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A Lochaber woman is following in the footsteps of missionary David Livingstone and travelling to Zambia to visit a project which supports teenage mothers.
Mabel Wallace said she was looking forward to seeing the inspirational and empowering work being carried out in Kanyama – a district on the edge of the African nation’s capital, Lusaka.
The 66-year-old from Fort William is a member of the Church of Scotland Guild which has donated more than £40,000 to the ‘Journeying Together’ project.
Run by the United Church of Zambia, it supports 50 girls who live in a densely populated area which is often struck by severe flooding during the rainy season.
Poor drainage and sanitation – very few homes have toilets – can lead to outbreaks of cholera and dysentery, with babies and small children most at risk.
The project, spearheaded by Deaconess Mable Sitchali, provides core training in essential skills like nutrition, parenting and sex education, and works to build confidence in the girls and challenge social injustice.
They are given the opportunity to return to school to finish their education or provided with vocational training in a skill to enable them to make their own money.
Mrs Wallace, session clerk of Duncansburgh MacIntosh Parish Church, said: ‘I am very excited to be given this opportunity to visit and see first-hand how the money Guild Folk have given is being used.
‘It will be great to see how the project is working to support the girls and their children.
‘The Guild’s three-year strategy is called ‘One Journey – Many Roads’.
‘So I am looking forward to sharing the ‘journey’ and many roads alongside the others in the group at the end of February.’
Kanyama has a population of 365,000 people, of which 51 per cent are under 18, and there are only five primary schools and one high school.
Karen Gillon, associate secretary of the Guild, said: ‘The United Church of Zambia is doing fantastic work to tackle the vicious cycle of poverty by providing opportunities for people who simply want the ability to help themselves.
‘Some of them are victims of domestic violence, victims of rape or sometimes they just fell in love with a boy, got pregnant and he then disappeared.
‘It is about giving young women a hand up, not a hand out because what they really want is the chance to finish their education, get a job and give their child the best possible start in life.
‘Whatever their circumstances, the project is about showing these girls that they are valued and loved by God and equipping them with the skills that they need to thrive.’
Mrs Gillon said she was proud that The Guild, which supports six projects, was raising money for such a worthwhile cause.
‘Scotland has always been an outward looking, caring country and our connections with Zambia go back a long way to the days of the missionaries like David Livingstone.
‘As Scots we want to do right by people, whether it is our neighbours here in Scotland or in Zambia.
‘As Christians we are brothers and sisters, and in families you talk to each other, learn from each other and take care of each other.’