Seven-year-old Gift smiles shyly and leans towards his mother to avoid making eye contact. Outside playing in a pale yellow t-shirt and a pair of jean shorts, he pauses briefly to come see the strange people that his mother is speaking to. Next to him is an equally curious 13-year-old, Promise.
Gift and Promise are brothers, and both are children registered under World Vision's sponsorship programme. Through this programme, the two brothers received five goats in 2019 under a livestock pass-on initiative, which aims at empowering parents to have sustainable food security and create multiple streams of income, to overcome poverty, for the well-being of their children.
Their mother, Medeliya (40), circles their house, and leads us to the backyard where we find a raised goat khola, with some goats and kids inside. Adjacent to the khola is a pigsty, which houses two piglets at the moment. Close by, a hen and her chicks feed on some leftover bits of nsima, the staple food in Malawi made from cornstarch (maize flour).
A Grim Start
You can tell that Medeliya is proud of her achievements, and rightly so. Her story is one of hard work and determination, and she says her children are her biggest inspiration.
“I have four children. The first two are girls and then came Promise and Gift. Mary (20) who is the first born, is in Form 4 at a private boarding school and Gladys (16) is in Form 2 at a government community day secondary school. Gladys was once a registered child as well. The boys are still in primary school”, she says.
Asked how she has managed to ensure all her children are in school, Medeliya says she knows the value of education, and having been provided the resources, she will work hard to ensure that her children get educated.
But it hasn't always been like this...
“Back then, my husband and I used to be so poor that we sometimes couldn’t afford to buy basic necessities like soap and clothes. We did not have easy access to clean water. We had to walk about 1.5km to the nearest water source. The poverty was widespread within the community, not only in material, but in knowledge too. Children would loiter around and not go to school and to make matters worse, we did not have the understanding nor skills for improving our lives”, explains Medeliya.
World Vision came to work with the people of Nkaya - Balaka in 2007, and the organisation's Area Programme will be phased out in 2022. For the past 14 years, Medeliya and scores of others have benefitted from the various interventions that have been implemented in the area.
“We know World Vision is leaving the area next year, but even if they leave, we have been equipped with the necessary life skills to make it beyond their departure. The knowledge gained is sustainable”, says Medeliya.
She and her family live in Katunga village, which has 88 families, totalling a population of 445 people.
“Through the programmes conducted by World Vision, I have learnt about village savings and loans (VSL), sustainable agricultural methods and child protection. The VSL group [that I joined] offers a savings platform, and flexible loans with interest, which in turn increases our money. I use the extra money to buy farm inputs, food, clothes, and school materials for the children, and also pay for their school fees. As I speak, I have managed to buy five goats and two pigs through this initiative”, she adds.
In Balaka, the dry season lasts longer than the wet season. Temperatures can go as high as 35°C and it is warm all year round. Maize thrives in wet areas; as such, this makes it difficult to produce a bountiful harvest of the staple food, due to persistent dry weather.
“I have been taught new farming techniques for protecting the soil and locking in the moisture; irrigation farming, organic farming, and diversified farming. So now, aside from the maize that I grow, I also cultivate tomatoes, onions and vegetables. I rent a dimba (water-logged farmland) on which I practice irrigation farming growing onions, tomatoes and vegetables which I in turn sell to make money. This money we make also covers the cost of supplementing our food options as a family. That way, my children are well fed and nourished”, Medeliya continues.
In the past year, Medeliya harvested from 40 beds of onions and made a profit of MK90,000 (US$110); tomatoes worth MK40,000 (US$50) and 20 bags of maize. This, as she says, is more than enough to cater for all her children’s needs. “It also helps that the onions and tomatoes are grown during the lean season, so I am busy throughout the year”, she adds.
When asked what his mother does to earn a living, Promise states with confidence: “She is a farmer!”
During the school holidays, Promise helps his mother with tending to the livestock, cleaning out the pens, and giving the animals water.
“My mother makes sure we always have food and she also buys us clothes”, Promise says. It is only right for every 13-year-old not to worry about where their next meal will come from.
Promise is smart, and understands the commitments that his mother has. “Gift and I were given five goats under the goat pass-on programme, and our mother is supposed to ensure that she takes good care of the goats, so that when they multiply, we can give the goat kids to other families in need.”
The five goats that Gift and Promise received are an addition to the other five goats that Medeliya had already bought. And now, there are three kids waiting to be placed with other families.
“There are so many benefits of having my children in the sponsorship programme. After we are done passing on the goats they received, we will multiply them further, sell off a few, and continue to make money off them. As always the proceeds belong to the children, so we will continue investing into their future”, she says.
Medeliya’s husband, Kadula (45), is a World Vision community volunteer, and he joins his wife midway in the interview. “My wife is hard-working and determined. I am not actively involved in the farming, but we ensure we do the savings together, and together make sound financial decisions that will help our children as they grow”, he says.
Part of Kadula’s tasks as a community volunteer involve sensitising communities on child protection issues, and lobbying for World Vision's campaign to end child marriage.
“We encourage children and their parents to go to school and avoid getting married too early. Aside helping others, we are so grateful we learnt this early on, and we are proud that our two girls are still in school, and we know they will have a bright future because of it”, he beams with pride.
A Bright Future
Because Promise and Gift are sponsored children, another 292 children have also benefited from the development. The entire community now has a borehole within their village.
“My sincere hope for all of my four children is that they truly live a full life. Healthy and educated, with so many options. Perhaps one of them can even be like you, a writer with World Vision”, she says.
But as for Promise, he is very certain of what he wants to do when he grows up: “I want to be a doctor, so that I can help people.”
With a mother as determined as Medeliya, we are confident that Promise can do absolutely anything, and go further than we ever imagined!
When you sponsor a child, you can empower them and their community to break free from poverty, for good. To learn more, click here.
By Wezi Nungu - Zonal Communications Officer, World Vision in Malawi