There is Hope http://thereishopemalawi.org Bringing HOPE to the refugees Sun, 02 Feb 2020 12:55:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.13 Love and the sewing machine http://thereishopemalawi.org/loveness/ http://thereishopemalawi.org/loveness/#respond Tue, 21 Jan 2020 12:44:35 +0000 http://thereishopemalawi.org/?p=3973 Loveness comes from Zidunge Village in central Malawi. She is 21 years old and has seven siblings, one sister, and six brothers. When you look at her, she is such a sweet tiny girl. But even with the timid demeanour that African girls are socialized to have as they grow up, you can see she has big dreams. She is the secretary of the Network for Youth Development in Agriculture in her village.

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I recently came across an article about the inventor of the Singer sewing machine.  Isaac Merrit Singer was an actor turned inventor and reading about him you cannot help but agree with his biographer’s well-put remark, that he was “the kind of man who adds a certain backbone of solidity to the feminist movement”. To illustrate, he ran three families, was a wife-beater, had at least 22 children and an insatiable womanizer. When I say inventor, I mean partly as he made tweaks to the shuttle and needle bar that finally made it work properly. But when he initially saw the machine he remarked, “You want to do away with the only thing that keeps women quiet.”  Yap! first-class kind of guy.

That being said, he was instrumental in making society start to appreciate women as decision-makers who can aspire to financial independence, as he and his partner used ‘novel’ marketing strategies like hire purchase and ran ads that stated, “Sold only by the maker directly to the women of the family” (such a shocking statement in the 1800s) and that “Any good female operator can earn with them $1,000 a year”. As the writer of the article concluded and I agree, ‘social progress can be achieved by the most self-interested of motives.’

That being said, thanks to Mr Singer, Loveness got a chance at self-reliance and financial independence. Loveness comes from Zidunge Village in central Malawi. She is 21 years old and has seven siblings, one sister, and six brothers. When you look at her, she is such a sweet tiny girl. But even with the timid demeanour that African girls are socialized to have as they grow up, you can see she has big dreams.

It was fascinating to talk to her because while her body language said one thing, her thoughts were quite the opposite. For instance, when I asked her to describe her village, honestly, I was just trying to get her settled and feel at ease. I don’t know what kind of response I expected but I am sure it isn’t what she said. She went straight to the problem: early pregnancy among teenagers. There are partly due to high poverty levels and when the girls go out in search of jobs, they have to give themselves to secure and retain the jobs.

She knows all about this because she is the secretary of the Network for Youth Development in Agriculture in her village. Where she, and the Village Chief – who is the chairman and her role model – have frequent meetings with the youth. Whenever there are issues affecting girls she is brought in as their representative.

This piqued my interest. I asked about her role model. Wasn’t she afraid of him? Or ever felt threatened? To which she confidently answered, No. He is a good mentor, she said. Whenever there are boys who come to hit on her, he is always there for her discouraging any actions that would be to her detriment. And before you (dear reader) start forming notions in your head, she added, he has a family and has 7 children. He does farming and keeps livestock and makes his money by selling milk and meat. Be still my heart, I told myself, don’t doubt, this is one of the good ones willing to empower without ulterior motives.

She, in a matter of fact tone, pointed out that that is why she came to do the tailoring course in There is Hope (TIH); to be a role model to the girls in her village. She had failed her final high school exams, mainly because since her parents were so poor, they could only pay exam fees and not tuition, which meant she was never prepared to take the exams.

But something good came out of it since this is where she heard of the vocational training happening in TIH. She went through interviews and got a slot, which included tuition and boarding for only MK7000, approximately $10. As an entrepreneur, I thought this is not sustainable, but it turns out TIH is keen on empowering local communities to be self-reliant and so seek sponsorships to cover the expenses. Anyway, the parents were ecstatic to hear this and were in complete agreement with her boarding, as it will ensure that “she is serious with the studies and if there are any challenges her friends in the hostels can help”. I can see other benefits to a young girl boarding.

At first, it was difficult but she refused to give up. She put in the effort and practiced with the machines regularly. Consequently, she always passed her exams and generally thrived and excelled in the program. She finished the program on 26 June 2019 and promptly secured a job in July at DMI University run by the Sisters of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate in Malawi.

I was interested to know how she secured a job so fast. Turns out that after completion, the day she went home, the Village Chief came to her and told her there was an organization that came looking for people who know to tailor and he recommended she take it up. She accepted the role even though she was not very confident about all her skills. The Chief encouraged her, she followed his advice, worked hard, and now she trains others.

When I asked her how this has changed her life she instantly lit up. She said at first she was failing in life but since she got a job she is now independent and even her parents are depending on her. For instance, as tomato farmers, she has been able to buy them a water pump and chemical fertilizers to help with the farming. She was able to do this within just four months of earning an income. I was very impressed.

“Before I was facing challenges but since doing this training, I have discovered different things. I didn’t know a lot about life but now I can learn and hopefully reach far.”

I am a firm believer in education. Whatever form it takes. While she was learning how to tailor she gained critical thinking skills and can now grasp different concepts. I was reminded key lessons in life from talking to this powerful young lady: 1) Education is not just about getting As in class, it’s about gaining a skill and 2) the immeasurable power of a mentor in one’s life and finally the importance of giving back no matter how little you have.

