By Theresa Lungu
When I left Zambia for the US over a decade ago, I was so relieved to get out. I was confident America would be beautiful and perfect. However, in this great nation, full of wonder and opportunity, I have also encountered illiterates, cockroaches, mice, poverty, liars, unemployment, you name it. Ultimately, what has stuck with me is the commitment and loyalty of Americans to their country.
A commitment and loyalty that Zambians don’t have for Zambia. The solution many Zambians have for Zambia’s woes is to abandon everything Zambian and throw stones at the country.
The true heroes of our country are the Zambians who have stuck it out at home striving to live decent lives and raise families under challenging conditions. The rest of us ran away when the going got tough and we have absolutely no right to throw stones at Zambia.
We are in Diaspora enjoying other people’s hard work. Perhaps we should have stayed in Zambia and worked hard to improve our communities and made Zambia into an admirable place. If you have done something for Zambia, given back in any little way, then be the first one to cast that stone and condemn Zambia. However, if you are just a keyboard critic enjoying someone’s else’s labors in Diaspora, then you are ignorant and don’t understand what it takes to build a strong, prosperous nation. Hail to all Zambians still in Zambia. Doctors and nurses working in outdated hospitals; lawyers operating in makeshift offices; teachers in rundown schools; and everyone else who hold the country up and keep it together for the rest of us.
It is wrong to ignore the many Zambians who are helping Zambia and solely concentrate on pointing out what is wrong with Zambia. We have to stand with those at home that are trying to improve the country. Obviously they don’t have all the answers and resources and it is up to those of us who are enlightened and educated and have had the opportunity to live in development countries to impart this knowledge.
For the last ten years, I have worked with Luanshya City Council on the project I founded, Books For Zambia. I started the project when I found out that the Library in Luanshya, my hometown, was nothing more than a shell with no books or furniture. It could have been very easy for me to condemn the government and turn my back, after all my local library in America was well equipped! However, I partnered with the Luanshya City Council and organized resources for them to receive books from donors in the US and other countries.
I also had extensive conversations with the librarian about the importance of keeping books in the library for the entire community to use. Today, the Helen Kaunda Memorial Library is thriving and has undergone renovations to include a children’s section.
Furthermore, Luanshya City Council has taken it upon themselves to plan for the opening of a new library branch in Mpatamato. I look forward to seeing a section in the library with books by Zambians for Zambians.
Don’t get me wrong, I am well aware of the many pitfalls and shortfalls of government but as citizens we ought to be fully aware of our own role in improving our communities and turning Zambia into the country we want it to be. The attitude of letting government initiate everything while we sit on the sidelines and hail insults is never going to put doctors and medicines in our hospitals, it is never going to improve our infrastructure, it is never going to stop the brain drain and all the other ills that we see and loathe in Zambia. Proactive is what we need to be.
If we all could love Zambia with all its ugliness and mediocrity, just a little, then we can start seeing the beauty and the warmth and the potential that Zambia is so full of. We must, and I insist never give up on Zambia.