Thursday, August 11, 2022
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Marlena Bellavia: an inspiration

Foreign language instructor helped create a better future for orphans

Kevin Ludwig

The Broadside

Marlena Bellavia, fourth from the left, is pictured here outside an orphanage she helped build in Zambia in fall of 2006.

Africa is home to Victoria Falls, a natural wonder of the world. It flows from the Zambezi River, the river that separates Zambia from Zimbabwe. Nearly 12 million people live in the two seasoned, rainy or dry, land where hunters and gathers have lived for thousands of years.

Marlena Bellavia a professor of foreign languages at COCC spent much of her youth there. Her lending attitude, smooth flowing speech and an ability to create positive change in a land where disease and poverty are left untreated is refreshing.

In 2006 Bellavia helped Malarie Platt a COCC and OSU-Cascades Student start a loving and caring family style home. Bellavia explained how Vima Lupwa Home is a safe environment for Zambian children with the greatest need whose parents could no longer provide. The name was a combo of Malarie and Zambian parents Violet, hence Vima, and husband Mwala Membe. Lupwa means family in the native Bemba language. Today seven boys and seven girls live with the parents in a small house where “materials and resources are daily challenges” explains Bellavia.

Bellavia teaches foreign languages in Bend Oregon. She has created presentations and opportunities to learn about how these children are gaining necessary skills and nutrition, where many live on just two dollars a day.

The VLH website includes videos, eye opening biographies of the children, updates from recent visits, changes to the home, and an about us section. Vima Lupwa is also on Facebook to assist new generations of communicators.

Alick Chilekwa an Eight year old boy, who due to malnourishment looks maybe four or five years old, came to Vima and hardly spoke after severe abuse and neglect by his parents. A couple years after arriving in the home, his need for beer has become limited. Stemming from an abusive father, Alick’s body became dependent. Today surrounded by loving individuals who truly care, his dream to become a Ninja. Recent photos on the VLH Facebook page show that his training is paying off.

In a world where creditors want every dollar or house their debtor owns Vima and Bellavia are creating a strong future. For Alick, to become whatever he wants, thinks, and challenges himself to become. For the Mikomfwa community or slum in Zambia developing a model for the nearly 11 million orphaned children. Bellavia is accepting meaningful donations for the 14 children such as gifts of art, music, and creativity.

You may contact Kevin Ludwig at



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