There is Hope http://thereishopemalawi.org Bringing HOPE to the refugees Thu, 08 Nov 2018 14:48:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 The sad tale of a hopeless father http://thereishopemalawi.org/ramazan/ http://thereishopemalawi.org/ramazan/#respond Mon, 29 Oct 2018 19:17:00 +0000 http://thereishopemalawi.org/?p=3737 When Ramazani fled Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2010 and headed towards Malawi for refuge, little did he know that he was moving towards a life of misery. As soon as Ramazan, his wife and two kids arrived in Malawi’s largest refugee camp, Dzaleka, he immediately realized how hard his new life in the new country would be.

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When Ramazani fled Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2010 and headed towards Malawi for refuge, little did he know that he was moving towards a life of misery. As soon as Ramazani, his wife and two kids arrived in Malawi’s largest refugee camp, Dzaleka, he immediately realized how hard his new life in the new country would be. For starters, Ramazani had literally no money to start afresh which essentially meant that he was in a terrible fix. To add to that, Ramazani and his family had been relegated to a life dependent on food aid. It was something that Ramazani was not familiar with but something which he had to quickly get used to, now that he was a refugee.

The tricky bit was that the food ration he received was supposed to last him a month but that was not practical because with his family, it barely lasted them two weeks. That was a huge problem since it meant that when the ration ran out midway, the family would sometimes starve. In Ramazani’s own words…

“No food aid meant hunger for my family. It was not easy. It was the worst part of my life which became unbearable with each passing day,” he said. Since he had no feasible means of making an income, Ramazani would occasionally sell part of his food ration to raise money. This just made the situation even more awful because the money he made from selling the ration was too little to sustain him for long. On the other hand, selling the food ration meant that Ramazani was further endangering his family by putting them at risk of starvation. The food ration he received was already not sufficient and removing part of it was not exactly the wisest move for Ramazani.

He felt he had no choice though.

That was not the worst part. Ramazani was stuck in a country whose laws prohibit refugees from entering into any form of business outside their camps or secure a job. Without the prospects of getting a job, there was no way Ramazani would be able to properly care for his family. The financial ordeal that Ramazani was trapped in had a negative impact on the individual wellbeing of his wife and kids. His wife’s dignity was gradually being affected as well.

“Imagine, I could not afford not even a simple piece of cloth for my wife. She walked around in the same attire she had been wearing for a long time. It was embarrassing.” Ramazani admitted. His kids needed to attend a proper school but since their father was living without a defined source of income, the kids were failing to get an education. As a father, he felt like he was letting his family down.

For more than five years, Ramazani and his family lived in that dejected situation. He knew he had to do something, but what?

In 2016, six years after his arrival in Dzaleka, Ramazani was informed about our vocational training programme by his neighbor in the refugee camp.

“I was told that there is a particular organization that offers technical courses like carpentry even to refugees in the camp. I jumped at the opportunity and applied for carpentry.” Ramazani added that he opted for carpentry because it was a skill that ran in his family. Back in DR Congo, his father, brothers and even sisters were professional carpenters. So basically, Ramazani grew up among carpenters and, he explained, that inspired him to follow in his family’s footsteps. It was also his own way of carrying on his family’s legacy and one way of maintaining attachment to his father, who is deceased.

A few months later in the same year, Ramazani made it to our second intake of our vocational training programme. His big break had started. Six months down the line, he successfully completed his course and was a fully-fledged carpenter.

That was when things began to improve.

Ramazani was bent on maximizing his newly found skills to the fullest. As soon as he graduated, he partnered with a fellow carpentry graduate and launched a small carpentry bench using the carpentry tool kits they received from school. They started small but big things began happening. Ramazani’s carpentry bench started generating a buzz in the refugee camp.

Ramazani knows why.

“The products I make are unique and very different from the rest of the carpenters in the camp. I am very creative and I try to be ahead of everyone in the game. That is why it did not take me long to catch the attention of people.” Ramazani boldly revealed. That unique ways of making products gradually brought Ramazani a steady flow of income. His welfare slowly started taking a positive turn and for the first time since arriving at the refugee camp, he had something he could point at as his main source of income.
And he no longer needed to depend on food rations.

Ramazani confidently said his life is no longer the same. Actually, he is now able to put his kids through a quality private school – something he never believed could happen. Not only that, he can also afford sending his family to a private hospital when they are unwell or for medical checkups. This is a huge improvement for an individual who, almost a decade ago, came to the refugee camp with literally nothing. Ramazani has even employed two people in the workshop. Besides teaching them carpentry skills, he is assisting the individuals to obtain an income. He said one of his goals is to help his fellow refugees to overcome poverty because he has experienced how excruciating life as a refugee can be when one does not have the financial muscle to survive.

Ramazani’s carpentry bench has spawned another small business which is further increasing his ability to earn a living. He has opened a grocery shop which stocks different types of domestic items. The grocery shop has boosted his financial capital and his social status in the camp.

“I am now a different person. I am not ashamed to tell you that I was a very poor person and I truly struggled to make amends. That is all in the past. Whatever I want now, I can afford. My life has changed. My family can eat three times a day and I am a very happy man,” he said. Ramazani may not be a super-wealthy person but the little transformation he has experienced in his life courtesy of the vocational skills he obtained is enough to complete his gloomy story with a happy ending.

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From the ashes rose hope http://thereishopemalawi.org/ashes-to-hope/ http://thereishopemalawi.org/ashes-to-hope/#respond Fri, 12 Oct 2018 19:29:57 +0000 http://thereishopemalawi.org/?p=3742 At age 3 and when she was still in pre-school, Alinafe’s father was killed in a tragic car accident. The tragedy disrupted Alinafe’s education right from the early stages and resulted in a long struggle with her studies. Alinafe’s father was the breadwinner of the household and everything in the family depended on him.

