Buumba Malambo: The Buumbalambo Foundation
Buumba Malambo: The Buumbalambo Foundation
“The good thing about education is that it gives you the ability to think in a different perspective.”
When Buumba Malambo was a child she set herself a challenge: to show her father she had as much right to an education as her younger brothers.
“My dad would speak about only my brothers having an education, when in all my report forms, I was always at the top. He couldn’t equate my gift of intelligence to the same intelligence my young brothers have.”
While her friends were being dropped at school by car, with a packed lunch and new books in their bags, Buumba had to get up early to sell vegetables in the street before lessons.
But the challenge she had set herself paid off. Buumba won a bursary to study social work at the University of Zambia. Then, one morning in her second year, two little girls appeared at the door of her room, hawking vegetables.
“I said so this happens to other people too! This is wrong! It’s really dangerous for small girls [on campus]. And I started using my bursary money to help these kids go to school.”
In 2012, Buumba started campaigning for children’s rights to education through Facebook, where she built up support and found a mentor. In 2013, the Buumbalambo Foundation was registered as a charity and began to recruit volunteers.
The Foundation focuses its efforts in Magoba, in Kafue province, south-eastern Zambia.
“It’s not where I was born. It’s just a place I bumped into because my lecturer took me there for my placement. No one cares about these people – they don’t even know they exist – but people stay here.”
The Chanyanya community in Magoba is extremely remote, consisting of about 30 widely dispersed villages which are only accessible on foot.
“That’s why I need volunteers – to keep me going. We sing as we go to make the distance shorter.”
Getting children to school
The village has one school with 450 pupils. The Buumbalamba Foundation has been working with the school to improve attendance by impressing on parents how important it is to let their children participate.
Figures from UNICEF show that only about 81% of children attend primary school in the whole of Zambia. This figure falls at secondary school stage, to 38.2% for boys and 35.6% for girls.
“If the parents are not taught the importance of taking a girl child to school – or of not taking a boy child to herd cows – that’s child labour and that’s early marriages.”
Another obstacle to getting to school has been the often perilous journey. For many children it's a three-hour walk to school and back, crossing roads, and navigating through quicksand and crocodile-infested waterways. The Foundation has helped the community build bridges and clear patches of tall grass to make the journey safer.
“And we’ve introduced safety issues into our projects, teaching children how to cross the road and how to swim.”
Involving local leaders
Networking has been an important part of empowering the local community. In October 2014, the Foundation held an awareness-raising event for local traditional leaders and their wives.
“I invited 16 of them and then 45 of them came. We had to cook for them. We had to give them training about fostering development for young people. Now they are together and tapping into our dream. And we have one cohesive dream together, even if the villages are apart.”
One of the biggest benefits of involving the traditional leaders and their wives has been the support they are giving the project.
“We discovered as a team that, even if we organised books and pencils and everything, most kids were still not going to school. They are hungry. And if someone is hungry they cannot learn.”
Buumba found the traditional leaders were open to ideas and willing to help.
“All they needed was to be told ‘We are concerned, maybe just give us a small piece of land we can farm, and we were given the land just like that.”
Making it sustainable
In 2014 the Foundation was awarded some funding by the World Leaders' Forum in Dubai. It is now working on its second funding application to get money for farms and a community school. But since it was established in 2013, the Buumbalambo Foundation has mostly been surviving on donations.
“A lot of people give us material things. My team are on the ground collecting things from the University of Zambia – books, heaps of clothes. Most students give us money, or shoes, or clothes.”
Buumba also approaches companies for large donations of goods. There are plans to do up the school with donated paint and make a playground with donated cement. One company has recently given the Foundation hundreds of children’s shoes.
“Every company wants to market helping young people. It was so easy for them to give us these shoes.”
More recently, Buumba took part in a phone in on Blog Talk Radio Zambia, where people called in to offer sponsorship for children's education and pledged support to the farm project.
But Buumba recognises the Foundation needs to become self-sustaining and has been thinking about how it can generate its own income. Then, when she came to London to sit on the Queen’s Young Leaders Advisory Panel, Buumba discovered charity shops.
“I said boom this is it. All the clothes that we’ve collected are going to go into a charity shop because my people need to eat and I need to pay my team. Now we are looking at it from a sustainable perspective.”
Leading the Foundation
The Buumbalambo Foundation has a team of over 60 volunteers across Zambia, and five permanent workers including Buumba.
Buumba believes it’s important to keep in close contact with volunteers and workers, and uses Facebook to do this when she is travelling.
“In every post that I put on Facebook I’ll have the flag of Zambia on there just to show that I’m still with them, I’m not going to stay in anywhere.”
Even though she has won global recognition for her work, Buumba believes it’s important to stay on the same level as the team, especially when she’s with them.
“When we go into the village, I sleep with them in the same room. I eat with them in the same room, the same food. I look like them. So they want to work with me because they want someone who is down to earth and understands them, that they are poor but it’s not their fault.”