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This woman gives a family life to homeless kids in Zambia


Courtesy of Carol McBrady

Carol McBrady with a group of children from Action For Children Zambia

Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 06/16/23

A Catholic lay missionary, McBrady is the founder of a volunteer organization that saves the lives of children living on the streets.

When someone asks Carol McBrady what she does for at-risk children in Zambia, she simply says, “I am a mother.”

A Catholic lay missionary, McBrady is the founder of Action for Children Zambia (AFCZ), a volunteer organization that saves the lives of children living on the streets. She founded the non-profit as a way to streamline donor funds into the lives of children, so she could make a permanent difference in their lives.

You can read more about how she founded AFCZ here. But you might wonder, what is daily life like for the children at AFCZ? And who are these children who so desperately need a mother? 

A family home for children living on the streets

“Having done some mission service and worked as a school social worker, I thought I knew what poverty was,” McBrady recalls of her first visit to Zambia in 2002. “On my first trip to Africa, God showed me how wrong I was. Here I encountered thousands of children living in rubbish piles, sewage tunnels, and drainage ditches.”

Hundreds of these children have found a home and family with AFCZ. The children are placed in homes with Zambian house parents, so that they remain connected to their culture and experience family life. “With God’s help, we have managed to help most of them on to a positive, productive life grounded in the Catholic faith and Zambian norms,” she said.

One of the things that makes Action for Children Zambia unique and successful is their establishment of rituals and traditions like those that exist in every family. “In traditional orphanages, these are often lacking because they are too expensive and there are too many children,” McBrady said.

Carol McBrady of Action for Children Zambia

These are some of the beautiful traditions that the children at AFCZ enjoy …

  • “We work hard to ensure all our children have birthday gifts and cake”
  • “We host a fabulous annual Christmas event that is steeped in tradition, family time, holiday baking, Christmas plays and football tournaments.” 
  • “Every child under the care of AFCZ is required to do a Lenten Service project. The kids do a terrific job!”
  • “Easter brings a new and different set of traditions with our Holy Week Reconciliation retreat”
  • “On Good Friday the kids will put on one of the best Passion Plays you will ever see”
  • “Easter Sunday brings an Easter candy hunt that keeps them busy for hours!”

Meet some of the children of AFCZ

The kids saved by AFCZ have incredible stories to tell.

Muile, a young man in the AFCZ program who will be starting university in January, writes: 

“Before I came in this program, my life was not good at all. Even though I was young, I experienced a lot of bad things. My father was dead. My mom was a drunkard. My stepfather was abusive. I had nothing. That changed when my brother brought me to Mama Carol. Now I have everything. School, food, love and care. I wonder what my life would have been if you people were not there to help me? I really appreciate everything you are doing in my life. Thank you for giving support and giving me what my parents could not. I love you all.” 

Muile, a young man in the AFCZ program, will be starting university in January.

McBrady told me the story of Chama, who is now in Grade 9 and came to AFCZ as a very small boy, perhaps 4 or 5 years old: 

He was covered in open sores, infected and oozing all over his body. He was angry. He was violent … After weeks of love and patience, Chama finally told [AFCZ] that his mom had left him at City Market because he was a “bad boy and she can’t live with him anymore.” He went on to tell us that he had run after her when she left him alone and she stoned him to get her to leave her alone. That was where the sores on his body had come from. Needless to say, Chama soon became my child and we’ve been with him ever since. And yes – he’s still a fighter but now has a heart that feels love and compassion for the other kids and often the fights are in their defense!

She also shared the story of Bupe, who came to AFCZ in 2010 and today is a second-year medical student at a university in Zambia:

Bupe came to us in 2010 after we found him and his cousin digging through the garbage dump looking for bottles they could sell to get money for food … Bupe was an angry, abused little boy and trusted no one. The parents were living with some serious addiction and mental illness issues and were completely unable to take care of him. He had survived only by his wits, stubbornness, and strong will … Overcoming his childhood trauma and managing his temper took time, counseling, patience, and firm boundaries by all. But he did overcome it. Today, Bupe is finishing his first year of medical school at Apex Medical University in Lusaka.

These are just a handful of countless awe-inspiring stories of how Carol McBrady and the team at AFCZ are doing God’s work every day in their loving care for at-risk children in Zambia. If you’d like to volunteer, donate, or get involved, check out their website.


Zambia is a country in southern Africa slightly larger than Texas. It gained independence in 1964. Its approximately 20 million people are mostly in urban areas, as the country has one of Africa’s highest rates of urbanization. There are 18 main ethnic groups but as many as 70 different ethnicities, and the country is said to have 70 languages, though English is an official language. The population is about 20% Catholic and around 3/4 Protestant. Nearly 43% of the population is age 14 or younger. Localized food insecurity is deemed at severe levels and more than half of the population is below the poverty line.

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