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At age 3 and when she was still in pre-school, Alinafe’s father was killed in a tragic car accident. The tragedy disrupted Alinafe’s education right from the early stages and resulted in a long struggle with her studies. Alinafe’s father was the breadwinner of the household and everything in the family depended on him. Her mother was jobless.  She supported the family in a minor way by hawking doughnuts and small groceries. The demise of Alinafe’s father meant that her mother was now faced with a heavy responsibility of supporting Alinafe and her 4 siblings. As a single mother and coupled with the fact that she was surviving only by peddling small items which obviously would hardly keep the family going, Alinafe’s mother started sliding into financial troubles.

“It was a nightmare,” Alinafe recalled, “my mother really struggled with money and she could not even afford our school fees.” The circumstance resulted in Alinafe’s sisters dropping out of school. The first to drop out was her elder sister who was forced into early marriage to escape the predicament. Alinafe’s sister was 18 then. Alinafe resides in a rural community of Dowa district where it is not unusual to hear stories about girls dropping out of school due to lack of school fees and high poverty levels. She also lives in a country where only 34 percent of girls continue to secondary school.

Although Alinafe herself did not drop out of school, her primary school education was marred by frequent and prolonged absenteeism. The situation was made worse when her mother remarried two years later. At first, Alinafe thought her mother’s new husband would save the family from the Grand Canyon of financial problems they had fallen in and support her education.

She was wrong.

Alinafe and her siblings were never supported in any way. Worse still, her mother’s new marriage was characterized by frequent, and at times violent, domestic disputes. Her mother’s new husband never really took interest in Alinafe’s education and he was reluctant to put her through school.  Alinafe, who was aged 5 then, was so psychologically affected that when she could not take it any longer, she left and moved in with her aunt. That was not, however, the end of her stress with education. Just like her mother, Alinafe’s aunt did not have any source of income and though she took Alinafe under her care, Alinafe’s aunt could not take care of her schooling.

For the many years she stayed with her aunt, Alinafe’s struggles persisted. Her education suffered the most. Her class attendance was erratic and her academic performance rapidly dwindled. On multiple occasions, Alinafe thought of quitting school because it was becoming miserable.

“My aunt was poor and I understood that. It was a hassle for her to buy school materials for me.” Alinafe disclosed “I was still a child then but I had to act. I had to find a solution.” She had to find a solution to raise tuition fees and raise money for essential school materials. So, Alinafe started searching for ways of raising money. 90 percent of the communities Alinafe comes from rely on subsistence farming, which means that the types of odd jobs that were readily available to her were based on farms. Since she had no alternative, Alinafe together with her aunt was forced to take on such jobs.

For a child, the jobs were hectic, tiring, and usually dangerous to her health. She explained that she had to endure long hours of work, often lasting from morning until late in the evening, working in maize fields as a labourer. And raising the sum of money Alinafe and her aunt required was not easy. The two had to work in a minimum of three maize fields a week to earn the necessary amount of money. This affected her studies even further since sometimes it meant skipping school to focus on the task at hand. In spite of this, Alinafe worked very hard and managed to put herself through school, even managing to pay for her primary school examination fees.

When she was selected to secondary school, Alinafe was faced with yet another dilemma because the tuition was a lot higher than in primary school. She also realized that secondary school demanded a lot of materials that were very expensive to purchase. Alinafe and her aunt could only manage to source tuition for just the first term when things went sideways again. She was on the verge of dropping out.

“I was tired of working in maize farms and I decided to just quit school. The never-ending struggle with my school fees was taking a toll on me and my aunt and we could not take it anymore,” Alinafe disclosed; saying she was just tired of constantly looking for means of earning money to square the balance for her tuition. But things were about to take a positive turn.

In mid-2018, Alinafe was introduced to our secondary school scholarship programme during one of the career talks that we conducted at the school she studies at. Some months later when she applied for a scholarship opportunity, she was among the 37 students we awarded bursaries for 2018. For the first time since primary school, Alinafe’s challenges with school fees disappeared. She explained that it was like a heavy rock had been shifted from her shoulders. Suddenly, she no longer had to worry about working long hours ploughing maize fields to pay school fees.

“Now I can fully focus on my studies because I don’t have to think about how I am going to raise money for tuition,” Alinafe said. Most importantly, she also sees herself smoothly gliding towards her vision of pursuing a nursing career. Alinafe is a resolute young woman who has a passion for helping the sick and the wounded and now she is confident that she will at last reach that goal.

That is not all.

“I want to be a role model to fellow girls in my community. Many girls in my village end up dropping out of school and getting married because there is no one they can look up to as a role model. I want to be the first person to motivate them,” Alinafe revealed. She bears witness to the experience because two of her friends left school when they were still in primary school. They are now married with kids. Furthermore, in her entire village only 3 girls, including herself, continued to secondary school.

“I refuse to be in a similar scenario.” Alinafe observed “I am still young and I don’t want to rush into marriage. Not before I fulfil my dream.” It is a dream that is slowly but surely starting to take form. It is a dream that has been a long time coming and now that it is here…

“I have seized it and will firmly hold it at all costs.” Alinafe closed.

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The angel on a sewing machine http://thereishopemalawi.org/angelina/ http://thereishopemalawi.org/angelina/#respond Wed, 19 Sep 2018 18:35:34 +0000 http://thereishopemalawi.org/?p=3722 She is jovial, smiles a lot and is a strong-willed young woman who has the determination to excel in life. In spite of living with a disability which limits her mobility and would otherwise have deterred her from engaging in any physical work, she never let this bring her down. She can grab a hoe and cultivate maize, she can do laundry and she is able to cook – all on her own.

