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The Long Road to Success

Every success has a story behind it. It could be an ordinary story, a cheerful tale or a story with a downright emotional background. The tale of Blessings Mpotalinja, a young man aged 25, is intertwined with twists and turns and painful experiences.

Blessings is a carpentry graduate of our vocational training programme. He completed his training in 2017. He is now fully independent and his life has transformed from “the church to the palace” but the road to success has been one rough ride on a rocky path. Even his primary and secondary education were a tough experience.

Blessing’s parents divorced when he was still a minor and this changed everything. This happened when Blessings was still in primary school. He moved out to live with his grandparents. His father continued to pay for his tuition up to secondary school but it came with its own set of problems. Although Blessing’s father was employed, the pay he received was not enough to manage the boy’s basic needs and fully meet his education. As a result Blessings struggled throughout his studies from primary to secondary school.

Just when he thought he had seen his fair share of challenges, something dark was lurking in the shadows.
When he had just sat for his Form 2 examination in secondary school, Blessings father passed on. Blessings life and dreams shattered overnight. The tragic event meant that the young man’s source of tuition was destroyed.

“I was psychologically affected by the turn of events.” Blessings admitted “My father’s death affected my education because he was the only one paying my tuition. It was a chaotic moment.” The chaos occurred since the young man’s future in education suddenly came to a standstill. His grandparents were old, they were unemployed and could not manage to continue from where his father left and support Blessing’s tuition.

Blessings realized that if he did not take an initiative, he would be in serious trouble. The demise of his father did not only mean that his education was over, it also meant that he had an obligation of caring for his grandparents. The young man decided to move out and seek better opportunities elsewhere.

“I left my grandparents’ house and traveled to Dowa to live alone and start selling charcoal.” Blessings explained, saying that he had saved some money, albeit small, as financial capital for the charcoal business he planned to start. However, charcoal business was no fun. For example, to transport charcoal from the mountain, where it is mostly produced, one needs to have a means of transport.

Blessings had none.

So he had to do it the hard way – walk for hours while carrying a heavy bag of charcoal on his head.

“I used to walk for 2 kilometres to the market place to sell the charcoal.” He recalled. Even worse, the profits he obtained from the business were not much. A bag of charcoal cost a meagre MK1,500 (about USD2). The worst part was that the situation had a negative impact on his education. Although Blessings really wished he could fully return to school he failed to.

“If I went back to school, my business would be affected meaning that I would not have a source of money to support myself and my grandparents.” To continue surviving, Blessings made a painful choice – focus on his charcoal business. For two whole years, Blessings never attended school. It was the most difficult phase in his life, he confessed.

After more than a year of absence from school Blessings managed to return to secondary school and sit for his Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE), the final examination in secondary school. It was during that time that something big happened in his life.

“While I was writing my final exams in secondary school, a friend introduced me to There is Hope’s vocational training programme. I knew that I had to apply for a place in the programme.” Blessings explained. That was in 2017. A glimmer of hope shone in the young man’s future. It was even a bigger celebration when Blessings was among the cohort of our vocational training programme of that year.

He enrolled in carpentry and it was one of the best moments in his life because…

“I have always admired carpenters, especially whenever I saw them roofing a house or fitting ceilings. I used to tell myself that it was the career I would chase.” Blessings said. The career path he had ventured into would later pay off in ways he could never have imagined. Blessings graduated in February last year and that was where his welfare took a positive twist. Just a month after completing his studies, Blessings was hired as an apprentice carpenter at CP Feeds, a company located in Dowa.

“I started off as an apprentice carpenter but the skills I displayed convinced my supervisors to promote me and increase my salary.’” Blessings proudly revealed. When the company extended its production area by constructing more structures, Blessings was entrusted with the task of leading other carpenters to fit ceilings and roofing for the buildings. He considers it as an achievement.

Bigger things were waiting for him.

In December the same year, he found another job as an assistant carpenter at Mercantile Trust, a company in the Malawi’s capital Lilongwe. There too, his knowledge and experience in carpentry astounded his bosses. When the company retrenched half of its staff some months later, Blessings was among the few that survived the chop.

“I know that I was retained because the training I received from There is Hope’s vocational training school set me apart from the rest. This won me the trust of the company’s foreman.” He confidently remarked, adding. “It feels good to be employed.”

For a person with a rough background, it really should feel good to have a stable job. Blessings now has a new chapter in life. He disclosed that he can now buy whatever he desires. He can manage to pay rent and put food on the table. He is now economically independent. Blessings is confident that even if he lost his job today, he has the necessary skills to survive outside employment.

“Honestly, I am what I am now because of There is Hope. I was nothing but look at me now.” Blessings concluded.

As There is Hope, we strive to extend our vocational training to a wider youth base in order to reach out and equip as many young people as possible with vocational education. This year the European Union is supporting us with funding to improve our vocational training programme. The EU awarded us a grant to construct workshops, introduce 3 additional vocational courses and build hostels for female students.

The funding from the EU will significantly help us to help more young people like Blessings to achieve the goal of self-sustenance and improve their individual livelihoods.