In northwest Zambia, a group of disabled people are starting their own businesses, and helping to end unemployment and discrimination. Sanday Chongo Kabange reports from the mining town of Solwezi.
Seven years ago, six of Solwezi's disabled formed a group called "Pentagon." With the support of a Dutch cleric, Father Pio, the group developed a business plan to help them support their families.
The six-man group then acquired a room within the central business district of Solwezi. There, they engaged in tailoring, carpentry, hand craft and arts. Before long, more disabled persons around the Northwest region expressed interest in joining the group. Today, membership has reached 600. Together, they're engaged in such activities as knitting, tailoring, booking keeping, hand crafting and housekeeping.
The expansion has brought about a name change -- from "Pentagon" to "Holland Disabled Association." The14-room guest house is now headquartered in a shopping complex. It creates employment, generates money and supports the disabled.
Wheelchair bound Nigel Kachongu is the chairperson of association. He explains how the group is using its infrastructure to assist the disabled.
"[If you're disabled]," he explains, "it's very difficult to find money and run a business on your own. So we thought of looking for able bodied people (to manage the shops) who in-turn employ a disabled person so that dream of the disabled of running a shops does not die out."
"On top of that," he continues,"we have a fixed salary which that able bodied person coming into the shop has to pay that disabled. After that he (abled person) has to pay rent and that rent comes back to the disabled (association) which we then use to take our friends to hospital, support those in school and some members within the community."
The association plans to expand its operations and support disabled people throughout Zambia – something that requires additional resources.
Mary Kanjanja Chulu currently works as a cleaner at Holland Guest House. She has been a member of the association for several years and explains that the association has assisted a lot of disabled people around the North-Western area.
Chulu says being disabled should not discourage anyone from realizing their dreams.
"I know God has
given each one of us talents," she says. "If we make good use of those talents we can be
self-reliant. If they (disabled) use their talents they [can generate an income
and] improve their [standard of living]."
Another beneficiary and member of the association is Gilbert Mudidi. Mudidi, who moves on crutches, is employed as Holland Guest House Supervisor. He says he the association has helped him support his two children and his entire family.
"The benefit for me as a member of HDA (Holland Disabled Association)," he says, "is that at the end of the month I am able to gain something, to live a better life. I am also able to feed my family, and buy [what my parents need]."
There are an estimated one-and-a-half million physically disabled people in Zambia. An additional three million are blind.
Membership in the Holland Disabled Association is limited to those who are 45-years-of-age and younger. The association says it also helps older people with their medical fees and provide them with training in reading brail.