“I grew up in a violent home. Every chance my father had he would beat my mother, and his violent behavior resulted into them separating in 2006. Even before they separated, my mother was the only one encouraging me to go to school and paying my school fees. Most of the time, my father used the money for my school fees to drink alcohol. Whenever mum objected to his behavior, he would violently hit her with anything he could lay his hands on. I hated the feeling of seeing my mother beaten right before my eyes, but because of being young and powerless, I was no match for the violent man my father was.
I lived with my father and grandmother after the separation. We moved to the village where I started going to school, but I had to repeat grades because my father used money meant for school on alcohol. When my mother discovered what was going on, she decided to get me. By then I was in grade six.
My mother is not in formal employment. She is a vendor who cooks in town, and she has been in the business for close to 15 years. When I moved in with her, I knew I had to work hard in school. Being an only son meant I had to one day provide for the family, and education was the way out of poverty. I passed grade nine exams and went to a boarding school in Kafue Mikasa where I took up different leadership roles from monitor, jets vice president and debate treasurer. I worked twice as much in school, to the extent that when I sat for my final exams, I was confident that I had already qualified to the University of Zambia. I started doing odd jobs in a bid to raise money for university, working in factories carrying building materials for contractors. I did these jobs behind my mother’s back because I knew she would never allow me to do such laborious work.
I used to come to the library at St Daniel Comboni, and my friend told me about the all-boys DREAMS mentorship program. I got an intake form, and I enrolled for the program. Before I joined the mentorship program, I had very low self-esteem, never had courage, and my public speaking skills were terrible. I was greatly inspired by the program facilitators who not only taught me about HIV/AIDS but also helped with my self-esteem. The facilitators helped me face my fear of public speaking by allowing me to say a few things during the mentoring sessions. They also gave me an opportunity to go live on the radio. That was one of my best experiences.
Whenever I am attending the sessions, I feel at home. Even after I graduated, I liked coming to attend the program. I almost lost myself in the compound, but this place keeps me sane. I want others to discover this place and the DREAMS program because they will learn a lot here if they came for such programs. I discovered that with us young people, ‘Whatever the mind of man can conceive it can achieve.’ Young people can get demotivated due to circumstances, but programs like the mentoring program make us resilient.”
Jacob applied to the University of Zambia and was accepted on a government scholarship to pursue his degree. He wants to be a medical doctor and take care of his mother and sisters.