Jesse Clay ’16 and Bentley Sam ’16 spent August 2019 traveling Southern Africa. They took out their Tiger Rag at Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwe/Zambia border.
Back in the early 2000s, Lisa Bennett was a secondary education major at Clemson who had no way of knowing that one of her coworkers at a video rental store would go on to found one of the most successful educator development organizations in Zambia. Lusungu Sibande was just another employee in the trenches with Bennett, restocking DVDs and keeping a “naughty” list of late video returners.
Lusungu and her sister, Kondi, started A to Zed in 2006 and immediately invited Bennett to travel to Zambia with them. In 2016 Bennett was finally able to join the sisters, offering her abilities as an educator to help teachers in Zambia through professional development workshops. She became an instant believer, making plans to return in summer 2018.“I enjoyed helping teachers address what they may be lacking in classrooms,” Bennett said. “It’s very fulfilling to help them put proven methods into practice, and we can’t wait to go back.” And, she adds, “Lusungu and Kondi made me part of their family and an honorary Zambian citizen.”
Bennett worked with teachers and students in grades 5-9, but her work wasn’t confined to the classroom. A to Zed also tackles service-learning projects, such as helping teachers and students raise and sell crops, the proceeds of which get put back into schools. Members of A to Zed also found time to host a field day for Matthew 25, a local orphanage.
Bennett said the experience made her realize just how much the hardworking people of Zambia accomplish with limited resources. One teacher she observed used a single book and no other reading or writing materials to effectively teach a class of 40 students.
That experience taught Bennett an important lesson about the role of teachers: “In the end, it’s about me and what I have to give, and that’s expertise, heart and passion,” she said. This summer, she’ll take these talents back to teach — and learn — from the educators of Zambia.
Empowerment through Education
Joseph Mizzi knows the impact of education. The grandson of immigrants, and among the first generation in his family to attend college, he values deeply the opportunities and advantages his Clemson education provided. Making education available for others is a passion that motivates and energizes this architecture alumnus.
That passion is evident through his work as treasurer and vice-chair of the board for the Salvadori Center, which uses structures in the environment to teach NYC kids math and science, and as a member of the board of directors of the Boy Scouts of America Greater NYC Councils and an active participant with the Boy Scouts’ Explorer program, which introduces students to potential careers. But his excitement is palpable when he starts to talk about his 14+ Foundation and its work in Zambia.
Mizzi, who is president of Sciame Construction Co. in New York City, co-founded 14+ Foundation with Nchimunya Wulf, a Zambian-born fashion stylist, with whom he shares a vision for educational initiatives in Zambia and other areas in Africa. The nonprofit works to build schools and orphanages in rural African communities.
Construction for their first project, Chipakata Children’s Academy, began in Zambia this spring. The school and orphanage will encompass more than 200 acres, and the foundation has already completed road improvement work, drilled water wells and provided a grinding mill and a supply store to allow the community access to basic goods and services. Development plans also include a health clinic and community center.
For more information on the 14+ Foundation, go to www.14plusfoundation.org.