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eJOURNAL OF THE INTERNATIONAL CHILD AND YOUTH CARE NETWORK (CYC-Net) – ISSN 1605-7406

ISSUE 75 APRIL 2005 •  CONTENTS •  HOME PAGE

international

A new dawn for Child and Youth Care work in Zambia

Louis Mwewa

This is a dream come true to most of us who have been working in the area of child and youth care here in Zambia for the last ten years. I remember when I first came in contact with CYC-Net in 1998 — I never thought that the link to day could lead us to where we are now.

It began with a visit from an official from the Royal Netherlands Embassy here in Lusaka to the Children In Need (CHIN) Network’s office. At the time I was working with CHIN as National Coordinator before moving to Project Concern International where I now work. In our discussions with the Embassy official, we mentioned several needs that we had in our task of networking. One of them was for more resource materials on various child care issues. The official immediately handed us a copy of South Africa's journal Child and Youth Care told us how to subscribe.

That same week as an organization we formerly introduced ourselves to Brian who felt moved by our need to grow professionally. He immediately put us on the mailing list for the journal, and CHIN has continued to receive that every month until today. The following year in 1999, I was invited to sit on the Board of Governors of CYC-Net, which I accepted and I am still a serving as a member of the CYC-Net board.

Many of our CHIN members had access to and became aware of the journal, though that was not enough to quench their thirst for learning more about child and youth care work. But at the time there was not much more that could have been done due to certain factors that were beyond CHIN's control. It is good to say that CYC-Net has not just been a source of inspiration; it has also been a source that has supplied power to light the minds of child and youth care workers.

National issues
As country we have experienced the great need to address issues affecting our children, ranging from HIV/AIDS to those of poverty and abuse. There has been a good response among many adult Zambians, many of whom have moved from just watching and discussing issues concerning children to action. Apparently, action to work with children has been motivated by spiritual inspiration, interpreted by many of us as a call to serve children. The responses to working with children, particularly those at risk, have resulted in the creation of several NGOs and CBOs, which respond to various child needs using different approaches as per their mandates.

The establishment of CBOs and NGOs came as a response to the crisis of the ever-increasing numbers of street children and the poor and abused. These children tended to be grouped as OVCs — orphans and vulnerable children — and many other labels. (But in our first contacts with the BQCC course we were taught that children are children, no labeling.)

Very few skilled personnel have been available for the running most of these organizations in terms understanding such children’s needs and potentials. We have come to realise that a call to work with children should be matched with professional skills if better and quality services are to be attained. Some have referred the establishment NGOs and CBOs as an opportunity to make profit, but while this might have been true in some cases, the largest majority have been established purely out of love and care. I really would love to salute our great men and women for having come into this work despite their initially poor qualifications in the field.

These men and women today acknowledge that they need skills and continue to grow professionally in their services to children, and the government, too, has also recognized this gap. In 2001 it was decided by government to undertake the process of upgrading the country’s system of child care.

Training — and an association
Following this realization both by government and the service providers, we began the journey to look for people and organisations who could help. Early in 2003 a response was found through South Africa’s National Association of Child Care Workers (NACCW). Thank you, colleagues, we salute you, for having acted very promptly through both the national as well as the Durban office to facilitate our first training in the Basic Qualification in Child Care (BQCC).

The first recipients of the BQCC qualification were inspired by the training to form Zambia’s first ever association of Child and Youth Care Workers. What can one say? It has been a new dawn for us as a country in the area of child and youth care work, and we shall continue to remain thankful to CYC-Net as a source of light, wisdom and knowledge enabling us to move to where we are — and we shall cherish the continuing support from our brothers and sisters in South Africa’s NACCW.

Thanks to you all.