January 2019 Newsletter
A SMILE FOR ROSA - By Isaac Msiska
A dangerous ethnic feud between her tribe and a rival one led to the murder of Rosa’s husband and the fleeing of Rosa from Burundi to Malawi. Even though she escaped her home country over a decade ago, it is apparent that the emotional scars and mental anguish that the murder of her husband caused are still stubbornly imprinted in her mind. Rosa narrates the painful story with trembling in her voice. She recalls the details vividly. It was one terrible night when assailants invaded Rosa and her husband’s house and abducted the husband before her very eyes. They disappeared with him in the dead of night amid her screams of terror and pleas for help. Rosa believes that an earlier disagreement between her husband and an enemy tribe had escalated into the act of murder.
“That was the last time I saw my husband.” Rosa explained “They dragged him to the bush and killed him. I will never forget that night of terror.” Fearing for her life and the lives of her three children, Rosa resorted to one hard decision – escape the country. She feared that the assailants might return to harm her and her children. With the murder of her husband leaving her alone and defenceless, she realized that she would make an easy prey. Her situation was made worse due to the disability that she has. Rosa was born with a leg length discrepancy that affects her movement. Defending herself and her children in case of an attack would have been a lost battle.
She had to disappear fast.
With her three kids, Rosa grabbed what she was able to carry and fled Burundi. Her plan was to seek safe haven in Dzaleka Refugee Camp, Malawi. The journey was long and painful. Rosa did not have enough money to travel to Malawi so she had to raise money along the way. This meant that she had to take breaks in between trips and do whatever it took to gather the means to continue. All in all, the journey took Rosa a month. However, when she arrived in her final destination, Dzaleka Refugee Camp, her heart sank, and all she felt was despair.
“I was a lonely single woman in a new country and about to start a new way of life but with no idea about who would support me,” she said. Rosa came to Dzaleka Refugee Camp fleeing the threat of violence at home, but she suddenly found herself and her kids facing a new different kind of insecurity – food and financial. Just like any other refugee in the camp, Rosa survived on food rations she received from the UNHCR and other aid agencies but the monthly package she got barely lasted 14 days.
If she were to endure the place, Rosa knew she had to find a way of earning a living.
“I used part of the maize meal I obtained to make doughnuts which I sold,” she explained. The sale of doughnuts did not actually bring the required revenue that Rosa needed to fully support her family. The highest she could make from the little business was a meagre MK600 (8 Cents). It was a ludicrous amount which was not even enough to buy a packet of sugar. What Rosa was doing was a risky thing too, since it meant she was slicing part of the ration that was supposed to sustain her family for a month. Rosa was desperate for support but she could not get any. She explained that some men in the camp took advantage of her desperation to sexually exploit her.
“A lot of men approached me, promising to marry me and take care of my financial problems. I believed them and kept telling myself that maybe this was my gateway out of the crisis I was in, but they kept deceiving me.” Rosa explained, “They were just using me for their selfish sexual objectives and then dump me. It was so painful because my dignity and reputation were slowly getting tarnished.”
Four years after arriving in Dzaleka, and hoping for some positive change, Rosa joined a group of fellow refugees living with disabilities in the camp. It was through this group that Rosa was introduced to Kibebe, our social enterprise arm.
That was the breakthrough she had been looking for.
Kibebe artisans make handcrafted products for sale both locally and internationally. Being an artisan meant that Rosa had now found a source of income and progressively her living conditions began to change. The earning she made was sufficient to keep her family going. She did not need to depend solely on food rations anymore, and she could now afford to buy essentials for her kids.
Her job with Kibebe, and Rosa’s wise financial stewardship, produced a remarkable thing. Rosa used part of her savings to open a small shop of houseware and groceries. The shop complements her financial resources by earning Rosa a side income. It is from the proceeds she makes from the shop that Rosa can afford to send her kids to a quality school, something which she could hardly imagine at first. Rosa plans to open another shop, but bigger than the current one, where she would employ others to work.
“I tell you, my life is no longer the same.” Rosa observed “People used to call me by a derogatory title of doughnut sellerand I did not have any reputation. After all, who would respect a poor, disabled woman who sold doughnuts for a living?” However, since she is now able to earn enough to stand on her own, nobody looks down on her. Even the men who took advantage of her situation no longer approach her with their fake promises.
“Because they know I am independent now and I tell them off!” Rosa said. Her dignity is restored, her finances are stable and she can support her three kids with anything they need.
“Kibebe gave me an opportunity to uplift my social status and that is exactly what has happened in my life.” Rosa closed with a wide smile.
THE 15 YEAR OLD PARENT - By Isaac Msiska
She is 15 but at that age, she is already tasked with the huge responsibility of taking care of her two brothers and one sister, all alone. She is just a kid but at 15 she plays the role of both the head of a family and a parent to her siblings. To make matters worse, she just started her first class in secondary school and she still has three more years to complete her education which means that she has to juggle between school and parenting her siblings. It is a formidable experience but she has no alternative.
Her name is Daless.
