KNITTING A LEGACY
JACK SILUMBWE’S STORY
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The largest school dropout rate occurs when students progress from primary school to secondary school.
Usually, that’s around the 7th grade.
This is Jack Silumbwe.
He is from the Northern Provence of
Namwala, Zambia, but currently lives
in Choma, Zambia.
As a boy, Jack fell prey to that statistic.
He was only able to attend school
through the 7th grade before
he was forced to drop out.
Children with incomplete educational training face many challenges. As they get older, getting a job proves to be a daunting, if not impossible, task.
This was especially
true in Jack’s life.
Armed with minimal
he was left with
for work and
many years to
find a job.
It wasn’t until his brother got a job
as a general worker at Choma Milling
that Jack had a chance to work. That
was in 1981. For 10 years, his job was
delivering food for the mill to different
cities throughout Zambia.
Then his wife became sick.
Her hospital visits became so frequent that Jack
had to quit his job at the mill.
It took her one year to fully recuperate.
Once his wife recovered, Jack found himself in a very familiar situation, unable to find a job. With no options, he and his wife decided to start a small business selling tomatoes to try to make some money to support their family… And they have a big family. 9 kids and 11 grandkids.
During this time,
Jack and his wife
would often skip meals
in order to let their kids eat.
This was an extremely
difficult point in
It was during this season of his life
that we first met Jack. Although he
didn’t have a job, he did have a
servant’s heart. He volunteered to
become a caregiver in our
Orphans and Vulnerable Children
Despite having many mouths to feed in his own home, Jack still cared about the countless number of orphans in his community who had even less than he did. He served faithfully in our OVC program delivering meals and routinely checking in with many of these vulnerable children.
One day Jack and some of the other
caregivers came to us saying,
“We want to learn a skill.
Can you teach us a skill?”
We immediately enrolled Jack and
the others into our sewing program.
Right away, Jack poured himself into
the sewing program with everything
he had. He was an eager learner and
quickly mastered sewing. After that,
he learned how to knit.
During this time, he was also learning
very valuable business lessons about
budgeting and marketing.
For the first time in his life,
Jack was acquiring a skill set
that no one would ever be able
to take away from him. He was
gaining an ability that would
empower him to move beyond
his educational shortcomings
and towards economic freedom
Upon graduating from our program,
he was given a certificate of completion
and his very own knitting machine.
What Jack did next astounded us.
First, Jack assessed the local market.
He knew that sweaters (jerseys) were a
uniform requirement for all students
in secondary school but was unsure
where schools bought their uniforms.
After a little research, he learned that the Zambian government no longer allows schools to sell uniforms to students directly anymore. This opened the door for entrepreneurs to sell their goods directly to students but Jack still needed an “in” into the market.
So, he decided to put his new knitting machine to work. He began making sample jerseys in specific school colors and then set meetings with the headmasters of those schools to showcase his skills and pitch his work. It was risky to put his own money into this, but if it worked the payoff could reap huge benefits.
Meeting after meeting, he impressed the headmasters with the quality and craftsmanship of his work. His initiative was paying off. He was quickly becoming a go-to source for many students. The entrepreneurial spirit was now roaring to life within him.
He started saving a portion
of his profits from knitting
school jerseys and eventually
was able to buy a second-hand
electric sewing machine. He
had now become a small business.
He then opened a shop in front
of his house to showcase and
sell his products. This roadside
storefront became a great way
to market his work within his
own neighborhood. Word was
getting around fast. Jack’s shop
was the place to buy your
Jack’s new future has endless
possibilities if he works hard at it.
And that’s exactly what he wants to do.
Work hard and leave a legacy.
is more than
a successful and
He wants his life’s
story to echo from
generation to generation
by passing along his new
knowledge and skills to
his family and others
in his community.
He has already begun
laying the foundation
for his legacy. Shortly
after graduating from
our sewing program,
he had already taught
all of his children and
to knit and sew.
young boys take a
simple ball of yarn
and convert it into a
all by themselves
is an impressive
thing to watch.
Their attention to detail and diligence
in maintaining quality is a testament
to their skilled teacher, their dad.
In fact, with only a
few short weeks of
training, some of his
have become proficient
enough to produce
jerseys all by
This young man
is only 12 years old,
yet he is more
skilled than people
twice his age.
Jack is well on his way
to knitting his legacy together
despite the many hurdles
he has faced in his life.
Will you empower
Jack on his journey
as he leads others to
follow in his footsteps?