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She is jovial, smiles a lot and is a strong-willed young woman who has the determination to excel in life. In spite of living with a disability which limits her mobility and would otherwise have deterred her from engaging in any physical work, she never let this bring her down. She can grab a hoe and cultivate maize, she can do laundry and she is able to cook – all on her own and without needing any support. And if given a piece of fabric, she can weave a shirt, blouse or pair of shorts.

Her name is Angelina – which translates to ‘angel’. Angelina is 17 and she was born with a physical condition that confined her to a wheelchair. Although she underwent 2 comprehensive orthopedic surgeries as a child, doctors were not able to cure her condition. This caused her to be fully reliant on her father and mother for literally everything. The condition even affected her education right from the start. When she started primary school, it was her mother who carried Angelina on her back to and from school. Sometimes, her friends helped Angelina’s mother with the task but it was not to last long.

“When I became pregnant with my third child, I could not manage to carry Angelina to school and I had to stop.” Explained her mother. Angelina soon found herself missing a good part of her primary school education because there was no one else to care for Angelina, who was little then. Angelina’s parents realized that if they could not do anything to help the girl stand on her own, Angelina would be stuck in a situation where she would forever be dependent on someone. So, determined to see their daughter grow to be a survivor, the parents started teaching her basic household chores like laundry and cooking.  Angelina proved to be a fast learner and quickly, she was able to handle these chores on her own.

“She even surprised us when she started learning farming. She would get a hoe, leave for the garden and start preparing ridges without anyone helping her,” said her mother. Angelina grew maize, groundnuts and potatoes and the little harvests she got from her garden were used in the house. She was gradually becoming independent but farming was not exactly what Angelina was bent on pursuing as a career. At age 11, Angelina started taking an interest in tailoring. Whenever she found a piece of fabric lying around the house, she would neatly cut it into patterns and using her mother’s needles and threads she would manually sew a skirt. At first, she would sew only her clothes but as time went by, she began sewing clothes for her siblings too. To her parents, this was a blessing at an opportune time.

“There were times we could not buy clothes for Angelina and her siblings because we just did not have money for that. She filled that gap by sewing clothes for everyone,” her mother recalls.

The more clothes she made, the more her passion for tailoring grew. Angelina herself explained that since the day she stitched her first cloth, she knew that she was a natural born tailor. In her own words, tailoring is ‘where my heart belongs’. Angelina’s skills with the needle caused her mother to start looking for ways of helping her to improve the talent. In June this year, through the Malawi Council for the Handicapped (MACOHA), she registered for a course in tailoring at our vocational training centre. From working with hand held needles, Angelina is now training with a professional sewing machine under the supervision of a certified instructor. Best of all, she no longer worries about mobility issues since she is now staying on campus for free in the residential facilities we provide for female students.

Besides having a passion for sewing, one of the reasons that drew Angelina’s inspiration to pursue the tailoring trade was the financial situation of her parents.

“There were some things that my parents could not manage to buy for me. I understood that doing a vocational course would help me earn money that would let me buy whatever I was lacking,” she said, adding “when I am fully stable, I will also use the money to take care of my parents.” Angelina’s mother sells firewood for a living and has no exact means of earning an income. Her father is a struggling subsistence farmer who owns a very small piece of land that does not produce enough to support the family. When it is off season for farming, he makes ends meet by mowing and selling dry grass. Despite the many financial and material obstacles that Angelina’s family faces, they want the best for their daughter. They are very optimistic that Angelina will become the inspirational tailor she has always wanted to be.

“I love my daughter and I have all the hope that she will get skills that will let her be fully supportive of herself. I know that we will not live forever so in case we, her parents, pass on, she will be able to support her welfare as well as care for her siblings,” her mother remarked. Angelina herself has big plans after graduating. What she wants is to open a big business in the city and she has the confidence that she will succeed in that.

“My ambition is to start a tailoring business in a major city like Lilongwe,” she confided, referring to Malawi’s Capital. “That is my goal and I want to see that vision take shape.” That vision is indeed slowly taking shape because a in few months’ time, Angelina will graduate as a qualified tailor, ready to take on the tailoring world with her sharpened skills.

As There is Hope, we strive to make our programmes inclusive and accommodate people with disabilities. Our aim is to uplift the livelihoods of even those who are physically challenged because we understand that that group of people face difficulties to access education or income generating opportunities. By giving a chance to individuals like Angelina, we aim at proving the adage ‘disability is not inability’.

This year, the European Union (EU) awarded us a grant to enhance our vocational training programme. Through the grant, we have increased the number of students we enroll in the programme, which has helped us take in students living with disabilities for the first time. The EU funding has also enabled us to add three more courses thus giving a broader choice of trades to the youths we are targeting.

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Once a Slave http://thereishopemalawi.org/once-a-slave/ http://thereishopemalawi.org/once-a-slave/#respond Wed, 05 Sep 2018 13:39:12 +0000 http://thereishopemalawi.org/?p=3726 Moza Alima is a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). She fled insecurities and conflicts from her home country some years ago. It all started with a conflict that erupted in between her tribe and a rival tribe. During the fracas, her father and husband were killed by assailants because of their connections to the opponent tribe.

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Moza Alima is a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). She fled insecurities and conflicts from her home country some years ago. It all started with a conflict that erupted in between her tribe and a rival tribe. During the fracas, her father and husband were killed by assailants because of their connections to the opponent tribe. As if that was not enough, Moza and her two children were captured by militant soldiers and forced into a life of slavery. During her time serving the soldiers, she was forced to perform hard labor, and was often sexually exploited. The abuse and exploitation she suffered at the hands of the militants can still be seen on Moza. The woman has deep scars on her knees and arms from the soldiers’ assaults.

