Greenpark School started when Felix Sinkala – a teacher from a wealthy area of Lusaka – went to visit some family in Matero, an impoverished township in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. Whilst Felix was in Matero he saw a young boy selling brooms. Being a teacher he stopped and asked him why he was not in school. How this boy answered him changed Felix’s life and set him on the path that led eventually to the founding of Greenpark. The boy replied that his father was dead and his mother was very sick, and he had to sell brooms in order to make money for them to eat. They simply could not afford to send him to school. Felix was horrified by this, that such a young boy would completely miss out on education because his family needed him to earn money. It was this sense of injustice that drove Felix and his wife Lister to move into Matero, make huge financial sacrifices including the sacrifice of their stability, and start a school that would cater to these most vulnerable of children. Initially, Felix began working in a school there, but was distressed when he realised that the school would chase children who could not pay fees away. Seeing child after child being turned down and sent away drove Felix to leave this school – and the good salary that went with it – and start Greenpark.

Greenpark caters to children who are OVCs, which means Orphaned and Vulnerable Children. These are children who have lost one or both parents, or whose parents are very sick or incapable in some way. Many families in Matero are driven into very challenging circumstances by having to take in the children of family members after their death – some taking in up to 10 dependants on top of their own families. Grandmothers find themselves looking after young babies, profoundly struggling to earn any money in order to support their dependants.

Greenpark school offers not only education but also care, love, interest and support to children in very difficult circumstances – children who have lost their parents and are no in sole charge of younger brothers and sisters. These children lack the educational opportunities needed for good employment, but they also very often lack the attention, nurturing and inspiration that is needed for a child to truly flourish emotionally as well as financially. This is what Greenpark strives to provide.

Ruth and Mark met Felix and Lister about 18 months after they started Greenpark, and they were struggling to maintain the school. They were facing a tide of needy children with no way of supporting them. Felix and Lister are devout Christians, but they knew that prayer, hope and faith was not enough to attend to the needs of these children. It was the uniting of these two couples that created Umunandi, which means ‘my friend’. They began to work together to offer these children a community of education, love, support and care that would afford each of them with the tools they needed to thrive and, for those few precious hours they are in school, to be free to learn and play while adults take care of them.