Happy, smiling faces, big wide eyes, innocent. This sums up the African children I work with in Zambia. It is refreshing to be with children who are undemanding, unspoilt, who are so poor but somehow manage to be happy. They have so little – no TVs, no computers, no toys nor sports equipment and yet they rarely complain. Some of my most pleasurable times at Mukuni are visiting the school children and watching the younger ones playing on the sandy terrain.

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African children are tough. From an early age they have to fetch water, help with the chores and look after their younger siblings. They have no choice of what they eat, their staple diet in countries like Zambia is maize; typical daily meals are porridge made from mealie meal (ground maize) for breakfast, sheema (ground maize resembling unseasoned mash potato) with vegetables for lunch and for supper more sheema, salad and ground nuts, the latter being their main source of protein. Only families who have a good income can afford eggs, chicken or bread; with two thirds of the population living on less than 50 ($1 dollar) a day, these items are a luxury. Too many African children have to suffice on one meal a day, when I first set up the charity one of our initial projects was to provide a daily nutritional meal at Mukuni Basic School to feed vulnerable children.

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African children walk long distances to school through bush, crossing elephant paths and rivers. I actually drove to one area where children set off at 4am to get to Mukuni High School for 7pm, often having no breakfast until they reach school. For this reason many younger children are unable to be educated until they are old enough to walk several miles a day. Zambian education is essential for these children who are eager to learn and have very little else in their lives, it gives them hope and a chance to better their situation. Giving them an education will enable these vulnerable children to be aware of the dangers of HIV and AIDS and a chance to support their families in the future.

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African women make loving and caring mothers, and are very protective towards their offsprings. African children are generally well diciplined both at home and at school. They support one another especially in the rural villages, where families are extended to accommodate the numerous orphans of AIDS. It is heartbreaking for mothers having to cope with so many illnesses and diseases: malaria, HIV/AIDS, aliments that cannot be cured and no money to send their children for treatment. The Butterfly Tree funds operations, medication and physiotherapy for children at Mukuni Health Centre.

Despite the terrible hardships African children have to endure they can always manage to smile.

Sponsor an orphan and make a difference to the life of  these aids children. It costs only £110($190) or £10 per month.