However, all was not lost for Moza. When a new group of soldiers came in, they helped Moza and her children escape the country. It was a long journey that saw Moza staying in various temporary housings in Tanzania for two years. It was in 2015 when Moza finally arrived and settled in Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi. Moza passed through a painful ordeal back in DR Congo but the living conditions in Dzaleka added more misery to her life.

Life at the camp was difficult, to say the least. For some refugees, Dzaleka is mostly where they reunite with their families and loved ones but that was not the case for Moza because she was on her own. Worse still, alone and without a husband, Moza was a vulnerable woman. Moza was a widow who had a huge responsibility of looking after her children, singlehandedly.

To feed her two children, Moza had no option but to be forced into survival prostitution. It is heart breaking to learn that it cost a meagre 200 Kwacha (27 Cents) to sleep with her. To sustain herself and her two children, she had to raise at least 1,000 Kwacha per day, which meant sleeping with a minimum of five men.

A pious Christian, Moza was tormented by the discrepancy of her beliefs and what life forced onto her every day. When she was alone, she would sit and cry to herself, with her heart in pain. She wondered if her life was going to be like this forever. She was also worried about contracting the HIV virus and leaving her children behind.

It was at this period of self-doubt and depression that Moza met her current husband Shabani Maganga, who fell in love with Moza and her tenacity. Together, the two decided to learn sewing from a tailoring shop in the refugee camp and used this vocational skill as a ticket to escape from their past lives. It was also a gateway from the painful life of forced prostitution that Moza was inadvertently trapped in. At last, she had found a decent trade that would earn her an honourable income.

Moza, a woman of dignity, could finally sleep soundly at night knowing that she had at least a dignified source of income.

Moza and Shabani’s story does not end there because something better was yet to occur. Life took another positive turn after they started working with our social enterprise, Kibebe. Their standard of living slowly started improving. They could manage to buy the basic things that they lacked and which they could not afford at first.
“We were able to get a mattress, a bed, a table, and even electricity for our house because of work from Kibebe!” Moza and her husband joyfully said, smiles lighting up their faces. A few years ago, these smiles were hardly present on Moza’s face let alone on Shabani’s.

“I live because of Kibebe.” Moza cheerfully disclosed. It was obvious that Moza and Shabani are content with and grateful for the life that they are able to lead now.
Though dramatic, Moza’s story highlights not her uncommon past, but a fundamental human need that we all share—being part of a productive community and feeling proud to meet the family’s needs. Having a job, simple as that, is a critical part of having a normal life. It is Kibebe’s longstanding mission to provide job opportunities to families like Moza’s who need them to thrive not only materially but also emotionally and socially.

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Transforming individuals, changing communities http://thereishopemalawi.org/transforming-individuals/ http://thereishopemalawi.org/transforming-individuals/#respond Tue, 21 Aug 2018 09:22:20 +0000 http://thereishopemalawi.org/?p=3649 His carpentry shed stands opposite a football pitch, right in the heart of a village a few miles from the main road. It is small and roofed with some grass that is slowly turning grey due to a prolonged stay. A high bench made of rugged timber sits in the middle of the shed. From a distance, the place might seem abandoned and, to a certain extent, worthless but this small shabby carpentry shed is what is paying the bills for Maliko.

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His carpentry shed stands opposite a football pitch, right in the heart of a village a few miles from the main road. It is small and roofed with some grass that is slowly turning grey due to a prolonged stay. A high bench made of rugged timber sits in the middle of the shed. From a distance, the place might seem abandoned and, to a certain extent, worthless but this small shabby carpentry shed is what is paying the bills for Maliko.

It is from this little shelter that Maliko is earning his daily income and from the same carpentry bench, he is managing to pay his rent and supporting three young men to earn money. To Maliko, this place is a diamond in the rough and when he talks about how life-changing the bench has been to his financial status, the young man is full of smiles.

Maliko is a 25-year-old living in a village located deep in the outskirts of Dowa district. He recently completed a carpentry course at our vocational training centre. Maliko is a proud carpenter not only because he is self-employed which is something that he has always been looking forward to, but also because he received quality training. But when he looks back at his past experience, Maliko’s journey to be self-dependent has had its own pack of difficulties.

In 1999, while he was just six years and still in primary school, Maliko lost both his parents. That was the beginning of his struggles with his education. Maliko’s uncle took over the responsibility of caring for the then little boy but the uncle barely managed to support him through school. Just like the majority of the people in the community Maliko comes from, his uncle heavily relied on subsistence farming to meet his family’s needs. Keeping Maliko in school became a huge burden to him and Maliko sometimes rarely attended classes. Everything became worse when Maliko made it to secondary school. He attended classes for only two terms, then was forced to drop out because his uncle just could not afford it. That was 10 years later.

“Since then, I never went back to school. I stayed home for eight years helping my uncle in his garden and doing side jobs to make a little extra money. It was not easy.” Maliko recalls. The side jobs that he referred to included working as an apprentice for builders and at times attempting to build houses. Since he was not skilled in that trade, people were unwilling to hire him and this, according to Maliko, frustrated him further. Realizing that he could not continue depending on small piece works which were unreliable at most times and could hardly give him the money he wanted, Maliko decided to try out other alternatives.

“I started looking for an opportunity to learn a skill either in carpentry or welding.” He explained, “Any skill in those two trades would have sufficed as long as it would let me get out of the situation I was in.” Nine years after his forced dropout of secondary school, Maliko’s enthusiasm to attain a qualification in a technical trade saw him registering for a Carpentry course at our vocational training centre. Six months later, he finished his training and obtained his much-desired qualification. When he returned home, he wasted no time but used the carpentry toolkit he had received during his graduation, bought additional equipment and set up a bench and that was the start of his small shop.

