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HIV/AIDS is responsible for more than half of Zambia's 1.4 million orphans, and it is one of our key focuses here. We work in Lusaka and 3 other locations to provide medical treatment and ongoing support for families affected by the virus, as well as a loving home for children who cannot live with their families. … more about our charity work in Zambia

From orphan to culinary genius

Chef and vocational trainer Gasper prepares ingredients ahead of teaching a class
Chef and vocational trainer Gasper prepares ingredients ahead of teaching a class

Gasper was born into poverty in Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia. He orphaned at the age of 10 and brought up by his widowed stepsister who was already struggling to raise seven children. Five years later, Gasper left secondary school to help support his stepsister by crushing stones for local builders. The SOS Children’s Village in Lusaka offered him a scholarship to complete his secondary education. This window of hope has changed the course of Gasper’s life.

Gasper completed his education in 2007 and proceeded to enrol at the SOS Vocational Training Centre Lusaka where he completed an accredited course in food production. This led him to the position of head chef and manager at La Consolata Lodge where he was able to refine his skills. 

A culinary instructor

After a few years Gasper decided to join the Twakula Skills Training Centre as a food-production instructor. Twakula is a community-empowerment project initiated by SOS Vocational Training Centre Lusaka and perfect for people like Gasper who are determined to give something back.

“Giving back to the community does not mean that one has to have a lot of money, even knowledge-sharing for the betterment of the community can be the best gift one can give to the community,” explains Gasper. 

In four years at Twakula Gasper has trained over 110 students and wishes the centre had greater capacity in order to satisfy demand in the community. Some of his students have followed a similar path to Gasper and work for lodges or stores and some have proceeded to set up their own businesses. 

Overcoming challenges 

The community-training centre has provided fantastic opportunities for the community, but Gasper finds the limited student intake and insufficient equipment challenging. He also has to balance out his desire to work in the community with the fact that his wages are paid from a portion of the student fees and many students in this area cannot always afford to pay.

Despite having a wife and two children to support, this does not deter Gasper who has first-hand experience and great understanding of the difficult and vulnerable background many of his students come from.

Future plans 

When asked what the future holds, Gasper assures us that he wishes to continue working in the community, “SOS has empowered me to motivate fellow youths to work hard and use their skills in order to meet their daily needs.”

He hopes one day to see the expansion and improvement of the community-training centre so that he can take on more students in the future.

Alexander McCall Smith visiting Botswana
Alexander McCall Smith visiting the Tlokweng Village in Botswana

BBC Radio 4 Appeal to raise funds for Zambia

Alexander McCall Smith, author of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series is presenting our appeal on BBC Radio 4 to raise funds for vulnerable children and families in Zambia. He will tell the story of two orphaned twins who joined our Chipata Village in Zambia when they were just a few day old.

Tune into the SOS Children's Villages charity appeal on BBC Radio 4 on:

  • Sunday, 30th August 7:55am or 9:26pm 
  • Thursday, 3rd September at 3:27pm

SOS Children's Villages appeal on BBC Radio 4 was successful. Thank you to everyone who supported the appeal. Learn how you can change someone's life in Zambia.