Former Zambian Street kid shares experiences – Vatican

African Street children at a child development centre
African Street children at a child development centre

The family is the nucleus Church, where the great work of evangelization begins. For the Catholic Church the importance of the family in the life of the Church is the biggest reason why family life is the focus of the  extraordinary general session of the Synod of Bishops, between 5-19 October 2014,  at the Vatican.

More than 150 synod fathers in the two-weeks meeting are expected to discuss and propose solutions for the “pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.”

In Africa, one of the challenges faced by the family is disease such as HIV/ AIDS that has destabilized the traditional family structure. Traditional values of the extended family system where members of the wider family could find support and sustenance are also under siege. These challenges coupled with some unjust traditional practices that persist can make life difficult for vulnerable members of the African society.

Unfortunately, to this day, in some African societies, when the bread winner dies, his surviving family loses its right to their own property. The relatives of the deceased seize and grab the property which the departed person shared with his children and wife, leaving them vulnerable to all forms of suffering.

Most of the street children that are an eye sore in some African cities today, are a product of injustices that are deeply rooted in such traditional practices.

Mike Mwenda is a young Zambian currently studying journalism at one of Zambia’s prestigious colleges of Mass communication. He found himself on the streets of Zambia’s capital Lusaka, when his father died in 1998 after illness. Mike was only 8 then. Without anyone to care for him, Mike became one of Zambia’s so-called street kids.

For a number of years he survived on the streets sleeping under bridges and drainage systems of Lusaka, while begging for food every day of his miserable life.

Another misfortune saved his life, and took him away from the streets. One day he was found left for the dead after a scuffle with some of the bigger street kids. He was picked unconscious by a good Samaritan woman who happened to be a good Catholic.

When the hospital finished attending to the little boy and fees paid, Mike was handed over to a Catholic charitable organization run by the Comboni missionaries in Lusaka, Zambia. The Comboni missionaries helped rehabilitate Mike and sent him to school. He is one of the lucky few and he represents a happy ending for some of Africa’s families in crisis. For Mike and many African families,  a synod on the family cannot come at any other time than now.

In the following interview, Mike Mwemba shares his story with Vatican Radio’s English for Africa Service staffer, Kanyanta Godfrey Kampamba. Mike candidly explains some of  his experiences as a street kid and how he found himself in in one of Zambia’s institutes of higher learning.

Vatican Radio