Meet my friend Jayrose

I first met Jayrose in 2007 in Zambia. He was probably about 7 or 8 at the time and is tall and all bones. It was evident that he wasn’t fed much at home. In 2008 when I was in Zambia for 5 months, I got to know Jayrose and learn his story.

Jayrose and his brother live with his grandparents who are amazing. His mother does live somewhere but it is unknown to them, and his father they have never known. It is believed he has died. Although they are extremely poor and not in the best health the boy’s grandparents try very hard to care for their grandsons. Jayrose’s grandfather does day labor at a local farm when his health permits. During the time I was in Zambia, they were going to have to move out of the house they were living in. We spoke to his grandparents who informed us they would be moving across the Lusaka near a city dump. They owned a plot of land out there and they didn’t have a house but the land was theirs. They were so proud of the land and that they owned it.

A few weeks after they have moved we went to check on Jayrose and his family at their new location. I am not sure what I was expecting but it broke my heart at what I found. His grandparents had done the best they could to “construct” a home for them. The home was made up of tarps and metal that they had collected in the city dump which was a couple hundred yards away.

They had a few chairs in their “home” and a mattress on the partial dirt floor.

Right next to their land was an open field, with overgrown weeds and bushes. I decided to explore a bit and began walking through the dirt field. I noticed that it was rather uneven ground and there were a lot of dirt mounds and trash in it.

This is an actual photo of the field!

This was when the stupid American (that would be myself) began to ask questions to Benson, who was with me.

“Hey Benson this field is so bumpy whoever owns this land should farm it or something but they need to get these bumps out.” I said as I walked across it stepping from hump to hump.

“Yes Lissa well you see this field is a cemetery and that is why it is bumpy because you see the bumps they are the graves.” Benson so calmly replies.

“Dude Benson! I am walking on GRAVES!” I say.

Benson gets the grin on his face that I know all to well. “Yes Lissa I thought it was funny you wanted to walk out here” He responds once again so calmly.

“You could have told me earlier!” I exclaim as I turn around and try to get out of the field. We headed back to their house while I looked like the stupid white girl walking on dead African graves.

Over the next months we visited Jayrose and his grandparents often. We helped Jayrose enroll in his new school and I still had a broken heart every time we left their house of tarps and sticks. I began blogging about the issue and decided I wanted to help them build a house. After lots of prayer and donations through people reading the blog, we built them a house, costing roughly $1,500. And it was amazing to watch the process. His grandparents had tears in their eyes every time we showed up and could not stop thanking me. It was overwhelming to try to explain to them that it wasn’t myself but other people in America who had read their story and wanted to help and were praying for them. When I left that summer they were settled in their home.

Last year I visited Jayrose and his grandparents and his brother. They have been in the home for a year at that point. I was so proud of them when we saw how great they were doing. They had banana trees planted and had built a fence made out of sticks to protect their chickens from running away. And they were growing plants of some sort I’m not really sure what they were you would have to ask Benson. And there was the cemetery, which I stayed out of this time. I am sure everyone was happy about that. I had so much fun chatting on the porch and catching up on all the events in the past year.

We heard that Jayrose hadn’t been so stellar in school. In fact he didn’t like school and wanted to stay home and play instead, in the city dump. Seriously! So we got on that boy and explained to him that school is the most important thing. His dream is to be a cab driver one day and I always love encouraging him to work for that. And maybe even beyond it. Jayrose commented that his school was really far away to walk to and maybe if he had a bike he would go. Which we told him that was a lame excuse. (Well that is what I wanted to tell him but Bwalya and Benson of course handled it better!) You see there is no such term as “too far” in Zambian in terms of walking. They can walk for HOURS and still not think it is very far. I have been a victim of this and been told things were “just around the corner” when really that’s like 6 miles away. So I wasn’t buying the “too far to walk to” excuse from Jayrose.

But I did tell him that if he attended school and had good grades when I came back in a year that we could go look at bikes and get one. That’s a BIG deal for a kid whose playground is the city dump. Throughout this past year Benson has been checking on Jayrose and his family and helping with school fees and providing extra protein in their diet.

A few months after our visit, Benson did walk to school with Jayrose and sent me a text explaining that school was actually REALLY far away. Now when a Zambian tells you that something is FAR away, you better listen. Because their idea of far is probably like 30 miles or something ridiculous like that! We discussed options and Benson found a government school closer to Jayrose’s home, which also provided a better education. The only problem was that Government schools require a uniform, which would cost around $75, which they could not afford. Arise Africa paid for Jayrose’s school uniform and we got Jayrose in the school. And he has gone everyday and loves it. Benson checks in on them very often and I love the updates.

Here is a picture of Jayrose at school.

A few days ago as I prepared to go back over to Zambia I remembered that promise I made to Jayrose, and you know what, he has gone to school and is making good grades! I texted Benson about the promise made and he of course remembered.

So in just a few weeks I will have the honor of taking Jayrose in to town and purchasing a bike for him. I don’t think he has ever ridden one. Do they have training wheels in Africa? I am sure not. I am excited about having the opportunity to love on such a special kid and continue to be a part of his life. I thank everyone who gives to Arise Africa to make this possible.