Betty is a natural leader. Her oversized personality shines as one of the stars of Lubuto’s drama program. It was there Betty found her place: “I didn’t know what my talent was, but after Lubuto, I found my talent in drama.”  But Betty’s personality and drive also draws in other young girls to the library. A couple years ago, she and her sister, Rebecca, started a group called “Girl Talk” at Lubuto to discuss many of the issues girls face, such as hygiene and teen pregnancy. At another local NGO, Betty was elected to be a leader in her own community as peer educator and positive role model.

Betty is continually bothered that girls are still left behind when comes to education. “They say ‘When you educate girls, you are educating the entire nation.’ But it’s still girls who are getting pregnant and they are ones that are missing school.” Like most girls in Zambia, Betty heard negative messages like“school is not for girls” and “girls should stay at home and get married.” Inspired by her favorite historical figures–Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King Junior–that she read about at Lubuto, she refused to believe that.

DREAMS program has given Betty the support she needs to attend Grade 11 and continue to be a leader in her community.  After finishing school, Betty’s goal is to start an organization that helps vulnerable girls tackle issues such early marriage, self-confidence, and discrimination. Betty proudly proclaimed: “I’m an advocate for girls' rights”.  

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Endlessly curious and talking a mile a minute, Annie is always ready to chat about her passions, which are extensive. They range from drawing (“My hands start shaking and I just have to draw!”) to acrobatics with Circus Zambia to trying out new recipes (her specialties are cakes and biscuits). However, her true love is designing:  “I love to design dresses and bracelets. I like to get inspiration and learn from other people’s designs and then take that idea and make it my own.”

Yet Annie was really discouraged and almost gave up on going to school. She had been told by some family members, “you have no future so you should remain at home,” meaning her place should be helping with the house. Annie struggled under the lack of emotional and financial support she received at home. The DREAMS program and Lubuto’s staff provided a needed lifeline. Annie is seeing a change in herself and in the other girls in the DREAMS program:  “DREAMS is making a difference because girls are becoming more confident and standing up for themselves.  They are changing their thoughts and realizing that girls can do anything boys can do… That they are equal to boys.”

When talking about her future, Annie first said she wanted to be doctor…. But that was so she could change the dress code and design new uniforms. Her passion for creativity and design will definitely be in her future. The DREAMS program has ignited a new passion for education and standing up for girls: “I want to hold workshops and teach girls that early marriage is wrong. I want to stand up for them and for those who have no one who stand up for them.”

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Helen loves science and you can often find her in a quiet corner of Lubuto studying. Last year, she was forced to miss the half of school year because her family didn’t have money for the school fees. Helen was desperate to get back. When she heard about the DREAMS scholarships from a Lubuto staff member, she put in her application immediately. On hearing the news that she had been accepted, Helen was thrilled: “I didn’t even know if I could ever go back to school… I’m so happy!”

Helen is the third of four girls in her family. Her two older sisters had to drop out of secondary school due to the family’s financial difficulties. At the end of 2017, Helen will be the first child in her family to complete secondary school! Helen is really proud of herself for getting this far and most importantly, “I really want to make my mom proud by being the first to graduate”.

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At 24 years old, Patricia refused to give up on her dream of graduating from secondary school.  Patricia’s education has been interrupted many times over the last 9 years–by the death of her parents, poverty, the births of her 2 children, and moving across the country to be with her brother.  “I’ve had to miss 6 years of school because of the things I’ve went through.” Now in grade 12, Patricia is on track to graduate from secondary school at the end of the year. “I don’t care what people say or think [about being 24 and in secondary school]. I’ve just had to the courage to keep going to school. I’m inspired by my children. I want to make a better life for them and for myself.“

When Patricia heard in January 2017 that Lubuto was offering school scholarships, she eagerly applied. Last year, Patricia had to miss a third of the school year because she didn’t have money for her school fees.  “The scholarship has lifted a big burden from me…. I’m not distracted when in class because I’m not worrying how I’m going to pay for school fees or even if I will be in school long enough to take the exams.”

Patricia knows firsthand how important it is for girls to be educated and able to take control over their own lives: “I really hope that [Lubuto] will increase the number of scholarships for the DREAMS program. I’ve known so many girls desperate to be in school, they just don’t have to financial support or opportunities…it’s especially very difficult in for orphans to get an education.”

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When her daughter, Precious, was born 2 ½ years ago, her father refused to give her any more money for her school. Growing up in a large family, Lynn knew she would take away opportunities from her younger siblings, so she reluctantly gave in. Now 20 years old, Lynne is determined to make a better life for her daughter, even if it means starting school again at grade 8: “I really desire a better future for myself and my daughter. I have to fight and stand on my own now.”

Lynn heard about the DREAMS scholarships being offered at Lubuto Library from a neighbor and eagerly applied. “Even though my education has not been valued by some people in the past… I have always realized the importance of it. Education is the path to a better life for me and my daughter.” When Lynn heard the news that she had won a scholarship, she was completely thrilled, “I’m so happy to be back in school now. I’ve never gotten money for school before!”

Being part of the DREAMS program has made Lynn feel more confident, in herself and her future. It is the first time in her life someone has not only invested in the financial costs of her education, but also in creating a positive environment for her to grow as a person. Since entering DREAMS, Lynn has made many new friends and is surrounded by positive and uplifting people. “My new friends at school believe in me. They encourage me to stay in school and study.”

**According to the 2011 Annual Census, pregnancy is the main overall reason for girls dropping out of school in at Grades 1-9 and 10-12.

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Mable was searching for a quiet place to do homework when she first discovered Lubuto. Now she can be found studying or helping the Lubuto staff clean up and put away books, but she will never pass by a chance to watch her favorite movie, ‘Hotel Transylvania’. While very shy and reserved, Mable has an impressive confidence and passion when she talks about school: “When a girl gets a scholarship it doesn’t just help her, it helps her entire family. The DREAMS scholarship has made a big difference in my family’s life.” So many families in Zambia don’t have the money to send all their children to school, which means some kids get left out and sadly it is often girls. In Zambia, approximately 1 and 3 girls don’t make the transition from free primary schools to paid secondary school, where fees are just too expensive.

While she feels support from her parents, Mable sometimes feels like people don’t believe in her future and her aspirations and it makes her feel sad.  Mable explained, “Girls are taught that education is not for them, that their place is in the home. The DREAMS program is important because it is helping girls have self-confidence. It helps girls believe that they should be in school and can do what boys do. It helps them believe in themselves.” Mable wants to help other girls believe in themselves, not give up, and stay in school.

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