Zicky and Wilbroad Chanda, founders of Lighthouse Christian School in Ndola, Zambia, recently visited Covenant Mercies’ US offices. In honor of the school’s tenth anniversary, Director of Development Joanne Burak sat down to talk with the Chandas about Lighthouse and the surrounding community.
What led to your desire to establish Lighthouse Christian School?
Zicky Chanda: We lived in Mississippi in 1999. We were there for almost four years. While we were in the US, we would read stories— stories about the street kids back home. We had a passion for caring for these children. We thought, when we get back to Zambia, we will start a school that will care for orphans and vulnerable children. So when we went back in 2003, we started working towards that. Lighthouse was established in January 2005.
I understand that Lighthouse Christian School serves students from both the middle class and slum neighborhoods of Ndola.
ZC: That is one thing we still want to emphasize, because we don’t want the school to be known as an orphanage, or a school for orphans. We want to give those children the same quality education that the others have. There are some kids [Lighthouse students] who are not orphans. Their parents are able to pay for the school fees.
Where these kids are coming from— the [Covenant Mercies] sponsored kids and non-sponsored kids— are totally different. Most of the sponsored kids, they are coming from the slums. And those that have parents and are able to pay for themselves— they are coming from a different neighborhood. It is a benefit for both.
For those children coming from those suburban areas, mixing with those coming from the slums gives them a picture of saying “we are one.” It doesn’t matter where you [live]. One thing I emphasize to the caregivers [child guardians]… it is easy to say “Oh, I am coming from the slums. I can’t match up with that child coming from so-and-so area.” But we encourage them. I usually tell them, “With God, it is all even.” God doesn’t look at us and say “You are coming from ‘this area,’” He just looks at us as the same.
Wilbroad Chanda: In addition, when you have kids coming from the slums… it’s like the caste system in India. When you think of education, the expectation [if you live in a slum neighborhood] is that you go to a school that is downtrodden, that is poor. But if you are coming from that community and attending Lighthouse… it boosts their esteem: Though I come from such a community, I can attend a good school.
Tell us about the Ndola community and the home life of the Lighthouse Christian School students.
WC: The [sponsored] children come from communities that are poverty stricken. At one point, we didn’t have those slums… because of certain socio-economic factors, they are mushrooming. The problem is, if you grow up in that community… the mindset is that this is where I was raised, I will raise my kids and grandchildren here. Lighthouse says no, we can break that cycle, because when these kids have an education, they will transition. Part of the reason why some of them live in that community is because they don’t have a good education, a good job, and good income… Education is the golden key that unlocks or breaks this cycle.
How has Lighthouse changed in the past ten years?
ZC: When we started Lighthouse Christian School, when the doors opened, there were only six students, with one teacher. Just me, and one teacher. Now we have over 250 children, in ten years. When we started, we were renting a house. We paid the rentals, the salary of the teacher, the utilities… it was just from our pockets, just from our incomes. It’s amazing to see where it is now.
When Covenant Mercies came in 2006 and the Sponsorship Program started, the numbers started growing, but we were still renting this house and we didn’t have enough space. The first building construction started in 2009. Today it’s transformed— not just the area where the school is built, it has transformed the lives of the children. We see God’s faithfulness in all of that. Lighthouse is also providing employment for the teachers and those working on the grounds.
WC: There is progress in almost every sphere of school: the number of teachers has increased, management… relationships are growing, the gospel is spreading. Of course, we are still progressing… as Zicky has put it, we are just seeing the hand of God.
Zicky Chanda is the Director of Lighthouse Christian School and helps to coordinate Covenant Mercies’ Orphan Sponsorship Program in Ndola, Zambia. Wilbroad is the senior pastor of Christ Community Church in Ndola. Together, the Chandas founded Lighthouse Christian School in 2005. Covenant Mercies partnered with the school in 2006, later building a new and expanded campus. Today, Lighthouse serves 250 students in grades pre-K through 7.
Check out Part 2 of our interview with Wilbroad and Zicky Chanda here.