In Dignity’s 10th year, founder Jon Paul Witt pauses to reflect on where the journey began.
It was 2007 and I was sat in Mibila with my friend Mark. Mibila is a small remote community about an hour’s drive south of the Chingola to Solwezi road in Northern Zambia. It’s not an easy drive. Bumps, potholes, ruts and in the rains a sticky mud-bath ensure that you have a difficult passage. Mark and I had been camping there for two days whilst he had been photographing widows in the village to raise money for a clinic that we were helping at the time. I was his hardy, Africa-seasoned guide on this trip.
In one of our many conversations we discussed the nature of what we saw in the village. Many people were very poor and had very difficult lives. In rural African society most people live in a subsistence fashion, a step up from hunter gatherer. They grow their own food, selling any excess to support their family. Any employment is small scale and is very much secondary in importance. Life itself often seems cheap, no doubt fuelled by high mortality rates due to what are in many cases preventable deaths. From a study I did years ago, I learnt that rural life in Africa is defined by survival. If someone has any resources, it is common for others to sue them simply to help themselves. The norm is to prioritise your own needs at the expense of others. Cooperation, entrepreneurship, community, responsibility and love can sometimes seem like distant concepts or luxuries.
Mark could see how vast improvements in the village could be made from cooperation, simple business opportunities and education. In his mind he had it all mapped out. He watched some people walk by struggling to carry a load. “Someone could get a cart and hire it out” he commented. He’s a natural entrepreneur. “These things don’t happen naturally, why not?” I thought aloud. “Finding the cause is the important step. Address that and this village will change!”
Ten years later and I have seen some of that change with my own eyes. I have seen the story of Dignity being written through thousands of amazing lives and everyday miracles.
Read about some of the changes I have seen in our 10 year timeline…