Story courtesy of Linda Wamalwa

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The woman in charge http://thereishopemalawi.org/jupelo/ http://thereishopemalawi.org/jupelo/#respond Wed, 18 Dec 2019 14:08:08 +0000 http://thereishopemalawi.org/?p=3939 When Jupelo got pregnant in 2013 just after writing her final secondary school examinations, she gave up hope of furthering her education. The pregnancy was unplanned and Jupelo’s expectations of a brighter future crumbled to dust, she said. She was only 18. With the baby on the way and her education disrupted, the young woman […]

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When Jupelo got pregnant in 2013 just after writing her final secondary school examinations, she gave up hope of furthering her education. The pregnancy was unplanned and Jupelo’s expectations of a brighter future crumbled to dust, she said. She was only 18. With the baby on the way and her education disrupted, the young woman never believed the future held anything better for her.

Jupelo gave birth to a baby boy and she soon realized that she had a tough life ahead of her. She was a single parent and raising the kid was no joke. Although her mother helped her to provide essentials for Jupelo’s child, Jupelo struggled to support the kid. By then, she was living alone in Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital, where life is very expensive. This only added an extra burden to her problems. To put things into perspective, Jupelo had a kid to take care of and rent and bills to settle – three things that really stressed her out. She was a young single mother facing the world alone.

To remedy the crisis she was in, and support her growing child, Jupelo worked different types of jobs, eventually ending up in a saloon. It was not exactly the profession she desired but she needed the money to survive. The job was too demanding yet her salary was too little.

“My annual pay was about USD300 (210,000 Kwacha),” she revealed, adding “with that insufficient money, I could not cope up with the rising costs of living while at the same time caring for my child. It was too hard for me.” As years went by Jupelo’s situation kept deteriorating until she finally decided to move out of the city to her home village. That decision to move was the right call, as Jupelo would soon discover. It was while she was in the village that she got wind of the news that we have a vocational training centre that provides different types of trades.

Excited, she applied for a place when we opened for the first intake of 2018. Coincidentally, this was also the year that we received funding from the European Union which saw us introducing Welding and Plumbing to the vocational training programme. Jupelo opted for plumbing and there is a very good reason she chose the course.

“I have a lot of friends who are plumbers and I admired their work. I often told myself that if there would be a chance to learn the trade, I would jump on it at all costs.” Jupelo explained. It is no surprise that when that opportunity presented itself, she seized it. That was how she found herself in the first cohort of our 2018 plumbing course. Her 6 months training started paying off when she completed her course and got employed on contract at a reputable construction company in the country, called FISD. Her team was dispatched to rehabilitate broken water taps in three different districts far away.

Within 2 months on the job, Jupelo made USD850 (around 600,000 Kwacha), almost three times her annual salary at her first workplace. She explained that it was the moment she had actual proof that vocational training really pays well. The earnings she received was enough to eliminate her initial financial woes. Jupelo used part of the money to purchase a plot where she is planning to build her own house and other houses to let out.

“I want to create something that would give me extra income besides my job,” she beamed. Furthermore, Jupelo said that she does not want her son to experience the problems that she passed through and her vision is to see to it that the boy gets a quality education. She has since enrolled her child at a quality private school and she can afford the fees, uniform and other school essentials. She also provides for her younger sister who recently moved in with her.

Jupelo proudly revealed that she now considers herself financially independent because she can afford whatever she wants – something which she could simply fantasize three years ago.

Jupelo’s job performance impressed her superiors so much that when her contract ended, she was recruited as full-time staff. Most importantly, she has become a celebrated role model to fellow girls. Actually, one of her neighbours was so inspired by Jupelo’s sudden financial transformation that the girl dumped a diploma programme she was pursuing to join plumbing too. The girl has just completed her training in the final cohort of our 2018 intake.

“I am humbled that I inspired someone to follow my footsteps. I want my story to encourage even more girls to see the benefits of vocational trades. Girls should not look down upon themselves. They can be more than they can imagine.” Jupelo added.

Jupelo’s big dream is to open a plumbing hardware shop to supply plumbing equipment and services at Dzaleka. She said that there is no plumbing shop at Dzaleka, which is a big challenge to plumbers in the area. Jupelo wants to help fellow plumbers by providing a one-stop plumbing shop right in their vicinity.

This project is funded by the European Union.

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Then he met Kibebe http://thereishopemalawi.org/shabani/ http://thereishopemalawi.org/shabani/#respond Thu, 21 Nov 2019 08:01:55 +0000 http://thereishopemalawi.org/?p=3935 Back home in DR Congo, Shabani was a popular musician. He was respected and well known in the city he came from. However, all that changed when the civil war broke out and he decided to use music to attack the ethnic conflicts that the war bred. Shabani wrote a song that rubbed the wrong people the wrong way and he soon realized that he had made a dangerous blunder. Powerful people who were not amused by his song started sending him death threats and tracking his moves.

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Back home in DR Congo, Shabani was a popular musician. He was respected and well known in the city he came from. However, all that changed when the civil war broke out and he decided to use music to attack the ethnic conflicts that the war bred. Shabani wrote a song that rubbed the wrong people the wrong way and he soon realized that he had made a dangerous blunder. Powerful people who were not amused by his song started sending him death threats and tracking his moves.

First, they murdered his parents.

Shabani was not safe. It was a matter of time before the people he offended got to him. His life was hanging by a thread. Desperate for his life, Shabani fled the country he had ever known and took refuge in Luwani Refugee Camp, a camp located on the southern border of Malawi, hundreds of kilometres from Malawi’s commercial city Blantyre.
His life as a refugee had taken shape. With nothing to survive on and faced with the dilemma of living in a strange country where he was literally unknown, Shabani had to use every opportunity at his disposal to earn a living. He thought using his music skills would help him make money. It would be simple, he thought. All he had to do was produce music or teach music and make cash.

He was wrong.

