Dee helps Zambian women launch ‘Mama Hygiene’ business
By David Blaker | Zambia in Southern Africa
Representative image of Zambia.
Dee Jones is the very definition of a multi-tasker, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a teacher, a housebuilder, a farmer, a nutritionist and now a start-up businesswoman, and has served in Zambia for 15 years.
From New Zealand, she has now helped a group of women in Kasempa set up a business which makes soap and then trains hospitals in the best hygiene practices, while sharing the gospel.
The women in the group were learning Foundations for Farming, an initiative Dee runs and one of her main activities. It combines good farming practices, nutrition advice and evangelism.
Dee says, “I’ve been teaching business basics from some Tearfund resources. Five kilograms of soap costs 118 kwacha (about 7 USD) to make and we hope to sell it for K270. The goal is for the women to go to the clinics and teach about the importance of washing hands with soap and also to evangelise. They’ve named themselves Mama Hygiene, after Mama Soya who teaches on nutrition and is a natural evangelist.”
How COVID-19 has affected daily life
While the number of COVID-19 cases in Zambia is still low, its impact has been felt by almost everyone. She says: “You feel so rude when you stand back and greet from a distance. Thankfully there is another method of greeting that is accepted — you kind of curtsy and clap your hands to the one you’re greeting.
“Social distancing is a challenge in the African context. With so many people living hand to mouth, everyone must go into the market on a daily basis. Each shop has a hand-washing station outside which is good. But I still see too many handshakes.”
Most shops require you to wear a mask, with signs or guards at the door saying, ‘no mask – no entry.’
She says, “Mukinge Hospital is prepared for cases, with the local nursing school being set aside for isolation, and tents are set up for symptom screening at the entrance of the hospital. Visiting hours have been discontinued and only if a patient is unable to care for themselves are they allowed to have a bedside carer. The hospital seemed strangely quiet — like the calm before the storm.”
In response to the epidemic, normal church services were halted on March 28, after having previously been reduced in length, with compulsory-hand washing before entry. Now, only small groups can meet.
Schools also closed down two weeks early which means the majority of Zambia’s children are not being educated while the COVID-19 crisis lasts.
Dee reports, “This year I started again at Kasempa Primary School with a new group of grade 6 children. We normally have between 20 and 30 children. On the last day of school before closing, I asked if any of them wanted to receive Christ and 15 of them responded. It was so encouraging, however there will be some follow-up to do once school gets started again.”
The epidemic has provided an opportunity to get on with essential around-house tasks, which in Dee’s case clearly does not intimidate her.
She says: “Once school finished, I went into overdrive to try and complete my village house, since it had been too wet to do any building during the rainy season. The weeds were well overgrown, and it took a week or so to get them slashed down to manageable height. The floor of the house was sealed with 3 coats of melted candles and paraffin, and curtains are now in place… and I’m rebuilding the bathroom as my grass one came down in the rains.”
Religion in Zambia
Zambia is a landlocked country. There is a high fertility rate and its population of 18 million is growing rapidly. Rich in copper, Zambia prospered for a while after independence, then fell into poverty after copper prices declined in the 1970s. Most people are subsistence farmers. There are 73 different ethnic groups, but the country has been largely free of conflict.
The nation is officially Christian, but a wide variety of traditional religious practices blend with Christian beliefs. Dee writes that “many people still have a fear of witchcraft and that fear is often greater than fear or love of God, so this means that even though one may profess to be a Christian, they are still in bondage to witchcraft.”
Fearing the spirits of those who have died can dictate the way in which funerals are conducted and how surviving family members are treated. Charms are also used to ward off evil spirits and worn around the waist or wrists and even sometimes buried on farmland. Dee says: “Whenever we cultivate a new piece of land, we first pray over it to remove any power Satan may have over it.”
• For Dee to have wisdom and courage to lead and step outside of her comfort zone.
• The trainers to see themselves as missionaries ready to bless those in their community.
Contribute to Dee’s ministry
Kasempa Foundations needs funds to build fences, get farm materials and to hold conferences. Can you contribute to Dee’s ministry? Help today by visiting our donation page and finding the nearest office to your location. Then, use project #94650 to contribute to this budding business.
This story first appeared on SIM NZ's website.