Her story starts 2 years ago and begins with the bitter divorce of her parents. Daless’ parents separated in 2017 and her father left the kids with their mother. The divorce brought Daless’ future in education grinding to a dusty halt. She was then in primary school and awaiting to sit her final examinations that would see her progressing to secondary school. The separation also affected her academic performance and caused a notable decline in her pass rate in class.
Daless and her siblings stayed with their mother but it was to be for a temporary period because a few months after her father left them, Daless’ mother found a new husband and remarried. Strangely enough, she moved in with the new husband and abandoned the kids, in the care of their uncle. Being the eldest of the siblings, Daless, overnight, found herself turning into a parent and was left with the hardest job of caring for the other kids.
She was confused and stranded.
“We were left all alone. We sought help from our uncle but he has a big family and a lot of other responsibilities so it is quite difficult to give us full support.” Daless explained, adding that the situation meant that she technically was in charge of her siblings. Although her mother sends occasional basic assistance to the kids to help them with their essential needs, the assistance is not sufficient to sustain them. Without her parents and just partial support from an uncle who also faces financial hurdles, Daless’ chances of continuing with her education were reduced to zero but what Daless dreaded most was something else. Her youngest brother suffers from the neurological disorder, epilepsy and often has severe violent bouts of seizures. With both her parents gone, the duty of monitoring and nursing the boy was dumped in her hands.
“I have to make sure that he is fully under my watch all the time because he needs special attention. My main fear is waking up in the middle of the night and finding him in a seizure that I cannot handle. It has happened before and I fear it might happen again.” Daless explained, “I am just a kid who was forced to mature too early because of circumstances that I had no control over.” Actually, her brother’s condition is one of the reasons that inspired Daless to pursue a career in nursing after secondary school.
Despite the chilling difficulties brought forth by the divorce of her parents, forced to become a parent, and with a post-primary school future looking bleak, Daless worked hard and passed her primary school examinations with amazing results. She was selected to one of the elite public boarding secondary schools in Dowa District. However, she had no one to support her basic and financial needs, including school fees required to commence her secondary school. Tuition fees for her new school cost approximately 80 thousand Kwacha and that excludes essential school supplies such as exercise books and learning material. Daless realized that there was no way she could afford that much.
“I had worked to the best of my abilities to go to secondary school but after I passed my examinations, I suddenly understood that my journey had ended there. Where would I get school fees?” Daless recalled. Even her uncle could not help. His limited financial abilities could not allow him to support her education. All her dreams, visions and ambitions to progress with her studies and eventually get out of the miserable situation she was facing had come to a complete standstill. The shock and pain of knowing that there was no future for her after primary school were too much to bear for Daless.
“I looked at my brothers and sisters and I felt sad. I felt like everything was crashing down on us. It was like being locked in the darkness with no hope of ever seeing the light on the other side.” She recollected the ordeal with sadness branding her face. Daless’ predicament, shocking as it is, is no strange scenario to multitudes of vulnerable girls across Malawi. Only 34 percent of girls who start primary school progress to secondary school. Financial problems which result in lack of school fees, is one of the major factors contributing to this high rate. With 82 percent of the Malawian population living in rural areas, the situation is worse in communities staying in villages. Dales is among the myriads of hopeless girls that fail to advance with their education in the rural areas.
However, for Daless, her dreams were soon to be revamped. In 2018, her primary school English teacher, concerned with the fate of Daless, connected her to our secondary school scholarship programme. In September of that year, she was on the list of vulnerable girls we provided scholarships to in various public and private secondary schools.
Daless’ joy was untold.
“I felt like crying when I was informed that I had been selected to receive a secondary school bursary.” she said, “It was the news I had been longing for and I know that it is the first step towards realizing my dream.” Daless’ dream is to become a nurse and there is a very good reason she chose that profession. She explained that the health centre located in her community has a severe shortage of nurses and patients struggle to get help due to congestion. Lots of people are forced to travel many miles to neighbouring health centres for medical help. Her goal is to study nursing and serve the small health centre. Besides that, she also has a natural passion for the sick and injured.
Now that she has a scholarship, Daless is adamant that she will finally fulfil that burning ambition.
“I am very excited.” she explained “I now have an uninterrupted source of school fees. I no longer have to be concerned about where I am going to find money for my education. I am confident that I will accomplish the vision I have always have – becoming a nurse.”
We launched our EU funded structures
25 January was a memorable day for us because it was the day that we unveiled female hostels, workshops and a dining hall that we constructed with funding from the European Union (EU). The Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development, Honourable Grace Obama Chumia officially inaugurated the buildings. The delegation from the EU office in Malawi was also there with us.
Your support has brought us this far.
Our programmes have reached out to a lot of people and have helped countless vulnerable individuals to become self-sufficient. Our education scholarships have put back to school numerous deserving Malawian and refugees. We have not achieved all this alone. God’s Economy, International Teams, One Collective, Segal Family Foundation, IAFR, and various other partners, supporters and donors have all played a part in our vision. How far have we come?
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