Today, the small bench has elevated his financial status, made him a name within the village he lives in and far. The beauty and durability of the products he makes have even attracted customers from the posh suburbs of Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, which is about 50 kilometres away from his village. Maliko considers this a privilege since it is rare for residents of high-class suburbs to hire someone from the outskirts of a rural community many miles away to make products they could use in their classy mansions.

“Look at me. I was a nobody, a school dropout with no hope but now wealthy people drive all the way to this small bench to hire my services.” He smiled. He explained that the highest amount of money that he has made so far from the little carpentry bench is around MWK250,000 in just one month. In a country where the minimum wage is MWK962 per day, it means Maliko is making almost triple the amount. What is more, Maliko now lives on his own and affords to pay his rent and put food on the table, a sign that he is fully dependent.

Maliko’s community is also benefiting from his skills. A few months ago, he was hired by a local neighbouring school to fix some broken desks and doors and make additional 25 desks and tables. Ironically, this is the same school that Maliko dropped out of several years ago due to financial difficulties. That is not all, Maliko took on three young men as his carpentry apprentices and he is helping them earn a living. He is training the young men for free, saying that he considers it as a social responsibility to his community.

“Considering that There is Hope provided this knowledge to me at no cost at all, I would like to give back to the community by teaching others for free too.” He said. One of the young men, Davie, admitted that the free training he is gaining from Maliko’s carpentry workshop has helped him  “put his life back on track”. Davie said he used to be a drunkard and had no clear vision in his life.

“I was a notorious drunk. Whenever I got money, I would spend it on alcohol.” Davie explained, adding that all that changed when he became an apprentice under Maliko. From the money that Maliko pays Davie as an apprentice, Davie managed to pay medical bills and transport costs for his mother when she recently got hospitalized.

“I would never have managed to do all this before Maliko took me as an apprentice.” He revealed.

Maliko dreams of expanding his carpentry shop by opening a big workshop that would use electric powered equipment and employ more than 10 people. He foresees a future where he would open branches in big cities across Malawi.

“My goal is to employ other people too because my passion is to see others become fully financially dependent.” He remarked. Maliko’s story is a tale of how our vocational training programme is not only bringing change to the students we train but trickles down to the community at large. It is the transformation that we have always envisioned and intend to replicate across vulnerable communities.

This project is funded by the European Union.

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Fell seven times, stood up eight http://thereishopemalawi.org/fell-seven-times/ http://thereishopemalawi.org/fell-seven-times/#respond Thu, 09 Aug 2018 18:52:42 +0000 http://thereishopemalawi.org/?p=3643 The post Fell seven times, stood up eight appeared first on There is Hope.

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Born in a family of seven, life had never been easy for Muberuka. He and his family fled Rwanda, his country of birth, before he was old enough to begin school. They found refuge in Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi where Muberuka did his primary school education at the local government primary school. His father, after earning some money through small scale agricultural business moved them to the city in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe.

Life seemed to have taken a bright turn for Muberuka in 2010 when he was selected to pursue his secondary school education at a public secondary school in Mzuzu. However, a year later the light quickly dimmed. There were violent demonstrations held in the country which caused a lot of pillage and destruction of property. Muberuka’s family was not spared in the ruckus. They were among the victims that lost much of their property during the fracas hence forcing them to move back to Dzaleka refugee camp.

“The demonstrators took away everything and my family had to start from scratch so we had to go back to the camp.” said Muberuka.

In the years that followed, Muberuka and his family went through a rough time. Money became a problem leading to Muberuka missing two whole terms of school. He was then in form two and had two more years remaining to complete his secondary education. The frustration that Muberuka was going through doubled in 2014 when his father got sick and Muberuka suddenly found himself as the head of the family. His father’s sickness meant that he had to take over the responsibility of caring for the family. The situation meant that he had to alternate between studying and looking after his mother and siblings – which took a toll on him.

“I was emotionally stressed. I could not focus on my studies because I often thought about who was going to look after my younger siblings.” Muberuka reflected.

The greatest challenge was that the sad turn of events happened in the same year that Muberuka was supposed to sit for the final and crucial examinations in secondary school, the Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE). Preparing for the examinations while silmutaneously faced with the huge task of caring for his family was a heavy burden to Muberuka, who was only 19 at that time. Besides taking care of his mother and siblings, he had to fend for himself and his education and this was extremely difficult.

“Although I did everything I could to care for my family, I struggled to find money for the most basic necessities and at the same time I had to find my own means of sourcing tuition, pocket money and transport.” He said.

In spite of the struggles and hardships, Muberuka pushed on and managed to write his MSCE examinations. However, with all the distractions going on he did not manage to pass but the young man never gave up. He was determined to make it at all costs. With that determination driving him, he re-sat the examination again in 2015 and this time he made it. Although hope was once again restored, another problem was lurking in the shadows. That problem was to do with accessing university scholarship.

Muberuka’s ambition was to make it to college but with his financial state, he knew that it would be impossible to afford college education. He desperately needed a scholarship. Twice he attempted to apply for a particular international university scholarship program but he never succeeded. For the first time he felt like giving up and settling for a lesser life.

Muberuka shared his problems with a friend who introduced him to our university scholarship programme. Wasting no time Muberuka applied for a place in the programme and this year, he finally had his wishes come true. He was among our 16 university scholarship awardees for 2018. Muberuka is now pursuing a degree in accounting at a local private university. Actually, accounting was what Muberuka always aspired to do.