The local people he produced music for never paid him. They simply exploited his talent and disappeared. Shabani believes that this was due his refugee status. The locals took advantage of him. Shabani was broken. His financial status deteriorated and the situation was made worse since the only way Shabani thought would support his living had completely failed. The problems deepened when Shabani was transferred to Dzaleka Refugee Camp when Camp Luwani was closed. Dzaleka was no different from Luwani. In fact, Dzaleka was more terrible than the previous refugee camp. Shabani found himself in a settlement with over 40,000 refugees who competed for limited resources in the camp. His life was a mess. His living conditions declined. Everything was going awfully wrong.

To top it all, just a few months after arriving in Dzaleka, burglars raided his house, robbed him of his belongings and left him with a deep cut on his head that saw Shabani in and out of the hospital for six straight months. Shabani was left with a gashing wound, an empty house and a traumatic experience.

“I could not talk,” he recalled, “the concussion on my head was so severe that it affected my speech. I thought I was going to die.” It was during his recovery from the injury that Shabani met a woman, Moza, whom he later married. Unknown to him, his marriage to Moza would turn out to be the small jump that changed his life. Moza was a tailor and she gradually began teaching Shabani how to sew. Little by little, Shabani learned the skill and became an amateur tailor. Together with his wife, they would sew small items like shirts, pants and skirts which they sold to earn money. Shabani decided to invest more in the tailoring trade so he saved some money and bought a sewing machine. His new tailoring venture gave him something to support his living but he was not satisfied.

“I was not making enough. My wife and I had two kids by then and we needed something more than what we were making.” Shabani said, adding that he was also desiring to build his own house and what he made from the tailoring business could not cater for that need.
He had no idea that a surprise lay waiting around the corner. In 2016, when our social enterprise arm, Kibebe was hiring artisans from Dzaleka, Shabani and his wife were among the successful refugees who were recruited. It was the first-ever job that Shabani had since fleeing DRC and, he said, he was truly excited. Most importantly, Shabani’s employment with Kibebe boosted his financial capital and social status. Within a year of working with Kibebe, Shabani save enough money to build a house that he had been desperately looking for.

“I love the house; it is beautiful. It is floored with cement. I also bought a nice bed and some furniture for the house. We even have electricity. What more can a refugee ask for?” Shabani boasted. It is something that he is proud of. Shabani’s earnings from Kibebe is also helping him and his wife to pay rent for a shop that they are using for their tailoring business. He disclosed that he would not have been able to afford the rent if he were depending merely on the money he made as a tailor.
Shabani can also easily send his kids to school and afford the basic essentials necessary to raise the kids because of the pay he gets from Kibebe.

“I am raising my kids through Kibebe. They were born in the Kibebe era and I am raising them through what I earn.” He explained.
Besides the material benefits that Shabani is getting from Kibebe, he also cherishes the experience that he is attaining. He explained that he was merely an ordinary tailor who would sew basic things like shirts and suits but with Kibebe, his knowledge had widened. Kibebe artisans make a variety of products that are shipped overseas and Shabani said that his involvement with Kibebe has enabled him to become a professional tailor.

“I should tell you that Kibebe really helped me. I have changed a lot and my family is living testimony. Each day, I wake up happy and smiling because of Kibebe.” Shabani summed up his story.

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Hello Coroner http://thereishopemalawi.org/hello-coroner/ http://thereishopemalawi.org/hello-coroner/#respond Thu, 24 Oct 2019 13:56:10 +0000 http://thereishopemalawi.org/?p=3925 When asked about the profession she would love to pursue, she sat upright, looked utterly confident and gave an answer that is least expected from a 15-year-old girl. Even more pleasantly surprising is that it is a profession that will make her the first woman in the country to hold it and perhaps the second person to have that title.  

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When asked about the profession she would love to pursue, she sat upright, looked utterly confident and gave an answer that is least expected from a 15-year-old girl. Even more pleasantly surprising is that it is a profession that will make her one of the few women in the country to hold it.

She wants to become a post-mortem doctor, a Pathologist.

Her name is Angela.

She is one of the girls that we started sponsoring last year through our Secondary School Scholarship Programme. Angela’s story is a compelling narrative. She is a bright young woman who has always been among the top three star performers in the education zone of the district that she comes from. Her fascination with forensic pathology began when she watched a television interview of the first autopsy doctor in Malawi. The Coroner explained how he helps people understand how someone died.

“The interview changed my life and I saw myself becoming a pathologist,” Angela said. Since then she started preparing herself for the career. However, there is more to what inspired her to follow that medical profession. She explained that she wants to assist the police to clear myths surrounding deaths, especially in the villages. Angela has, on multiple occasions in her community, witnessed violent attacks on people who were blamed for murdering someone through witchcraft, when a sudden death occurred. In one incident, a particular man in the village was stoned to death after being accused of witchcraft, following the death of a boy. She said that in her village when someone suddenly dies, people blame each other for the death and allege that the deceased was a victim of witchcraft.

This strengthened Angela’s conviction to study pathology. Angela wants to be the first point of contact for the police to examine the cause of death and help people understand how a victim died in order to prevent attacks on innocent people.

“I believe that this will even prevent segregation because once an innocent person is branded a witch, the society immediately isolates him,” Angela observed, further saying that she also wants to help the police solve crimes associated with murder. Angela never let anything come between her and the zeal to pursue the dream. Even when she had a serious bout of asthma that saw her admitted to the hospital for three days prior to writing her national primary school examination, she still sat for the exams. Angela took the examinations while on the hospital bed.

And she made it.

She was selected to one of the reputable secondary schools in the country. Unfortunately, that also marked a rough journey for her. Angela fell into the predicament that the majority of the people living in the rural areas of Malawi face – tuition fees problems. Her guardian, just like 80 percent of the population in the community, is a small-time farmer so her selection to secondary school brought him both joy and fear. Joy because his daughter was among the 16 percent of children who transition to secondary school in the country.

