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Local family supports dozens in Zambia

A line of children wait their turn to wash their hands before eating lunch.1 / 3
Wendy Stricker prays with Agnes, an African woman who is raising five of her grandchildren.2 / 3
Patrick Sullivan works hard to stir nsima, a maize-type food that is a staple in the diets of those living in Chisamba.3 / 3

For the past few months, a Red Wing woman has been supporting more than 50 children.

No, she didn't give birth to them, she didn't adopt them and they certainly aren't crammed into a single family home in Red Wing. Rather, Wendy Stricker is supporting the children through financial donations she sends to Africa each month -- and she isn't alone.

The support is all part of a family effort that includes Stricker and her five sisters.

"We've all got kids and their kids all have kids," Stricker said.

Together, the extended family members decided they can afford to lend a hand to orphans living in the village of Chisamba, Zambia.

The idea stemmed from some work that Stricker's nephew and his wife were doing in the Peace Corps a couple of years ago.

Jed and Brooke Heubner currently live in Minneapolis, but from 2007 to 2010 they called Africa home. Upon entering the Peace Corps, they were placed with the organization Hands at Work.

"It tries to mobilize communities in Africa to take care of the orphans in their midst," Stricker explained of the group.

Volunteers for Hands at Work met with church and village leaders to identify the number of orphans in a village. Two hundred were recognized in Chisamba, but with support costs totaling $20 per child per month, the number was way too high for Stricker and her family to tackle at one time.

So village leaders went through the 200 and identified 78 in dire need of help -- a number that was much more realistic for Stricker and her family. In July, they started giving money to support about 60 of them.

"The giving enabled the community to start providing some basic services to the kids," Brooke Heubner explained, mentioning things like serving the children one meal a day and getting them to a hospital if they need care.

Just one month after support began, several of those contributing to the Chisamba children got an opportunity to visit them in person. They played with the kids, read to them, ate meals with them and introduced them to things like arts and crafts, among other activities.

"Since we've come back we've got 10 more children supported," Stricker noted. "Our goal now is to get the eight more. And then start working on the 200."

Having been familiar with volunteer work through the Peace Corps and Hands at Work, Heubner said she and her husband are happy to see their family members supporting the causes they care about.

"It's something that we're really excited about because not only is our family making this huge impact on this community in Chisamba, but we can just see how they're also being changed -- coming back from the trip wrestling with tough questions like how do we spend our money and what are the important things in our lives," Heubner said. "When you see poverty like that, it just makes you look around at your world a little differently."

Additionally, Heubner said she hopes the giving her family has done will spread throughout communities in the United States and result in more support for African children in need.

"I think it would be nice if it kind of spurred on another family to do something similar," she said.

"It's something that churches can do, it's something companies can do, it's something other families can do," Stricker said. "And it makes a significant difference in the kids' lives."

How you can help

Interested in supporting children in Africa? Visit or email to learn how.