“Accounting is more than a profession. It is a way of life. A lot of people remain poor because they are not able to manage their money. I intend to change that,” Muberuka said, adding that one day he would like to be part of a think-tank that would help Malawi to establish a stable economy.

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Serving our graduates by providing jobs http://thereishopemalawi.org/serving-our-graduates/ http://thereishopemalawi.org/serving-our-graduates/#respond Wed, 18 Jul 2018 08:58:20 +0000 http://thereishopemalawi.org/?p=3626 Chikuni is a small-scale farmer living in one of the remotest villages in Dowa District, about 50 kilometres from Malawi’s Capital, Lilongwe. In fact, farming has been a tradition in his family because his parents are small-scale farmers too and actually that is where Chikuni took after. The family grows tobacco, tomato, maize and different other varieties of crops. However, farming is unpredictable. Price fluctuations, erratic rainfalls and costly farm inputs all make the field of agriculture a risky business. And to small-scale farmers who mostly depend on the business for survival, sustaining farms at times becomes a bumpy ride.

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Chikuni is a small-scale farmer living in one of the remotest villages in Dowa District, about 50 kilometres from Malawi’s Capital, Lilongwe. In fact, farming has been a tradition in his family because his parents are small-scale farmers too and actually that is where Chikuni took after. The family grows tobacco, tomato, maize and different other varieties of crops.

However, farming is unpredictable. Price fluctuations, erratic rainfalls and costly farm inputs all make the field of agriculture a risky business. And to small-scale farmers who mostly depend on the business for survival, sustaining farms at times becomes a bumpy ride.

Chikuni knew this. He realized that relying on farming alone would not be a wise choice. Chikuni understood that he needed a ‘backup plan’ that would complement his farming venture in times of unforeseen circumstances. What mostly prompted him to start seeking alternative ways of marking money was the fact that most often when he sold his harvests, he did not yield the profits he wanted. The money he made was not enough to keep him going for long.

That is not all, there was a very long wait between planting season and harvesting season which meant that during that waiting period, he literary had no other means of earning money.

“I wanted to have something that could help me to become fully economically stable.” He explained. Besides that, he had just completed his secondary school and he was in pursuit of post-secondary education. Although farming provided his family with a basic way of putting food on their table, farming would not exactly help Chikuni progress further in life.

“We are not large commercial farmers. What we grow as crops is there simply to keep us going but we do not earn big profits from the trade.” He explained. Learning a skill in tailoring seemed to be the solution to Chikuni. Besides helping him obtain a side income apart from his family’s small farming trade, obtaining training in that skill would also provide the young man with a form of post-secondary qualification – a qualification he would most likely use to launch a much stable business. As a matter of fact, that was Chikuni’s plan, to start a business that would supply fabrics and make clothes on a large scale.

With that goal in mind, the young man enrolled for tailoring in our vocational training programme. Earlier this year Chikuni successfully completed his dream course and graduated with a recognized certificate in Tailoring. He set up a small shop in partnership with one of his friends and started a tailoring business. Little did he know that a pleasant surprise awaited him.

Two months ago, our social business entity, Kibebe Limited was looking for artisan tailors to work in the company. When Chikuni heard the news, he seized the chance and applied for the opportunity. Some weeks later he was among the list of tailors that Kibebe employed. Chikuni does not treat that lightly. He considers it something of value to his tailoring skills.

“I am gaining rare experience here and improving my skills. It is different from the experience I would have gained if I was working in my own shop.” He said. Chikuni is indeed attaining ‘rare experience’ because Kibebe makes a wide range of products targeted at the local and international markets. Working with the company implies that Chikuni is getting exposed to an ‘international standard of tailoring’. This is a big deal to him and he admitted that his experience in Kibebe has also exposed him to a new set of skills. Best of all, he is employed – something which is very difficult to obtain in the villages. He is gaining even more from the employment.

“Kibebe is helping me to boost the financial capital I need to run my small farm garden. Farming requires lots of inputs like fertilizer, herbicides and hiring labour. All this cost a lot of money and it is not easy for a village farmer to purchase these items but because of Kibebe, I can.” Now that he has notable qualifications and skills and, most importantly employed, Chikuni can note a difference in his welfare. He explained that he does not lack money and he is on his way to financial independence.

He also has the best of both worlds because he is using the money he obtains from his job with Kibebe to run his farm garden which is just he was looking for.

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Comforting Umuhoza http://thereishopemalawi.org/comforting-umuhoza/ http://thereishopemalawi.org/comforting-umuhoza/#respond Mon, 02 Jul 2018 08:18:10 +0000 http://thereishopemalawi.org/?p=3623 Her name is Umuhoza which is Kinyarwanda meaning ‘Comforter’. Ironically though, the experience the young woman and her family have passed through in life has not been exactly comforting to her. For one, she is a refugee and that in itself is a huge discomfort. Her education too, from primary to secondary school, has been marred by a great deal of unbearable challenges. There was a time that Umuhoza gave up all hope and believed that she could never make it. Worse still, Umuhoza’s family are living in a setting where there are restrictions barring refugees from getting employed or running a business and this makes it extremely difficult for them to survive because it limits their sources of financial income.

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Her name is Umuhoza which is Kinyarwanda meaning ‘Comforter’. Ironically though, the experience the young woman and her family have passed through in life has not been exactly comforting to her. For one, she is a refugee and that in itself is a huge discomfort. Her education too, from primary to secondary school, has been marred by a great deal of unbearable challenges. There was a time that Umuhoza gave up all hope and believed that she could never make it. Worse still, Umuhoza’s family are living in a setting where there are restrictions barring refugees from getting employed or running a business and this makes it extremely difficult for them to survive because it limits their sources of financial income.