Fear because he had no idea how he would sustain Angela in a school whose tuition fees was multiple times his minimum wage. Her education was not at all a smooth sail. Angela recalls a time that she was sent out of class and back home because she had an outstanding tuition fees balance. She stayed home for a week and her guardian struggled to raise the balance, even going to the extent of selling the only bag of maize that he had in the house to pay the outstanding balance. At one point, a well-wisher footed her tuition fees bill.

This was only a scratch in the surface since Angela still had four more years to complete her secondary school and sourcing the money for the subsequent terms would not be easy for her guardian.

“I was psychologically affected and I failed to focus in class. Every day was a frightening experience. How could I focus when I did not know where the money to pay my next tuition fees would come from?” she said. Angela’s academic performance even started noticeably declining.

It was in 2018 when she was among the girls that we sponsored in our secondary school scholarship programme, Angela called it “the best thing that ever happened to me”. She explained that she now feels free knowing that her fees problems have been permanently taken care of. She said that it gives her peace of mind since her future and ambitions are now secure courtesy of the scholarship. Angela has gone full throttle in preparing herself for the pathology profession. She revealed that she wants to become strong and get rid of the fear of dead bodies so she would always be among those attending funeral wakes.

“The dead don’t frighten me. Why should I be scared of them? They are what I will mostly be working with very soon,” she laughed, adding “I will be the Pathologist I have always wanted to be. I believe it is possible and it will happen.”

Credits: our secondary school scholarship programme is made possible through the support of various sponsors. Lisa Leaf, our UK Ambassador has been very key in fundraising for the programme by championing different types of efforts. To our donors, supporters and partners who have donated to this cause, we greatly value your contributions.

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A thin thread of hope http://thereishopemalawi.org/ishimwe/ http://thereishopemalawi.org/ishimwe/#respond Tue, 17 Sep 2019 13:15:14 +0000 http://thereishopemalawi.org/?p=3912 Ishimwe, a refugee from Burundi, arrived in Dzaleka Camp in 2007 after being transferred from Luwani Refugee Camp following its closure. Unlike most refugees in Dzaleka, Ishimwe was self-sufficient and never experienced any financial hurdles. She ran a grocery shop in the Camp, which made her enough income to support her family. Ishimwe has a big family of 11 children but she was able to feed them from the money she realized from the shop. When an unfortunate incident left her first-born daughter with a perforated eardrum and a mild physical disability, Ishimwe's financial status started crashing down.

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Ishimwe, a refugee from Burundi, arrived in Dzaleka Camp in 2007 after being transferred from Luwani Refugee Camp following its closure. Unlike most refugees in Dzaleka, Ishimwe was self-sufficient and never experienced any financial hurdles. She ran a grocery shop in the Camp, which made her enough income to support her family. Ishimwe has a big family of 11 children but she was able to feed them from the money she realized from the shop. Besides that, she complemented the business by plaiting woollen hats, table mats and cushions which she sold at the local market to make a side income.

Just like in any other refugee camp across the world, refugees in Dzaleka heavily rely on food aid but Ishimwe never really depended on that. She never saw the need since she had everything she needed to survive without waiting for monthly food rations. Life for her was smooth and comfy and she could have not asked for more.

The smooth comfy life was not to last.

Mishap comes in different shapes and forms and for Ishimwe it sneaked up on her as an incident involving her first-born daughter. It all started when an unfortunate incident at school left Ishimwe’s daughter with a severely perforated eardrum which affected most of her normal physical abilities. This was the beginning of Ishimwe’s financial dilemma.

“My daughter was born with no physical disability but the accident essentially left her physically disabled,” Ishimwe explained painfully “Doctors could not explain what had happened. I began seeking medical help and that saw me moving from hospital to hospital in desperate need of assistance.”  Gradually, the medical bills she encountered became expensive and Ishimwe could not cope up but she had no choice.

She needed her daughter cured.

Ishimwe’s shop, her main means of income, was hugely affected since she used most of the income she earned there to pay for the medical bills. Ishimwe was forced to close the shop because she had no money to re-stock her supplies.  The medical bills drained her accounts and bankrupted her. Then poverty hit her hard.

It was a shocking experience for someone who once had everything she needed. Her financial status deteriorated and for the first time, Ishimwe’s 11 kids could eat just once a day and sometimes sleep without food.

“I could see us [my family] slipping into deep poverty. It frustrated me because I was never used to it. I felt like I was no longer in control of my life.” Ishimwe recalled sadly. She knew it was time to start looking for new alternative sources of earning money to jump free from the financial predicament. A group of friends who sympathized with her status quo informed her of our vocational training programme and the various opportunities for skills that existed in the programme.

Ishimwe was curious to know more so when we advertised for places for the first intake of 2018, she was among the 18 students we selected for our Tailoring course.

When she graduated from the course six months later, Ishimwe set up a tailoring shop within the compound of her home and immediately went to work. Before long, she had a loyal customer base and numerous people flocked to hire her tailoring services. Institutions in the Camp also hired Ishimwe to make school uniforms, wedding attires, suits for kids and other big orders. Suddenly, money started flowing in and her financial status recovered. The challenges she had faced disappeared and her life returned to normal. Ishimwe could now afford to buy luxurious goods and manage to feed her family once more.

“My life has completely changed and my children can attest to that. I recently bought a television set and a decoder to watch paid TV services. Yes, I can even subscribe to paid TV.” Ishimwe chuckled.

