Since March 2006 we have been involved with the people of Mukuni and after sixteen visits to Zambia, we have been able to observe this community and the every day hardships they have to endure. Prior to the HIV/AIDS pandemic the Leya people had lived a very simple life, the proof is the amount of elderly people in their seventies and eightees still living a tribal way of life. HIV/AIDS has reduced the longevity to thirty eight years leaving hundreds of AIDS orphans and grandparents with no income, having to look after numerous grandchildren.

With a population in excess of 7000 Mukuni tries in many ways to be self-sufficient. They have skilled builders, welders, carpenters and craftsmen but unemployment is high. There are local shops, providing basic provisions, a market selling fruit, vegetables and clothing and even a hairdressing salon. The Mukuni Royal Establishment is the focal centre of village, the joint rulers Chief Mukuni and the Bedyango, both work extremely hard to advance the development of the community, while still retaining a traditional way of life.

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Two young girls at Mukuni carrying water

The Butterfly Tree has a wonderful relationship with the Chiefdom and we are making great strides to improve the health and education so that these people can eventually become more sustainable. Curio selling is the main source of income for many people who can afford to purchase wood and tools but the competition is very tough. They all depend on the tourists who come to visit the magnificent Victoria Falls.

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Jane Kaye-Bauiley with the Bedyango, Chieftainess of Mukuni and Stain Musengala

With malaria, HIV/AIDS, TB, lack of water, poverty along with poor soil, rain falling only between the months of October and March it is no wonder that these people find life a toil; yet despite everything they are warm and happy people. Even the orphans who have had so much suffering have great resilience; all they need is an education, and with The Butterfly Tree orphan sponsorship program they can complete up to grade twelve with a much better chance of getting a job in Livingstone or in tourism. The standard of teaching in Mukuni is excellent and if we can build more classrooms, toilets and teacher’s houses for other villages then more children can be educated.

Cynthia, Esnat and Angela, at Mukuni, hoping for a healthy future

The government are attempting to reduce the numbers of  HIV/AIDS cases. The population of Zambia is thirteen million, one in six adults are HIV positive and 710,000 children are orphaned. To help tackle this devastating disease at Mukuni and other villages in the chiefdom we are using TME’s educational DVDS, providing support to HIV positive mothers, peer education for HIV prevention and funding a group who run HIV/AIDS awareness, workshops and voluntary testing. The people of Mukuni are ready to move forward and with our funds and an excellent NGO team on the ground to administer our projects we can help them to prevent losing the next generation.