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How Sport Relief Cash Is Changing Lives in Zambia

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Millions of women in the UK earn a living by running their own business. But for women living in Zambia's overcrowded and filthy slums it's almost impossible to earn enough to feed their families, let alone start a business.

Thankfully, a project called the People's Process On Housing and Poverty in Zambia (PPHPZ), which is supported by money raised through Sport Relief, is giving some of the country's poorest families the chance to change their futures.

Last week I travelled to the capital of Lusaka to see first-hand how some of the record-breaking £67 million raised through Sport Relief earlier this year has been spent, including some that was matched by the UK Government.

In George Compound, the city's third biggest slum, PPHPZ has helped women work together to form their own small saving schemes, paying in money every day so they can borrow money at reasonable rates.

In this 70,000 strong community, I met several strong and inspirational women who have benefitted from this simple scheme. With grit, determination and team work they've managed to turn their lives around.

Widow Milliah, 68, is a classic example of someone who was struggling to cope in an environment where unemployment is rife. She lives in a two roomed rented home where she takes care of five of her grandchildren, three of whom are orphans. But the money she made from doing washing jobs in the slum wasn't enough to feed and school them.

She joined her local savings scheme four years ago and borrowed enough to start a rug making business. This resourceful woman weaves beautiful mats using old grain sacks and wool. She completes around four a month and sells them at 80,000 kwacha each, which is just over £9. She also makes hats using old videotape found on the dump, which she sells for around £2 each.

Milliah is determined to make enough money so that her grandchildren can complete their education.

Despite being 68, when many in the UK would be enjoying a relaxing retirement, Milliah is already planning her next commercial enterprise - this time into the world of catering. She plans to start a cookery business providing delicious food for parties and weddings. There's really no stopping her.

While I'm here, I completely fall in love with a 13-year-old girl called Felistus, who lives with her auntie who was diagnosed as HIV positive several years ago. From a small loan of a few pounds, her auntie set up a knitting business, bought two shops and is currently building her family a new home.

Although Felistus's parents live in a rural village she likes living with her auntie, so she can help look after her. She also has access to a better school in the slum. Her auntie's hard work and success will help fund her through college and help her become a doctor. "I want to take care of people who are HIV positive like my auntie" she tells me.

Many women have nothing here and lead a hand-to-mouth existence but through access to small loans they can start their own business and take their families out of poverty. I've seen for myself how this project is changing lives and it's wonderful that the British public and UK Government has helped make that happen through their support of Sport Relief - it really does make such a huge difference.