That is not all, Ishimwe believes in helping others in distress so she uses some of the money she earns to assist fellow refugees in need. She explained that it is part of her initiative to provide comfort to those who are facing a similar tough situation she passed through. It is also Ishimwe’s social responsibility to her refugee community.

Today, Ishimwe’s sadness has been transformed to joy because of the tailoring course she did through our vocational training programme. From her small tailoring shop, she can put food on the table, put her kids through school, buy essentials for her home and still remain with additional money to save for a rainy day.

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Arise, nurse http://thereishopemalawi.org/arise-nurse/ http://thereishopemalawi.org/arise-nurse/#respond Thu, 22 Aug 2019 14:06:52 +0000 http://thereishopemalawi.org/?p=3908 “Nursing is a calling…,” Ednas said and smiled briskly. It is a calling, she added, that she heard at a tender age when she was still in primary school. In fact, according to Ednas, nursing is a passion that is embedded in her DNA and when she was young, she always had this strong urge to help the sick and the wounded. That same passion lights up her face when she talks about her vision in nursing and how she wants to help build a better healthy community in her village. Ednas has just completed her nursing course and is awaiting to sit for her examinations to acquire a Medical License. She can now see her dream and aspirations taking shape but four years ago those dreams were in ruins.

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“Nursing is a calling…,” Ednas said and smiled briskly. It is a calling, she added, that she heard at a tender age when she was still in primary school. In fact, according to Ednas, nursing is a passion that is embedded in her DNA and when she was young, she always had this strong urge to help the sick and the wounded. That same passion lights up her face when she talks about her vision in nursing and how she wants to help build a better healthy community in her village. Ednas has just completed her nursing course and is awaiting to sit for her examinations to acquire a Medical License. She can now see her dream and aspirations taking shape but four years ago those dreams were in ruins.

Ednas’ education in secondary school was a zigzag ride with more downs than ups. The wildest challenge she faced was financial. Her parents, like the majority of the people in her village, are small-time farmers. They grow just enough crops to feed the family and, whenever possible, sell part of the farm produce to earn money. The little money that Ednas’ father and mother realized from selling their harvests was used to send Ednas and her 9 siblings to school.

“My secondary school days were tough,” Ednas recalled, “My parents could not afford to buy the basic necessities for my education and I really struggled but I told myself not to let that get to me.” Some of her friends who were in the same situation dropped out of school because they could not handle the pressure but Ednas fought on. Ednas was bent on fulfilling her vision of becoming a nurse. She explained that it was that determination which saw her completing her secondary school and selected to pursue a course in Nursing and Midwifery at a public university.

She was very excited since it was the moment that she had been looking for but the excitement was not to last for long. The tuition fees for her college education was too high and Ednas knew that her parents would never afford it. Worse still, she had no relatives who could come to her aid to relieve that problem. Ednas had one immediate option – to apply for a government loan. Fortunately, Ednas was among the students who were granted a government loan but then a new issue cropped up. She had been offered a partial loan which meant that she still had a huge chunk of tuition fees that she had to handle on her own.

“I was required to pay more than 300, 000 Kwacha (about USD500) per year. It was a shock and I feared for my future,” Ednas said. Although that amount may seem meagre, in a country where the average person lives on less than one dollar a day, it is a huge sum. Furthermore, considering that Ednas’ parents simply relied on small-scale farming to put food on the table, it was impossible for them to raise such an exorbitant figure. Ednas was in a fix. She was in danger of withdrawing from her course if she could not raise the balance.

She needed a remedy quickly.

Ednas disclosed that she could see her dream slip away. It seemed like her problems had suddenly tripled and she could sense her vision toppling into the abyss. It was during that dilemma that she was made aware of our university scholarship programme. Without haste, she applied for support and in 2016 she was offered a scholarship. Her hope, which had once faltered, sprung back to life. Ednas could not hide her joy. The scholarship was a crucial stage for her because…

“All my worries vanished. I was now assured of completing my course,” she admitted. Most importantly, she was guaranteed of achieving the childhood aspiration of being a nurse. Furthermore, as a nurse, Ednas added, she wishes to help people in her community access free medical advice on crucial health matters. Actually, a lot of people have already started flocking to her to seek medical advice on various issues ranging from Family Planning and others. Ednas helps them for free and she has become a trusted medical expert in the village.

Ednas explained that there are several misconceptions related to health and medicine that a lot of people in rural areas believe in. Some of them are dangerous. Her goal is to help the community thwart such misconception by providing expert medical advice. Furthermore, Ednas envisions herself building a health facility in her community to provide accessible medical assistance to her village. She said many people from the village travel long distances to access medical help, which forces some of the people to opt for traditional healers.

“I could not have reached this destination without There is Hope’s scholarship. I wanted to become a nurse and now I am. I want the nation and my community to receive the full benefits of my nursing profession. Today, it begins,” she closed.

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The Girl with a Wrench http://thereishopemalawi.org/the-girl-with-a-wrench/ http://thereishopemalawi.org/the-girl-with-a-wrench/#respond Mon, 15 Jul 2019 19:51:34 +0000 http://thereishopemalawi.org/?p=3904 In most rural communities of Malawi, the idea of a woman studying a construction-related vocational trade like plumbing, is heavily frowned upon. Parents discourage their daughters from being involved in such courses and many people are offended by the presence of a girl wearing a work suit. It is considered a taboo. The reason is […]

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In most rural communities of Malawi, the idea of a woman studying a construction-related vocational trade like plumbing, is heavily frowned upon. Parents discourage their daughters from being involved in such courses and many people are offended by the presence of a girl wearing a work suit. It is considered a taboo. The reason is simple; the cultural belief in most villages is that construction courses belong to males and women belong in the kitchen.

