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By Michelle Fish

Drive around just about any suburb in America on the weekend and you’re likely to see a giant field with kids playing on it, and their parents in lawn chairs yelling encouragement from the side lines. Maybe it’s attached to a school, maybe it’s a community center, but there’s bound to be at least one place for kids to gather and play team sports. In fact, in the US, you’re likely to see more than one field… football, baseball and soccer will often each have their very own.

That’s not how it is in Zambia, particularly not in the rural areas. The country is just too poor to invest in that kind of infrastructure. But my oh my, it’s exciting to see what can happen when someone does.

Last year, Living Hope International installed a new soccer field right next to their dormitories, and it’s not just for the orphans.  On Sunday afternoon, kids from the local communities come together to compete and play on the field, and their parents and friends gather on the sidelines to cheer them on. They are up to six teams now, loosely divided by age, and it is the community-wide highlight of the week.

We were lucky to be there on a Sunday, and it felt like a celebration. There was singing, laughter and joy, and some pretty serious soccer!

It’s just one of the many ways the orphanage supports and improves the lives of people in the community around it, particularly the children. In the summer, US volunteers arrange art, sports, music, and dance camps for children that are open to the community. They also installed the first public, potable water pump so that families (usually women) no longer had to make a several mile round trip daily hike to fetch drinking water. The coffee farm provides 30 full-time year-round jobs that swell to 100 during the height of picking season… jobs that pay three times the national average.

Living Hope International and its orphanage isn’t just about saving the children, although they are certainly committed to that mission. They are lifting up the entire community and improving living conditions and outcomes for everyone. Supported and sustained by the proceeds from the coffee farm they created, Living Hope International is moving the ball forward, one step at a time.

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