A Dream Come True for Shelley O'Callaghan & the Friends for Zambia Society

by Arianna Dametto, Social Media Coordinator 

With all the recent progress on the construction of the Twitti school in Zambia, I was so pleased to talk to one the founders of the Friends for Zambia Society, Shelley O'Callaghan. Shelley founded Friends for Zambia back in 2006 for the sole purpose of building a much needed school in a rural farming community in Zambia.

Shelley’s story begins right after she graduated from university and married her husband, Patrick. The newlyweds decided to volunteer with Canadian University Services Overseas (CUSO), where they taught at a Zambian school for two years. Their experience teaching overseas was nothing short of amazing, and it was their relationships with the headmasters, Simon and Lydia Maonde that inspired the work Shelley and Friends for Zambia are doing today.

The Maondes later retired to a farming community in Zambia, which at the time had no school. Upon realizing this, Simon & Lydia decided to take on the responsibility for the children’s education and started teaching the local children at their house.  Fifteen years later the Maondes have been teaching approximately 200 children a day in shifts, using every room of their home as a classroom, except their bedroom. The couple worried who would continue the community's education in the future, and decided to reach out to their friends for help in constructing a school. Shelley eagerly responded, and founded Friends for Zambia in Canada to help raise money for the construction of a new school. Shelley has developed a deep passion for this project, visiting Zambia once a year to meet with the construction crew, project managers and the board of trustees.

Shelley has been greatly inspired by the Maondes, who impressed upon her the importance of basic education, especially for the young girls. Being a strong and highly respected role model within her community, Lydia Maonde takes the initiative to visit the houses of girls who miss class because she's determined to provide them with a full education.

With the completion of the last school building scheduled for the next few months, the official opening is set for this July. Forty people from Canada will be traveling to Zambia to celebrate the grand opening, including four CEF volunteers. CEF feels honoured and grateful to be a partner in this project and to be associated with Friends for Zambia Society. We cannot wait to see the final project this July! For more information about CEF's work with Friends for Zambia, please see our previous post.