19-year-old Ethel is one of the girls who found herself in that scenario when she decided to enrol for a plumbing course in our vocational training programme. When Ethel broke the news to her parents, they were not pleased. Her father and mother criticized the idea and tried to dissuade Ethel from pursuing the decision.

“My father advised me against the idea, saying that plumbing needs strong people and that girls are not strong enough to handle the course. He said I should leave it to the men”, Ethel said, adding that it took a lot of convincing to finally persuade her parents to concede and let her study plumbing. That was in July 2018. Little did Ethel’s parents realize that their daughter had set foot on a path that would cause a surprising chain reaction.

After 6 months of intensive training, Ethel completed her course and her journey as the first female plumber in her community had kicked off. Just a month after finishing the course, Ethel found a temporary job as a plumber at the District hospital in her location. At first, Ethel was intimidated by the job and the intimidation was made worse because, since she was the only female plumber there, her workmates underestimated her. Their mentality changed, however, when they saw the skills that Ethel showcased at work.

“Soon everyone started admiring me and they began trusting me with complex tasks,” Ethel explained. This, she said, boosted her confidence. Most of the work that she does involves maintaining and fixing blockages in the sewer system, blocked toilets, pipes and taps. Ethel believes her work at the hospital is very important and that motivates her to work to the best of her abilities. Hospitals, she explained, rely heavily on water and without plumbers to maintain the water system, hospitals can become a very dangerous place for everyone. Ethel’s job as a plumber is to ensure safe drinking water and proper sanitation at the health facility.

Outside the hospital, the news that there was a skilled female plumber caused a sensation in her community. It did not take long for Ethel to start getting hired for her plumbing services by people within and outside her village. She would get hired to fix broken taps, install new taps, fix pipes and others.

“Just recently, I have been hired by someone who is building a new house and wants me to oversee and install all the taps, pipes and geysers in the house,” she beamed.

Slowly, Ethel is making extra income and is using that to improve her social conditions. Her parents, who ironically attempted to discourage her from doing plumbing, are benefiting from her job too because she is using part of the earned cash to support the household. She is even helping them to put her siblings through school.

She has also become some sort of a community celebrity to fellow girls who are now looking up to her as a role model. Many of the girls in Ethel’s village are either married or are out of school and staying idle. Those who are married depend on their husbands for support and seeing a young woman working and earning pay is a big inspiration to them. Ethel is keen to break the cycle of dependence that is prevalent among women in the village.

“Gone are the days when women looked up to the man for support. Things are rapidly changing and girls have to ensure that they can stand on their own even without a man. It is time to rise up and confidently say whatever a man can do, I can do”, she declared.

That is exactly what we want to accomplish through our vocational training programme – to train a skilled female workforce and help women to provide for themselves.

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A small skill with a mighty change http://thereishopemalawi.org/abdullah/ http://thereishopemalawi.org/abdullah/#respond Tue, 25 Jun 2019 08:00:35 +0000 http://thereishopemalawi.org/?p=3883 In 2009, Abdullah stepped foot in Dzaleka Refugee Camp. He had escaped his home country DR Congo; forced to leave because of a fierce civil war and partly due to a raging family feud that threatened his life. He had not come alone – he was a responsible father with two children, a wife and two of his nephews to look after. Back there in DRC, Abdullah had a decent job as a secondary school teacher and he earned a good salary but that was now all gone and Abdullah’s status changed to ‘refugee’. Survival was paramount and Abdullah knew this but then surviving without any form of employment and no business to bring in money was a big hassle.

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In 2009, Abdullah stepped foot in Dzaleka Refugee Camp. He had escaped his home country DR Congo; forced to leave because of a fierce civil war and partly due to a raging family feud that threatened his life. He had not come alone – he was a responsible father with two children, a wife and two of his nephews to look after. Back there in DRC, Abdullah had a decent job as a secondary school teacher and he earned a good salary but that was now all gone and Abdullah’s status changed to ‘refugee’. Survival was paramount and Abdullah knew this but then surviving without any form of employment and no business to bring in money was a big hassle.

That was just the tip of the iceberg because Abdullah was in a strange country, he had nowhere to stay and he was in dire need of a permanent shelter for his family. Without a place to put up in, Abdullah and his family were effectively destitute. Although Abdullah’s family were given shelter in the camp, the house was technically a shack because it had a bad roof thatched in grass and, according to Abdullah, the house leaked profusely when it rained. Abdullah even remembers one incident when a strong wind blew off part of the roof one Tuesday in the middle of the day.

Abdullah had two major assignments to fulfil.

Find a proper home. Find a job.

However, finding employment in the camp was almost impossible because job opportunities are extremely rare. There are approximately 40,000 refugees in Dzaleka and with a good percentage of that figure jostling for work or means of earning cash, jobs do not come by that easily. In fact, that is why many refugees in Dzaleka stay idle and depend on monthly food rations. That was the exact impasse Abdullah was in. In his desperate search for finding income, Abdullah started doing part-time jobs as a house painter. House painting was not his field of expertise and he had no experience in that area but he had to do what he had to do to feed his family.

“For two years I worked that job. To be honest, it was not exactly what you would call a job but it kept my family and I going as I looked for a permanent solution”, Abdullah stated. His family had then grown from six people to ten with the birth of two more children and with that, his responsibilities had grown too. His children and nephews all needed a good education, his family needed a decent home and Abdullah desired a good job to sustain everyone including himself. We understand the need to give refugees the opportunity to escape poverty by empowering them with skills that can benefit them financially. Our vocational training programme, which was set up four years ago, was specifically designed to provide technical marketable skills to refugees and Malawians to support their economic needs.

