Malawi March 2012 029

Zambia, Africa – It was New Year’s Day, 2005. All around her people were celebrating the beginning of a new year. But not Edith Lengwe. “I looked at my child and could not stop crying. Who was going to take care of me and my child and our many needs?”

Edith’s story is sad and tragic. Just before the holiday she had lost her husband, “her soldier,” and the sole provider for her family, which included 11-year-old Isaac Lengwe.

Her concerns about providing for her son were valid and terrifying. Her husband had left her a widow without any source of income. How would Edith feed her son? Shelter and clothe him?

Furthermore, Isaac was an extremely intelligent child – capable of great success in life. The thought of not being able to afford keeping him in school broke Edith’s heart.

Edith cried the hardest though, when she thought about Isaac having to live – not only without his father – but without her, his mother, too. As an HIV positive person – even on treatment as she was – she was terrified that she too would die and leave her dear son a double orphan, all alone in the world.

Somehow, Edith survived and managed to provide for herself and Isaac. Then, finally, a light shone at the end of their very dark tunnel.

PCI launched a groundbreaking program with the Zambian Defence Force (ZDF) in 2003 to promote HIV prevention activities among its 30,000 uniformed personnel and their families. The program continues to expand to include counseling and testing, care, support, and treatment for those living with HIV/AIDS.

The initial services prioritized by ZDF and community committees included education, nutrition, psychosocial support and general health care for orphans and vulnerable children.

Luckily, Edith and Isaac – who were still desperately awaiting Staff Sergeant Lengwe’s benefits – resided at a Zambia National Service (ZNS) camp that was chosen to be one of the ZDF sites to receive support services.

That day marked the turning point in Edith and Isaac Lengwe’s lives.

Isaac was among the first single orphans chosen for educational support. His good grades and tragic circumstances qualified him for the selection that had been developed by the ZDF committees. At the time of his designation, he was in the 8th grade. The awards of his scholarship were such that PCI would pay for his school tuition through the 12th grade!

Buffered by PCI’s scholarship, Isaac remained committed to his education. At the time of his 12th grade graduation, his grades were so good that PCI offered to facilitate his entry into tertiary education. In May 2012 – when ZNS advertised recruitment for trainee Officer Cadets – PCI helped Isaac to put in an application and also provided him with an exceptional letter of recommendation.

Three months later, Isaac was chosen for training.

In September 2013, Isaac graduated as a fully commissioned ZNS officer cadet.

Isaac’s mother, Edith, also continues to thrive with the support of PCI’s OVC programs. She has been trained as an OVC caregiver and her health is holding steady.

Isaac’s “pass out” ceremony saw her again in tears. These tears, however, were very different than those shed on New Year’s Day, 2005. These were tears of joy when Edith saw her son – now a successful and educated man – being commissioned as an officer.

“Who would have thought

[that] eight years after the passing of my husband I would be here – alive – and seeing my son being commissioned as an Officer Cadet. God is great. Many thanks to the ZDF OVC program supported by PCI. Please, PCI, continue helping other orphans and vulnerable children [OVC]. You are helping future leaders and bread winners, [like my] Isaac, my only son. Now it is his turn to look after me!”