When Tabu found herself living on the streets of Zambia at the age of 12, she never would have dreamed that one day she would be walking onto an airplane to go to America and share her story. She always wondered what the United States would be like – Does everyone know the President? Does everyone dress like pop-stars and drive fast cars like you see in the movies? Now that she has seen America for herself, she knows that what you see in the movies does not always depict real life.
Tabu remembers the moment she was told that she had been chosen to travel to the US and tell her story. “I wept. I thought ‘Why me? What is so special about me that I have been chosen?’ I was so grateful and also so scared at the same time.” Misheck, an African Vision of Hope staff member who has also traveled to the United States, gave Tabu some advice for her trip. “He told me that I would be speaking to many people and that I would need to be brave. He also told me to be myself and that I should not change to fit in.” In her short time here, Tabu has noticed many things that are different from her home country, such as:
The first thing I noticed when I came to America was how people treated me with love and care. In Zambia, vulnerable and orphaned children are not treated this way. Our family culture is also so different. In Zambia, if parents have a disagreement, they beat each other and yell and fight in front of family. Children are seeing all of these things that the parents do. That sets a bad example. What I have seen in America, when you have a problem, you sort it out in private.
In America, you seem to have no children in the streets. In Zambia, our streets are crowded with them. I lived in the streets for almost seven years. My friends and I would eat scraps out of the trash and use cloth that we found in the dump as blankets when we slept. We would sleep under bridges, never bathing, only able to wash our face with dirty water. I did not bathe for 6 years. We would work in the fields during the day from sun up to sun down for 5 kwatcha ($.50 US dollars). Many of my girl friends were kidnapped and sold into marriage, most of them as young as 12 years old. My male friends were kidnapped and sold into human trafficking. No one comes looking for you when you go missing as a street child – no one notices you are gone. During my time on the streets, there were many times that I wanted to end my own life. I didn’t want to go on anymore and saw no hope. That was until I found African Vision of Hope.
Marriage and Dating:
In Zambia, marriage is not for life. Men marry, have children, then move on to a younger more beautiful woman and continue the cycle. This is also how AIDS is spread. Our streets are so full of orphaned children due to HIV and abandonment. Also, when you are dating in Zambia, one man may have 10 or 20 girlfriends. This is another way diseases are spread. I wish my country was not this way.
“You have a wonderful country,” Tabu says. One day, she wants to become a nurse and adopt orphaned children because she knows that she can play a role in changing Zambia for the better. Our countries are very different, but everyone deserves the same access to opportunities, no matter where they were born.
African Vision of Hope will continue to educate Zambia’s children and youth until every single orphan or vulnerable child is able to have an education. When children are educated, a whole world of possibilities opens up for them. They are able to change their country and close the gap between our 2 vastly different worlds. Tabu will go on to do incredible things for her country and her generation. Thank you for being part of her story.
Read her entire story HERE. Also, watch a video of Tabu seeing a shower for the first time, something we see every day but a luxury she has never experienced.