Sending Love Across the Globe: Supporting Community Development in a Rural Village in Zambia Bethany & David Morgan, Founders & Stateside Directors of Love Abounds

Stories

Bethany & David Morgan are the Founders & Stateside Directors of Love Abounds, a non-profit created to serve a rural village in Zambia outside the city of Lusaka. Thanks to their work, they have provided clean drinking water for close to 15,000 people by drilling borehole wells, they have developed a social enterprise program for women in the village, and they are about to open their second orphanage.

Bethany & David managed to do all of this inspiring work while starting the non-profit soon after graduating from college, while David was in law school.

The “Aha” moment

What initially inspired you to make a difference and what career path did you follow?

Bethany: Even as a little kid I erred on the side of philanthropist.  I was always concerned about the sufferings of people around the world. At 16 I went to the Dominican Republic and saw poverty up close and personal, like I had never seen before. At that point of my life I knew that I wanted my career to be focused on helping those in need in third world countries.  I studied International Studies and Entrepreneurship at NC State with that goal in mind — with dreams of one day working at the World Bank or WHO or UNICEF or some other giant NGO.

Shortly after college I was still holding on to the dream but had no idea how it would happen when my Father in Law came home from preaching in Zambia.  He announced to our church that a rural village where he preached was in dire need of a borehole well. Their only access to water was a dripping spout from an old well that could fill a gallon bucket in maybe 2 hours.  People would still walk a mile or more to this well to fill their buckets — often spending their entire day just to fill one bucket.

I knew that this was THE moment to act — to fulfill my dreams/desires/passions.  We drilled our first borehole well in 2013 — before I ever stepped foot on the continent of Africa, much less a rural village in Zambia.

In 2014, my husband and I made our first trip over — and to date we’ve drilled 15 borehole wells in rural Zambian villages — providing close to 15,000 people access to clean drinking water.

Tell me a bit about how your work is helping make a positive impact?  

Bethany: Our work is focused in a small rural village in Zambia, just outside the capital city of Lusaka. Our focus is holistic community development — meaning we want to impact every aspect of life in this one community.  Our belief is that our impact in this one community will spill over into the surrounding areas.

Our work is a smorgasbord of things — we drill boreholes, teach community classes on health and sanitation, host medical clinics, empower women through chicken farming, give a home to abandoned and orphaned children at our orphanage, provide an after school tutoring program once a week, among other smaller one-time projects like building a community playground for the kids to play.  

Our mission is to give love.  We know that through giving love to this community, we are creating hope for a brighter future.  Inspired to act on that hope – people’s lives are beginning to change in Kunchubwi Village.

Creatively Making Ends Meet

What was it like when you started it?

Bethany: We started Love Abounds soon after graduating from college, so we didn’t have a safety net.  We learned to be content with what we had. While David was in law school, at one point I ran a successful Etsy shop and at another point David drove Uber. I also nannied part time, and at one point I had 3 different jobs.

I learned that I had to be ok with my resume not being what I thought it would be when I was in college.

If I had known I was going to work in an admin assistant job part time to make ends meet, I would have been shocked. I learned that you sometimes have to make these sacrifices to pursue your dreams.

David: It was also one step at a time. It was a big vision, but we did one small thing, then another small thing. We would never have expected we’d be where we are. We are now opening up the second orphanage soon.

What are the highlights from the experience so far?

Bethany: The beautiful thing about what we’re doing is that there is an amazing ripple effect to giving love.  Once you start to experience a change from receiving love — its contagious – it’s hard NOT to give it away. We’re seeing that on a daily basis now.  Here’s a short story how:

We started Chicks Empowered in 2015, a women’s empowerment project focused on raising up women business leaders through chicken farming.  We chose to focus our first project (beyond drilling wells) on women because the community is more likely to receive a greater RTI (response to intervention) when women’s income is increased.  We started with 8 women making roughly $100-200 a year. Although the first 6 months were hard — none of them made a penny — they stuck with us.

