A portrait of Dr Shimwaayi Muntemba, ZOA founder and vice-chair of ZOA-UK trustees, to accompany her biography

Happy 20th birthday ZOA!

Dr. Shimwaayi Muntemba, Founding Chairperson reflects on the beginning of Zambia Orphans Aid 20 years ago today.

Twenty years ago Zambia Orphans Aid (ZOA) was registered in Washington DC as Zambia Orphans of AIDS (ZOA). As Founding Chairperson and on behalf of the co-founders, Gertrude Kazunga Zulu and Kekelwa Nyaywa Dall, I wish to share with you the pleasure it gives us to reach this milestone and thank all those who have helped us along the journey.

The former US Ambassadors to Zambia, Stephen Low and William Edmondson, were with us from the first meeting when we shared our dream of assisting orphans of AIDS in Zambia. Stephen and William with their wives, Susan and Donna, remained active in keeping ZOA going during their time in Washington DC. ZOA’s launch was attended by 14 former ambassadors to African countries alongside friends and colleagues from other African countries. Zambians, Ompie Nkumbula Liebenthal and Susan Mwananshiku Tembo, pushed the growth of the organisation, while Paul Edmondson, who was born in Zambia, served as our first Legal Counsel. To ensure we reached the most in need a small committee worked on the ground in Zambia to identify, assess and subsequently monitor and evaluate local partners committed to caring for orphans.

It was a very busy time and a few months ago, my son reminded me of the many evenings when I arrived home from work only to bury myself in ZOA’s activities.

Two years after our launch, President Kenneth Kaunda, the first Republican president, accepted our invitation to be the keynote speaker at ZOA’s fundraising dinner. This was a huge catch! He also agreed to be a patron of ZOA and advised us to register as a charity in Zambia. Ompie’s husband, Robert Liebenthal, arranged for ZOA’s Zambian registration, which was in place by 2003. Gertrude, who had returned to Zambia, helped establish the Zambian board, setting ZOA on a more professional course.

In 2005, my husband, Keith Rennie, who also served on the ZOA board in the US, moved to Oxford, UK. Thanks to Robert Liebenthal (who is British born) many names were offered as possible people to help launch ZOA there. Jim Potter had lived and worked in Zambia early in his career and his mother was born there; they actively supported launching ZOA in the UK and Jim became the Treasurer. Like Jim, Andrew Turnbull (Lord Turnbull), had lived and worked in Zambia and agreed to serve as Chair. ZOA-UK was registered in 2006 and like ZOA-US sourced funds to assist the partners in Zambia.

Today, ZOA-UK and ZOA-US continue to assist ZOA-Z, who now have a team of four Zambian staff and 12 grassroots, community-based partners working tirelessly to assist orphans and other vulnerable children to achieve their potential. Thank you to the amazing people involved in establishing ZOA who have brought help and hope to some of the many orphans of Zambia; including Professor Rev. Michael Kelly, Dr. Wezi Kaunda, Robie Siamwizia, Gladys Nekhairo Mutukwa, Marietta Harper, Octavia Johnson, Eric Chinje and Noel Lumbama.

Let us now focus on the next 20 years!