By Michelle Fish
Our partners at the Living Hope Orphanage and Coffee Farm in Ndola, Zambia have unquestionably changed the lives of the children in their care for the better. These children, many of whom lost their parents to AIDS, malaria, alcoholism or violence, are loved, fed, educated, and provided with the tools for a successful future. Bob and I have had the opportunity to spend hours talking with many of the kids. Their dreams are big. One young lady we met wants to be a lawyer, one a journalist, another an accountant. And just as importantly, they have the opportunity to follow a path that will get them there, thanks to Living Hope’s commitment to their education. Coffee helps make this possible.
Less obvious at first glance is the impact that coffee is having on the larger economic landscape in the community of Ndola. In a region where jobs are almost impossible to come by, the coffee farm has provided permanent employment for around 20 people for more than a decade. Access to a steady wage has changed lives. Nobody exemplifies the power of coffee as an economic engine better than Shelly Matipula.
Donating the land
Land ownership in Ndola is strictly controlled through the tribal system. In order to acquire the land for the orphanage and coffee farm, Living Hope approached Chief Mushili. Although he has since passed away, he was the most senior royal chief of the Lamba Tribe, and one of most important chiefs in Zambia. In exchange for the solemn promise to employ all who participated, Chief Mushili granted his permission for several landowners to donate acreage to the project.
One of the people who donated land was Shelly Matipula. In 2009, when she was first approached by the Living Hope team, she and her family were struggling to meet their most basic needs. Her husband had died in 2004, leaving her as the sole provider for her five children. They lived in a small home made of mud that was in desperate need of repair. Eking out a life as a subsistence farmer was back-breaking work. It was difficult for her to earn enough to keep the family fed and the kids in school.
She was reluctant at first to donate any of her land. Her children feared that she might end up with nothing. In the end, she decided to take the leap of faith to exchange a few hectares of her land for the promise of an opportunity.
She began with Living Hope as a general worker on the farm. She has done the difficult work of clearing the land (“stumping”) and preparing it for planting; planting; watering; tending the coffee (compost and fertilizer); pruning; picking; washing coffee; drying coffee; and working in the nursery. Shelly is also an experienced gardener and was a significant help in establishing the garden that provides food for the Living Hope children and workers.
Now, more than a decade later, her life has been completely transformed. The steady wage she earns at the coffee farm has enabled her to not only provide an education for her children, but for her nine grandchildren as well. She rebuilt her house out of bricks. Not only that, she built an additional five houses on her property that she rents out to other workers at the coffee farm. And she is a leader among the coffee workers, helping to guide and train others.
Shelly Matipula and her youngest daughter, Elizabeth in 2020.
Truly, the impact that Living Hope is having in Ndola goes far beyond the orphanage’s walls. Shelly’s life is a great example of what coffee is making possible.