WEST MICHIGAN—Four Hope College Alumni and their young families are bringing new hope to orphans in Africa.
Two families are heading out from West Michigan in July to start up a new school in the rural village of Chongwe, in the country of Zambia. The work requires a big time commitment. With their six young children helping along side of them, the families will spend two years working there.
“Already our 8 year old is very world-minded, he loves other cultures and other people, I just think this experience will be invaluable to them just seeing how a different world lives and the extra stuff we have here that's just not needed,” says family matriarch Tina DeKam.
“I think it will be just something that you can't teach."
Clayton DeKam says he's excited to meet the other children and play soccer with them. He's also looking forward to helping in the "orphan garden."
"We first started feeling God kind of tug as us two years ago," says Kevin DeKam, the future administrator of the school. He went on to say while Zambia is a peaceful country; it leads the world in many negative statistics.
Life expectancy is very low and rates of poverty are high, according to Kevin. The country also has millions of orphans due in part to the AIDS crisis, leaving many children in need of help.
Kevin is leaving his job as a counselor in West Michigan while Tina is leaving her job as a graphic designer. Tina says their job will be to get the school started, even acquiring such things like chairs and other supplies. They will also be in charge of building relationships with the community.
The school is currently under construction by local work crews, using bricks made from clay within the village.
"We are going to start inSeptember hopefully with a preschool and a kindergarten, about 25 students each, and the plan is that we will add a classroom every year until the end of High School," says Kevin.
A second family, the Roelofs, will be working alongside of the DeKams in Zambia. The two families have been friends since college and will live side by side in a duplex on the school campus, which consists of 25 acres.
"I just kind of started thinking, you know, we hit that point in our lives where we you know, had built our home, we were stable in our jobs, we had had our three children and thought we were done having kids, and at that point we kind of thought, ‘what's next?’” says Tina.
“What are we going to do with our lives? How are we going to leave an impact here on earth and how are we going to teach our kids about making a difference as well.”
The families will not receive a paycheck for their work. To compensate, they have been hosting fundraisers, like an auction at the Railside Country Club. The families have also secured some corporate sponsorship to help them out. Although there is a lot of uncertainty, they are confident God will provide.
The GEM Club is the faith-based organization that approached the DeKams andRoelofs to help build the school.
To find out more about the organization and how to help, visit www.gemsgc.org.
Follow the DeKam's blog at dekamsinzambia.wordpress.com or the Roelof family's blog at roelofsinzambia.wordpress.com.