With a bright smile and hearty laugh, Sherry** has been dubbed by her nephews and nieces as the Zambian Oprah Winfrey. She has endured and overcome many hardships in life, like many young Zambians. She continually texts her friends and brother heartfelt, inspirational messages about not giving up hope. She is currently going to school in hotel and tourism and hopes to own her own lodge and restaurant one day. This is her life story – a testament to the scintillating spirit of the people of Zambia.
Sherry was born in Solwezi to one of five children. Together with mother and father, they lived there for six years. One day her younger sister and mother went for a stroll and never came back, as they were struck by lightning and died. There were four of the siblings left. Sherry was the youngest. One brother was three years older, another brother was five years older and her sister was seven years older. Her father was a businessman who frequently moved around. It was decided by her father and relatives that the children should move. Sherry and her older brother went to the Copperbelt to live with her uncle (brother to her father) while her older sister and other older brother moved to Lusaka. Sherry often heard from her father and knew he was busy working to support the family. Four years after her mother and younger sister died, her father died as well. Sherry was ten years old when she became an orphan.
Life with her uncle in the Copperbelt was full of surprises. Sherry has fond memories of a full house, sometimes more than 20 people living under the same roof. Attending primary school in Chikoliya in Muferlia, Sherry remembers having fun and playing with other children in the neighborhood flat. Although she appreciated her uncle’s hospitality, Sherry said, “Life has never been good when you stay with other people. You appreciate the shelter and the food but you are restricted. It does not feel good.” They lived therefor seven years. This is where Sherry already fluent in her first language, Lovale, learned to master the Bemba language.
When she was thirteen, her uncle retired and it was decided, again, that she and her brother would move. This time, she went to the village in Zambezi to live with her grandmother (her mother’s mother). A sweet woman, Sherry recalls, her grandmother was the one who taught her how to make nshima, the main staple food in Zambia, and to pluck the feathers of a chicken. Her grandmother, who looked just like her mother, was a fountain of wisdom and regularly took Sherry into the fields to teach her how to farm. To this day, Sherry attributes her cooking and gardening skills to her grandmother. Sherry entered grade seven in school and her grandmother supported her until she became ill. Sherry had to stop school for four years because there was no money. During this time, she sat at home with her brother. It was then decided once again that they would move, so they left their grandmother sick and headed to Solwezi again.
Her uncle (her father’s older brother) came to pick them up and dropped them off in Solwezi. They went to live with her older sister, who had at this point had gotten married and settled in Solwezi. The siblings was reunited but only for a short time. No one had a job and money was tight. They survived by getting help from relatives. Soon after the move, Sherry’s older brother left to work in Angola and Sherry left as well and went to live with her cousin (the eldest daughter of her father’s brother) in the Copperbelt. She had not heard from her brother in Angola for about four or five years until she learned he had died. Life continued and Sherry started grade eight in Kitwe in the Copperbelt. She lived there for three years until it was decided yet again that she would move to Lusaka and stay with the her other cousin (the middle daughter of her father’s brother). She entered grade ten at Lusaka Girls Basic School. She finished high school and has since re-entered school to complete her degree in hotel and tourism.
When asked about her future goals, Sherry responds that she would like to get married and have a family. Most importantly, she wants to help send her nephews (the sons of her deceased older sister) to school. She was imbued with this sense of care and concern while living in the village in Zambezi. She thinks that village life is more community-oriented and people help each other out, unlike in the city, where it seems people are more disconnected from each other. Sherry also has sad memories, as she recalls many of her old classmates from Solwezi are deceased. She recognizes the hardships many young Zambians have to encounter and she wants them to know together, they can keep the hope alive.
**Sherry is a pseudonym used to protect her identity. She has consented to the use of her life history on this blog. The painting of the lovely Zambian woman in the picture was featured during an art exhibit in July 2010 at the International School in Lusaka, Zambia. The artist has consented to its use on this blog.