvantaged children for fair education, adequate shelter, and sustenance. Week by week, she is tasked with the asperities of engaging with and mentoring children who undergo emotional and physical abuse. Thankful Thinking incorporates these children into local projects to nurture their talents and creativity through arts, sports, and recreational activities. Elizabeth says that these meetings foster a strong sense of “togetherness regardless of one’s status in the community”. It has been an invaluable experience as the challenges of working with vulnerable children have taught her to “be patient and to always maintain a positive attitude in different circumstances and when dealing with children of different backgrounds.”
A normal day's work with a boisterous bunch!

Inevitably, Elizabeth’s aspiration to influence the lives of young Zambians calls for her to unflinchingly confront the challenges of today’s generation and stare these insurmountable odds squarely in the eye. Due to devastating poverty and the ensuing fears of an uncertain future, Zambian youth are pushed to criminal livelihoods, leaving them idle and insolent. Elizabeth tells me that it is common to find young people, out of sheer desperation to survive, engage in stealing, lying, a high level of sexual activity and other social vices such as extra marital affairs and early pregnancies. “All these things cause our young people to live a life without focus,” she remarks. However, Elizabeth believes that no matter how tough the circumstances, and how unpromising the statistics, Zambian youth do have the potential to overcome these adversities if the systems of the government, the private institutions and non-profit organizations are efficient to develop the following areas: 

  • Employment for young people in both urban and rural regions, as this will enable them to learn and practice professionalism, social entrepreneurship and confidence in their abilities.
  • Vocational training at an affordable fee – or better still, at a fully subsidized basis, to cater for those who cannot pay for such a luxury.

Such measures could be incremental steps to the long-haul process of empowering Zambian youth to develop operational skills and talents within themselves that were never before fostered. Elizabeth admits that the boundless potential of her fellow Zambians are often “unfortunately wasted”. If only training can be provided through different platforms – education, sports and recreation – this can promote individual development and reduce the demands posed by a competitive society and an ever-changing global landscape.  

Though she is only turning 24 this July, Elizabeth is resolved to make a mark in the emerging generation of Zambia. Her yearning for social change is expressed in her daily actions for those in tough places. “Growing up in an orphanage understandably sparked within me an early interest in community development and leadership. I was fortunate to experience the various situations that arise in the life of vulnerable children – the bad, the not-so-bad and the good. My foster parents instilled in me the values of a strong work ethic and the responsibilities that one needs in order to facilitate their dreams, goals, and motivations."

Elizabeth checking out the kids' artwork!
Since the days of her youth, Elizabeth has dreamed beyond the confines of the status quo. With effervescent anticipation, she shared with me her plans to establish a not-for-profit community-based organization in Lusaka by the end of this year. “My dream is to better Zambia and empower young people through skills-acquiring programs that will help them realize their full potential. I want to equip the youth to discover their God-given talents and put them to good use.” When asked about her target population, she said the focus will be on “underprivileged youth who reside in urban areas and those surviving on meager resources”. The Youth Talent and Skills Promotion project will enable vulnerable young people from all walks of society to set goals in life for themselves and stay committed to achieving the goal whilst encouraging others to do the same. There are always those precious individuals who seek their life's destiny even amidst oppressive conditions that threaten to snuff out the flickering flame of their spirit. Africa certainly is in want and need of more young innovative minds like Elizabeth Ngosa, who with eager hearts and hands, desire to reach within their own communities and help the helpless cross that seemingly impassable divide between poverty and opportunity.   

In Elizabeth’s words, her mission is, “To bridge the gap between talents and skills in order to create a positive change for the youth in my country.” The organization will work with young people from diverse backgrounds, including those living with disabilities. It inspires me to see another young individual – halfway across the world – expressing affection for those with special needs. In most developing nations, people with disabilities are typically ostracized and alienated by both neighbors and even family members, therefore it impresses me that Elizabeth emphasizes the importance of “making sure that these ones are not judged by their background but are admired for their courage to express their real identity.” 

Elizabeth exploring Livingstone in 2012.
After our exchange on such pensive matters, I was thoroughly delighted to hear that Elizabeth also loves a good time of adventure-seeking! When I asked her to share a memory of the most beautiful place in Zambia, she said without skipping a beat, “Livingstone! In 2012 I took a two-week holiday to tour the town, and visiting Victoria Falls was one of the highlights of my trip. It is one of the most beautiful, amazing, awe-inspiring natural wonders I have ever come across in my life.” I could have given her a high-five! I’ve seen it for myself – and the planet’s largest waterfall is certainly nothing short of sublime. My December stay at Victoria Falls (which cost me a grueling twelve-hour bus ride from Harare) rewarded me with a spectacular sight from the Zimbabwean end. There are hardly any words in the dictionary to describe the experience of sitting by the cliff-side, beholding this cascading wonder – a million litres of river-water roaring down the Zambezi gorge! It is a riveting sight. Elizabeth doesn't miss the chance to tell others that Zambia is "one of the most beautiful, friendly, and geographically diverse countries in Africa... and aside from the majestic Victoria Falls, it has numerous water resources, national parks, and both urban and rural areas that offer a taste of eclectic Zambian culture!" 

Sitting the cliff-side rocks of the Zimbabwean edge, overlooking Victoria Falls! Photograph: Kenneth Mudimu.

Some notable Zambian parks for those with venturous inclinations include the Kasanka National Park of the northeast and home to the exotic sitatunga; the wetlands of Bangweulu – well known as the only place in Africa where antelopes are spotted in large numbers; the Liuwa Plain National Park, famous for its blue wildebeest migration; and the Kafue National Park, where lions are commonly found wading in swampy waters or clambering up towering sycamores. 

Kafue National Park, Zambia. Photograph: Rhino Africa.

In the meantime, I look forward to the day I can explore Zambia, try some masuku (a round-shaped Zambian wild fruit with gooey yellow insides) and write another story about Elizabeth Ngosa – next time I’m sure it will be about the exciting new developments she is up to with her founding organization! Through perseverance in the present and an undefeatable faith for the days to come, Elizabeth tells me, “I know that with God, everything is possible.”

Elizabeth Ngosa is a volunteer Child Development Facilitator at Thankful Thinking, a organization that initiates arts, education and sports projects to empower underprivileged children and youth in Lusaka, Zambia. Elizabeth has plans to start her own community-based NGO to bridge the gap between potential talent and practical skills for young Zambians. On more leisurely days, Elizabeth loves dancing, shopping, knitting, and listening to music! Her favourite Zambian dish is kalembla, or sweet potato leaves, and fresh fish served with n'shima, a kind of sticky maize meal. Yum!

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