Abdullah was made aware of our vocational training programme in 2016, a year after we established the programme. He registered for a Carpentry course, partly because he is passionate about home furniture and mainly because carpentry is in high demand in the Camp. It did not take him long to start reaping the fruits of the course after he completed his training. Just a month upon graduating from the programme, Abdullah put together some money that he had been saving, bought additional tools to complement the ones he received at his graduation and opened a small bench in the camp.

That was how he started making his own money.

Supporting his household was simplified. Abdullah’s small shop brought a series of transformation to his social and financial wellbeing. For starters, Abdullah made enough money to fix the roof of his house and replaced the grass roof with brand new iron sheets.

“For the first time, I could sleep peacefully at night without getting anxious about the roof blowing off or rainwater leaking into my bedsheets”, he said. Abdullah also values the education of his children and nephews and his priority has always been to build the best foundation for their education. He has since sent them to a quality reputable private school in the Camp, something that he could not previously manage. Most importantly, he is an inspiration to fellow refugees who are now seeing the true value of vocational training. Food security is no longer an issue too because Abdullah’s family no longer relies on monthly food rations to survive. They can eat three good meals a day. As Abdullah disclosed, having three meals a day is a privilege which very few refugees in Dzaleka have.

The benefits do not end there. With each passing day and each product he makes at the carpentry bench, Abdullah’s financial status steadily improves.

“At first I was looking for a job but now I don’t need one. What I have is something that is better than being employed. I earn money on a daily basis. That is all I need,” Abdullah closed with a wide smile.

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Rescued at college http://thereishopemalawi.org/limbikani/ http://thereishopemalawi.org/limbikani/#respond Mon, 13 May 2019 10:40:12 +0000 http://thereishopemalawi.org/?p=3879 His name is Limbikani, which in English translates to ‘work hard’. The meaning of his name aligns perfectly to his character and zeal. Limbikani is a determined, hard working 23-year-old young man who has aspirations of becoming an entrepreneur. He has encountered several hardships, most of which nearly forced him to give up and drop out of school. But he did not. Despite the hurdles he faced, he kept pushing because he had one goal in mind – to go to college, get a degree and become an entrepreneur.

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His name is Limbikani, which in English translates to ‘work hard’. The meaning of his name aligns perfectly to his character and zeal. Limbikani is a determined, hard working 23-year-old young man who has aspirations of becoming an entrepreneur. He has encountered several hardships, most of which nearly forced him to give up and drop out of school.

But he did not. Despite the hurdles he faced, he kept pushing because he had one goal in mind – to go to college, get a degree and become an entrepreneur.

True to his ambition, Limbikani is currently pursuing a degree in Food Sciences at the University of Malawi. However, to reach where he is now, Limbikani went through a rough journey. Limbikani is an orphan – his parents died when he was just 6, leaving him in the care of his grandfather who took over the responsibility of his education, from primary school and part of his secondary school.

His grandfather worked as a Field Officer for a government microloan department. When he retired a few years later and could no longer afford his education, Limbikani found himself in a pickle and had to leave yet again and this time he moved in with his aunt. Like his grandfather, Limbikani’s aunt struggled to sustain his secondary school education and Limbikani’s ambitions to reach college were nearly thwarted.

“I could almost see myself dropping out of secondary school. It was a painful experience because I was just a year away from completing my form four and very close to going to college”, Limbikani recalled. Form four is the final year in Malawi’s secondary schools and it is a crucial stage since it is where students sit for the national examinations that determines their selection to universities. Failing to complete this step meant that Limbikani’s goal of pursuing further studies at a university was dead and gone.

Despite the gloomy situation, Limbikani sat his national examinations and passed with excellent grades. His dream to reach college materialized because he was selected to study a degree in Food Science and Technology at the University of Malawi, however, his challenges took on a new form. The cost of the course he was about to pursue was MK360,000 (approximately USD514) per year, which was multiple times higher than what Limbikani and his aunt could manage. The worst part was that Limbikani was supposed to raise that amount before he commenced the first semester of his first year or he risked losing his place at the college.

Limbikani knew that it was an impossible feat but he did not let that challenge cause his dream to slip away. He was determined to find that money at all costs.

“I started doing minor businesses like fixing electronics for people and selling small items like cellphones. It was a very slow process but I managed to raise 20 percent of the amount”. He explained. It took Limbani eight months to raise that figure. With the help of her aunt who topped up the amount, they put together MK200,000 which Limbani used to enrol for the first semester.

Limbikani still had a chunk of balance left to settle but he had no idea where he would find the finances. He tried applying for a student loan from a government programme but he was not successful. He applied for sponsorship from four different organizations but that too never worked. Limbikani said that it was a very stressful period for him. It reached an extent where he failed to fully concentrate in class.

“I went to class dreading that any moment any day, someone from the academics department would step in, call my name and chase me out because I had an outstanding tuition fees balance. How can you concentrate with that in mind?” What really ate at Limbikani was that he was in his first year and to fully complete his degree course, he was supposed to raise over 1 million Kwacha for the remaining three years. Considering his volatile financial situation, that was highly impractical.

All was not over for Limbikani. In his quest to find help, he was made aware of our university scholarship programme through one of our beneficiaries in Dzaleka Refugee Camp. With high expectation, Limbikani applied for sponsorship in our programme and he was on the list of successful students that we started sponsoring in 2017. It was the answer he had been searching for. The best part was that he had been given full scholarship which meant that we would be responsible for paying the full amount of his course. Limbikani explained that he suddenly felt like a heavy boulder had been heaved off him. He was very close to dropping out of college, he said, and the scholarship had eliminated that risk while securing his future.