When Umuhoza’s parents landed in Malawi in 2005 at Luwani Refugee Camp as asylum seekers from Rwanda, they thought they would find a safe haven.

They were wrong.

Actually, they had just fallen from the frying pan straight into the fire. Firstly, they were welcomed by a surprising discovery that refugees are not allowed to work. And when within a few months the savings Umuhoza’s parents brought with them soon ran out, the real struggle began. In pursuit of other means of survival, the family moved out of the camp to the nearest village where they opened up a small shop to earn money. That is where they made another startling discovery that refugees are not allowed to move out of the camp or run businesses. The family soon found out that they were not welcome and became the target of random harassment by some locals.

Umuhoza’s parents were also frequently arrested until they were forced back into the refugee camp.

Five years later refugees from Luwani camp were transferred to Dzaleka refugee camp and Umuhoza and her family unfortunately found themselves facing an even more difficult life in the new camp. Since her parents were jobless and had no other means of supporting the family, Umuhoza’s education was drastically affected.

“I struggled with a lot,” She explained “It was really tough for my mother and father to support us fully and put me through school. My mother used to sell small packets of charcoal to earn money. That was the only source of money for the family.” At that time, Umuhoza was in secondary school but she disclosed that she feared that her education, if she at all managed to complete secondary level, would end at that level.

“My main concern was the realization that there was no way I could possibly continue to college because my parents did not have the capacity to support me through university.” She reflected, adding that she knew that she had a very thin chance of making it to college. The thought that she would not be able to reach college threatened Umuhoza’s passion for community development. Her life in refugee camps exposed her to a difficult world where the youths encounter hurdles in uplifting their social livelihoods. Umuhoza revealed that she has seen refugee youths engaging in illicit and dangerous behavior to survive. Her big vision was to help bring sanity to this situation by championing a cause which would help these young people change their lives.

However, with the lack of financial support, Umuhoza’s dreams were at risk. When she completed her secondary school education, she tried seeking for a scholarship opportunity at one of the organizations that offer such scholarships but she was deeply disappointed when she got no response.

“I felt let down and almost betrayed. That was the only organization that provided education scholarships to refugees and it was my only chance of getting to college.” Umuhoza recalled. She felt her hope dead, her vision shattered and her dreams ruined. She needed a way to reach her aspirations and the way out was a college scholarship.

In 2017 she finally found the way out. Umuhoza, through a friend, got wind of the news that we have a university scholarship programme which offers scholarships to both refugees and Malawians. This year, she was selected as one of the 16 scholarship awardees of the programme.

The scholarship saw Umuhoza enrolling for a degree in Social Work at a private university. The vision she had hoped to achieve is now taking shape. Most importantly, the course she has enrolled in is exactly what she had been hoping to pursue. From broken dreams and shattered future, Umuhoza is now one of the refugees in Malawi privileged enough to attain a degree of their choice. In her own words…

“I consider this scholarship something of value because my parents are not in a position to send me to college. They just cannot.” Umuhoza said. Thus, begins her journey to college, a journey that a year ago she barely believed would happen.

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Nurturing leaders who lead by example http://thereishopemalawi.org/nurturing-leaders/ http://thereishopemalawi.org/nurturing-leaders/#respond Wed, 20 Jun 2018 13:15:43 +0000 http://thereishopemalawi.org/?p=3547 “God does not entertain ignorance”, were the words that Vincent Arnold hang on to, and which ultimately became his motto. They were the five words that his pastor told him long before Vincent followed the man’s footsteps. Today, Vincent is a pastor at one of the branches of Malawi Assemblies of God Church in Dowa and he also works as a Librarian for our Bible school. Until now, Vincent still lives by those words and they are what encouraged him to join a Bible school.

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“God does not entertain ignorance”, were the words that Vincent Arnold hang on to, and which ultimately became his motto. They were the five words that his pastor told him long before Vincent followed the man’s footsteps. Today, Vincent is a pastor at one of the branches of Malawi Assemblies of God Church in Dowa and he also works as a Librarian for our Bible school. Until now, Vincent still lives by those words and they are what encouraged him to join a Bible school.

Vincent’s journey to become “a youngest pastor” at the church he currently ministers in, began about 5 years ago when he received a calling to the word of God. Some people hold the belief that if one is ordained as a pastor, the person should simply dive in and start preaching the gospel. Vincent has a contrary opinion. Even before he was fully ordained, he realized that he needed to attend a Bible school to receive training and knowledge in church ministry.

“I deemed it important to join a Bible school because I wanted to have sound knowledge of how I can minister the word of God in a mature and well guided way.” He explained, further stating that he believes that ministering the gospel is not a matter of trial and error where one simply attempts this and that in search for what works best. Vincent added that according to his vision, he knew that in order to administer his work professionally, obtaining training in Biblical studies was a stage he could not skip. Part of the inspiration to join a Bible school was the words that his pastor told him that God does not tolerate ignorance.

Vincent’s desire to pursue Biblical studies saw him enrolling at one of an extension Bible schools run by his church. However, just a few weeks into his studies Vincent realized that he could not afford to continue with the studies because the school was expensive. What he needed was an affordable solution – a Bible school that was cheaper yet provided quality training. Having no choice, Vincent left the school in search for another option, which eventually led him to There is Hope’s Bible school. He was among the first cohort that graduated last year.

When he looks back at the training he attained at our Bible school, Vincent admits that it was the best decision he ever made.

“The school provided me with comprehensive training in all areas that a pastor needs to have knowledge in. I will be frank with you, I am the pastor that I am today because of the school.” He commented. Even before he finished his course, the church administration at Vincent’s church were already impressed with him that when they planted a new church branch within his village, Vincent was appointed as the resident pastor. Vincent attributes the appointment to the experience he got from our Bible school. Leading a new church and being, somewhat, an inexperienced pastor, one would expect Vincent to have encountered problems adjusting to the new role but that never happened.