Today, each woman is earning roughly $40-50 a month!  But the greatest part of this story is that for the very first time: all the women’s children and grandchildren are attending school, some have built bigger, better, stronger homes for their families, and they’ve invested into increasing their vegetable gardens for additional income! Not only that — this is the ripple effect part — the ladies as a group give monthly towards our orphanage.  This month they gave 4 bags of charcoal (roughly a $30 gift) to the girls’ home. They have more than they could want or need — and because love is what helped them get here – un-prodded they have decided to give love in return!

Now, circling back to how David and I realized how important it is to focus on contentment – I remember looking at a picture when starting Chicks empowered. It was us with all of the women in front of the chicken house. I remember thinking “if this is all that happens… I’m totally ok with that. I’m ok with us never going beyond this village.”

That is so inspiring.  What are the biggest obstacles you’ve had to overcome?

Bethany: Working in a rural village in a third world country has its challenges — here are my top 5:

  1. Building trust/friendships/partnerships with the community that is a. scared b. distrusting c. resentful (among other things) of outsiders, specifically white people.
  2. Learning how to navigate a broken and often corrupt government system
  3. Cultural and language barriers, of course
  4. Finding the right local people to partner with — people see outsiders/white people and think its their chance to gain power, get rich, take advantage of, etc.
  5. Moving at two totally different speeds — American speed and Zambian speed. 

David: To echo Bethany, one of our biggest obstacles is bureaucratic red tape. It’s honestly the last thing I saw as future obstacles. Literally where we work is in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t think there would be a ton of laws. It turns out the laws are not setup to support you… things like bribes are culturally ok.  They are setup to drain you of money.

You can’t have bribery as a line item when you file US taxes… whereas. that’s common in Africa.

Whoever you’re dealing with that’s trying to take your money, that’s . When they see a white person, they look at us as an opportunity to make money.

Collaboration has been really important. One of our challenges has been connecting with the right people and their leadership. However, it has also been really rewarding.

We partnered with local headmen. The tribe has a chief in their area and under the chief are the headman. Our main partner is named Stephen and he has 21 other headman that report to him.  He’s kind of like a governor. It’s a unique system of government and our contact is a really big deal. One of first days we were there, we sat down with him and he actually recommended the chicken farming program with women, so we started that program with him and his wife. He has opened so many doors for us.

One of the biggest highlights happened last March we opened our orphanage house. 2-weeks before leaving for Zambia, we got news that the chief was coming to our grand opening. It was such a big deal. In many ways, it was the equivalent of meeting President Trump or President Obama. We had 1200 people show up because people were just so excited to see the chief. News spread like wildfire that she actually showed up because she hadn’t been in the village in a while.

Your work is so amazing and you have to navigate so many challenges. How do you approach self-care?

Bethany: You have to know when to walk away from the problem or a situation. Setting those boundaries is important, especially when you work from home.

Love Abounds has become like a child to me. I feel almost mama-bearish over it. You’ll have people come up with so many suggestions… and I’ve had to learn how to be appreciative of people’s interest and graciously turn them down.  At times, I can totally dwell on something that I really need to just move past. I worry about hurting people’s feelings.

We’ve had a handful of situations that were super stressful with our in-country directors who live in Zambia full time who were almost thrown out of the country due to a corrupt immigration situation. Those were extremely stressful days, so I had to learn how to go out to dinner and set a boundary that we weren’t going to talk about it at all.

David: Our vision is a big one, but we also take everything one small step at a time.  We work to keep things in perspective.

What advice do you have for Aspiring Arc Benders?

Bethany: Write your dreams/passions/desires down. Do it for the short-term and the long-term. Every so often check in — how are you working towards accomplishing that dream? What dreams have you accomplished, how did you get there, who do you need to thank for helping you achieve it?

For every goal you achieve — add a new one.

Don’t settle or become comfortable when it comes to making your life the life of your dreams.