While we were in Zambia, both Derek and I had the privilege of getting to know and working with a former street kid (pondo) named Robert Chisha. He was a leader among street kids, even after he left street life, and was a wealth of information about street kids and street life for those of us who worked with him on the ACTION Zambia team.
On Thursday, April 2nd at about 1:00 in the morning, Robert lost his month long battle with what the doctor’s at the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka thought was lung cancer. He was buried yesterday. He was only about 30 years old and is survived by his wife and child(ren).
Because we have not been in close contact with Robert for several years, we don’t know a lot about his recent life. But we wanted to share a few memories that we have of him. Robert was one of the happiest people we have met, and he almost always had a big smile on his face. After Derek returned to Zambia from a short visit to the States, he was greeted by the biggest tackle/hug by Robert.
Robert loved street kids and had such an effective way of working with them. Because he knew what it meant to live on the streets, the kids trusted him in a way that they will probably never be able to trust a mzungu (white person/foreigner).
In working with him and learning from him, he became a good friend. He taught us much about Zambian culture as well as street life, and he took us on many “street walks” during the day or at night to visit the kids who call the street their home. He knew almost all of the street kids by name and genuinely cared for them.
Robert gave me a Zambian name by which he always called me – Chishala. It means “garbage heap,” or “the place where garbage is thrown.” He said that street kids are considered the trash of the world, and I went to Zambia to sit among “the trash.” It was always an honor for me to introduce myself in Zambia as Kristin Chishala, and it always made me think of Robert.
Robert was continually trying to improve himself in some way – improve his English, take classes to finish his high school degree, study Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, understand the Bible, etc. He was humble and did not pretend to know everything, yet he was one of the most knowledgeable street kid workers in Zambia.