“Actually, the church I was leading became a model to other church branches. During monthly meetings, my church was always top of the class.” He boasted. Not only that, Vincent also revealed that under his leadership, the congregation increased and more people joined the church. Church’s growth is not determined by numbers only.
“There are three main areas that governs a church’s growth – financial, spiritual and numerical.” Vincent said. “My church excelled in all those areas and up to now we are still considered the best example to others.” When it came to managing the finances of the church, Vincent’s training gave him the right tools to handle that area. He disclosed that he has managed to lead a team that has handled the finances of the church so well that they saved enough to buy land to construct their own church.

“For the past 26 years, the church has been meeting in a small school block but that will change soon.” He said. Vincent’s church has also recently ventured into pig business where they plan to save money to help with the construction project once it kicks off.

Vincent completed his studies in 2017. What he obtained from our Bible school is not just knowledge on how to deliver sermons in church – he has also gained valuable skills in managing finances of his church, choosing trustworthy leaders and resolving conflicts.

We understand the importance of training church leaders in all areas that can help them become mature exemplary leaders. God’s Economy and Hilfe für Brüder International are significantly assisting us to achieve this aim through their financial and material support to our Bible school.

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The beggar who became a professional carpenter http://thereishopemalawi.org/beggar-to-carpenter/ http://thereishopemalawi.org/beggar-to-carpenter/#respond Fri, 08 Jun 2018 13:07:13 +0000 http://thereishopemalawi.org/?p=3544 Living in a refugee camp is a tough experience and Butoto Cloncho is one of the numerous displaced people who bear witness to the ordeal. He has passed through what he describes as “an agonizing life” in Dzaleka refugee camp. He arrived in the camp in 2015 from DR Congo, having travelled through Burundi and Tanzania. Butoto had left his family back in DRC and he was literary alone with no relatives to welcome and give him shelter in the new home. He was a total stranger in a strange country and surrounded by new faces that hardly knew him.

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Living in a refugee camp is a tough experience and Butoto Cloncho is one of the numerous displaced people who bear witness to the ordeal. He has passed through what he describes as “an agonizing life” in Dzaleka refugee camp. He arrived in the camp in 2015 from DR Congo, having travelled through Burundi and Tanzania. Butoto had left his family back in DRC and he was literary alone with no relatives to welcome and give him shelter in the new home. He was a total stranger in a strange country and surrounded by new faces that hardly knew him.

The only possession that the young man had were the clothes he was wearing when he arrived in Malawi. But that was not the worst part – the worst bit was that he had no means of survival, he was jobless and he realized that since, according to refugee laws in Malawi, his movement was restricted within the camp, obtaining employment was out of the question. To find food, he resorted to begging for alms.

“I didn’t have anywhere to go and I didn’t know anyone that could help me earn money so I was forced to become a beggar.” Butoto recalls with sadness. Begging was not the solution because the most he could get from Good Samaritans who sympathized with him was a mere MK100 (around 7 Cents) a day and at times he never got anything. That amount was ridiculously low to keep him going. Circumstances were getting painfully hard for Butoto. Most often he could go for days without eating anything. During those times, he explained, the hunger was intense and he could barely sleep at night.

Butoto realized that he could not depend on begging so he decided to act. His wish was to at least learn a trade that he could use to make his own money. He approached one carpenter, a fellow refugee, who owned a carpentry shop in the camp. Butoto’s idea was to ask the carpenter to teach him the basics of carpentry so that Butoto could use the skills to make products he could sell to earn revenues. Unknown to Butoto, the man he approached is a volunteer Carpentry teacher at our vocational training centre.

“The man informed me about some vocational training opportunities at There is Hope and encouraged me to apply for a carpentry course.” Butoto recollected. In 2017, two years after arriving in Dzaleka camp, he was among the successful students that we selected for the carpentry intake of that year. That was Butoto’s little step that led to a giant leap in his livelihood.

“I knew that this was the moment I had been searching for. I also knew that if I completed the course, I would be a qualified carpenter and that was enough to help me escape the misery I had endured for the 2 years I was in the camp.” Butoto explained. His sentiments came true when he graduated six months later. Carpentry business is one of the growing businesses in Dzaleka refugee camp and attaining a recognized qualification in the trade is a gateway towards economic independence for refugees residing there. Demand for carpentry services in the camp is high, meaning that there is a great opportunity of making good money from the trade.

When Butoto completed his course, he started receiving customers looking for carpentry products. That was the beginning of his breakthrough and a gradual improvement to his living standards. For the first time since arriving in the Dzaleka camp, Butoto had achieved a means of making his own money. It was a wonderful feeling.

“I could now buy whatever I wanted. I was no longer a beggar and I could afford to eat.” He smiled as he explained, adding that he perceives this as a “big change” because he no longer goes to bed with an empty stomach. He proudly revealed that he can earn MK15,000 and sometimes up to MK20,000. For someone who got a mere MK100 from begging, this is a notable transformation to Butoto.

Apart from making carpentry products for private customers, Butoto now works part time in the carpentry workshop owned by the teacher who introduced him to There is Hope. He receives payment from every piece of work he does in the workshop and this is further improving his living conditions.

“When I arrived in the camp, I had no shoes. I used to walk bare footed. I have some pair of shoes now and I bought some clothes.” Butoto grinned, showing off a shirt he was wearing. Butoto’s story is an inspiring tale of someone who moved from rags to clothes. Everyone in Dzaleka camp knew him as a beggar but now they recognize him with a new title – a professional carpenter.

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