Love from the Context of Poverty: Interview with Zambian Partner

"Can we love others from the context of poverty? That has been my concern: loving people when I have nothing. Can I express care for them, when I don’t have? I think this is the motivating factor. It is the drive within us and behind all that we do."
~ Barry Illunga, Founding Zambian Partner

Barry's passion for others lies at the foundation of all that we do. On one of our last trips, we sat down with Barry and asked him to share his heart behind our work. Enjoy!

In the words of a founder, Barry Illunga shares his heart behind our organic, fair trade, ethically sourced, hydrating lip balm and soap - the best ethical chapstick


Let's go. Can you start by saying your name?

Barry:Ok. I'm Barry Illunga. We are in the Copper Belt of Zambia; in Chingola, in particular.


How did you first get involved with honey and soap production?

Barry: It's just been a journey, a long journey; several years, maybe 13 or 14. We were trying to understand how we can best serve our community and the community beyond us? Along with André, we began to travel around the country to identify value and potential on the ground. We ended up in Munilunga, where we discovered all this honey and thought, “This going to be of use. It’s going to be of benefit to the community and bless many people.”


Had you been working with beekeepers before this? 

Barry: Before that, no. We were not even aware of them. We didn’t know honey trade until we realized we needed to find something that we can able to use to further our cause of serving other people. 


“Further your cause of serving other people,” Does this encapsulates the purpose and mission behind our business?

Barry: Yes! You have to realize, the issue is that not everyone has been given the opportunity to see the light. Many people are in the dark, so they don't see the light. They don't see tomorrow and the next day. They just live. We saw that we have been given the grace to see the light, today. And we said if we have we have this light, can we help others see the light? Together, we can walk in the light. This, basically, has been our purpose.

How can we help others be in a good environment where they will be in the light, where they can think for themselves and where they can be able to be a blessing to others? The whole purpose is not simply us being a blessing to others, but that others begin to be a blessing to others; all for the benefit of the next generation.


That’s awesome! I know we've been involved with schools and a clinic. Tell me more about these projects. 

Barry: You know we are religious people, right? So, we were going into these communities to do our religious work; teaching and preaching among the poor. Suddenly, I realized that we are working in a very, very remote area of our country. There are no roads. The drinking water is not running. But, there are real people living there! Real life takes place there. All of the sudden, I was like, “woah?!”  Here are people who have nothing to help themselves with.

Then, I said, “But, what can we do?” I began to point fingers. I pointed fingers at the government. I pointed fingers at everyone else. However, I realized I'm actually pointing fingers at myself. Then I said, “Uh-oh, I’m not supposed to be pointing a finger at myself!” I told myself, “No, you have the light. You have seen the need.” 

“So what if I've seen the need?” I asked. “Well, you have to do something about it!” That's where it's all began; by accepting the responsibility.

It is actually accepting the responsibility, personalizing the whole concept. The burden, that which was supposed to be for them, for the government or for other people, is my responsibility. 

I think that changed the whole idea for us. Now we say, “If it is our responsibility, what is it that we can do?” So you begin to draw from that which you have within yourself. We began to look at people we met, like you and André, and we began to talk. We began to carry this burden, together, and over the years we ended up having a clinic. We ended up building a bridge, actually we put up two bridges.

We are not engineers. Haha! We have nothing to do with engineering; that's for sure. But, it is just the idea where we began to take responsibility and realize that there is something within us as humans. We can do something that pushes us out of our box. We are not supposed to be confined to this box. We can go beyond it. That's basically what we've been doing all these years: working outside of our box. The result, we ended up making a bridge, a clinic, a school and giving people clean water.

It's just an exciting thing to be a blessing to others.


How have you seen our work with honey, beeswax, soap and essential oils impacting and changing communities?

Barry: The thing about beekeepers is they are simply farmers; just out there, living off the land. They do not have a market because they live in the place of nowhere. That’s it. They don't even realize the value of what they have. So now with honey and beeswax, we have been able to introduce them to a market and whatever we get, we want to bring back to help the community.

What are the needs in the community? This is the question we are constantly asking ourselves. So, we start to identify needs and begin to bless people. Honey is not simply meeting their needs, it’s beginning to meet our needs as well as their needs. That is how it is now.


Would you say it's sharing one another's burdens? I know I heard you say that earlier.

Barry: It’s very interesting. We are told that we should take care of ourselves; carry our own burden. But, we should also help carry one another’s burden. Just as much you carry your own burden, you should never forget to carry other people’s burdens. You carry your burden and you carry another person’s burden. So, that's basically what we are doing right now. 

We have limitations. What we have is not enough; transportation and mobility, for instance. There are many things that we don't have. But, can you love people when you have nothing? This is the question. 

Can we love others from the context of poverty? That has been my concern: loving people when I have nothing. Can I express care for them, when I don’t have? It's giving myself to them. I think that is the motivating factor. It is the drive within us and behind all that we do. It is not looking at the abundance of what we have, but looking at what God has already placed in our lives to bless us.


Building bridges - Zambeezi Organic, Fair Trade Beeswax Lip Balm and Handcrafted Beeswax Soap - the best ethical chapstick
The joy of loving others - Founders of Zambeezi organic, Fair Trade, ethical, hydrating beeswax lip balm (chapstick) and handcrafted beeswax soap

1 comment

Frank Kovacs

Thanks for this great interview. Barry is quite an inspiration and full of wisdom for dealing with poverty. I especially appreciate the long term commitment he expresses to this work and his emphasis on loving others even when you are poor.

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