PCI’s Orphan and Vulnerable Children (OVC) Program

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 their 11-year-old son, Isaac.

Her concerns about providing for her son were valid and terrifying; she had been left 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, too. As an HIV positive person – even on treatment as she was – she was terrified that she would die and leave her dear son an 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 Defense Force (ZDF) in 2003 to promote HIV prevention activities among its 30,000 uniformed personnel and their families. The program has expanded over the years 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.

The day that Edith and Isaac were introduced to this program marked the turning point in their lives. They become a story of survival and success, not defined by the tragic circumstances they faced.

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 impressive that PCI offered to facilitate his entry into tertiary education. In May 2012 – when ZNS advertised recruitment for trainee Officer Cadets – PCI helped Isaac submit an application and 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 from 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!”