“Truth be told my college days were numbered. Without There is Hope’s scholarship I know I would have surely withdrawn from college but now I can peacefully sleep at night with the assurance that my tuition fees are being taken care of”, he disclosed. Limbikani is adamant that the scholarship will help him achieve his big post-college vision of becoming an entrepreneur and setting up a company that would help rural farmers process their agricultural produces. He said that a lot of rural farmers remain among the impoverished because they do not have the means to produce finished products that can be marketed at profitable prices. His goal is to help the farmers while at the same time alleviating their poverty and providing employment.

Our university scholarship programme was set up to assist vulnerable yet deserving and visionary youths like Limbikani to pursue university studies and achieve their aspirations. Through the financial support of One Collective, we continue sponsoring Limbikani and several other refugees and Malawians in private and public colleges with the aim of contributing to a better world of educated productive young men and women.

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The small step to dignity http://thereishopemalawi.org/joyce/ http://thereishopemalawi.org/joyce/#respond Fri, 26 Apr 2019 08:54:09 +0000 http://thereishopemalawi.org/?p=3871 It was in 2017 when Joyce and her two sisters stepped foot in Dzaleka Refugee Camp from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), marking the start of their lives as refugees. What forced Joyce and her sisters to flee DRC was the murder of their parents by rival tribal factions. Joyce’s parents were from two separate tribes which, apparently had a history of bad blood between them. Although there seemed to be peaceful co-existence between the tribes in the early stages of their marriage, the peace was to be short-lived.

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It was in 2017 when Joyce and her two sisters stepped foot in Dzaleka Refugee Camp from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), marking the start of their lives as refugees. What forced Joyce and her sisters to flee DRC was the murder of their parents by rival tribal factions. Joyce’s parents were from two separate tribes which, apparently had a history of bad blood between them. Although there seemed to be peaceful co-existence between the tribes in the early stages of their marriage, the peace was to be short-lived. One day what seemed to be the passive ethnic feud reared its ugly head and a bitter quarrel emerged between factions of her mother’s and father’s tribes. The quarrel spiralled into a dangerous clash that left Joyce’s parents dead.

It did not end there.

Joyce and her sisters were orphaned and in normal cases, orphans are usually cared for by their relatives but that was not the case with Joyce’s story. Since her parents came from two opposing tribes, the siblings were regarded as outlaws and their relatives did not want anything to do with the orphans. Their paternal relatives refused to have them around while their maternal relatives ill-treated the siblings.

Joyce and her sisters feared that they would be victims of the same tragedy that befell their parents so they decided to escape the country and went straight to Dzaleka Refugee Camp, approximately 1,000 kilometres away. Thus, started their new lives in a strange country as refugees. Joyce soon realized that she and her sisters were stuck in a country whose restrictive laws on refugees reduce the refugees’ socio-economic statuses to dependence on food rations.

Joyce had no means of earning a living and looking for a job was out of the question because she had no qualifications. Even if she had, it would be impossible to obtain employment outside the camp. Joyce had one small talent that she tried to use to make money.

“I know how to plait hair so I went around the camp providing hairdressing services”. However, that was not a pleasant experience because Dzaleka Camp has myriads of hairdressing salons, making the market saturated and hard to break through. The biggest obstacle was that since she was just a new kid on the block, finding customers proved futile. Even worse, if she managed to find clients, the money she got from the services she offered was below 1,000 Kwacha and that did not happen on a daily basis.

It was a ludicrously small amount of earning. Joyce could barely keep going on that little income. She had sisters to care for and making less than 1,000 Kwacha a day, was making Joyce’s life miserable. Joyce knew that her trouble would only heighten if she could not get a permanent fix to her situation. The permanent fix to her situation came hopping in 2017 when, through her church, she got wind of the news that we provide training in technical skills through our vocational training programme. Joyce explained that she saw this as her chance to try something new so she registered for a tailoring course. She also had always aspired to pursue a career in fashion design and tailoring seemed to be the closest fit to her career ambitions.

Good news awaited Joyce when she completed her tailoring course because a couple of weeks after graduation, Kibebe, our social enterprise programme, was recruiting tailors. Joyce was among the four graduates from our vocational training programme that were employed by Kibebe.

It was the small step towards Joyce’s self-sufficiency because, for the first time since arriving in Dzaleka Refugee Camp, Joyce had finally found a job that could earn her an income.

“What had now changed was that I no longer needed to roam in the refugee camp the whole day searching for customers to offer hairdressing services and earn just 500 Kwacha a day. I now had a job and to a refugee like me, that is something not to be taken for granted”. Joyce noted, adding that a lot of refugee women who have no proper means of earning a living usually engage in risky methods of survival, for example, prostitution. She explained that she has seen many young women getting unplanned pregnancy and contracting dangerous diseases that ruin their lives. That, Joyce said, is because these women have nothing to occupy them and no means of making an income.

Since Kibebe artisans create a variety of professional products that are sold on the international market, being employed by Kibebe means that Joyce is gaining valuable experience that she can utilize in the near future. Best of all, the pay she obtains from Kibebe as an artisan is slowly helping Joyce support her sisters, albeit in a small but meaningful way. Joyce can now buy essentials like clothes, cooking oil and other needs for her home and her sisters. She said that she considers working with Kibebe a privilege because job opportunities for refugees are very rare – almost non-existent.

Joyce’s story may not have ended in her becoming a wealthy person after getting a high paying job but what she has is more than wealth. She has a sense of self-worth, now that she has a job courtesy of Kibebe. She might have been one of the numerous young refugee women who are struggling to make ends meet in Dzaleka and who end up trapped in a world of immoral behaviour to support their welfare.

We trained her as a qualified tailor, she is employed by Kibebe and she has a decent source of earning money.

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