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It was all a dream…

When life gives you a lemon, make a lemonade. Archaic as that saying might sound, those who apply the concept behind the adage make considerable profits from the lemonade produced. Ednas Chadzuka is one of the people at whom life chucked a lemon. From struggling with her secondary school education to enrolling at a nursing college with nothing but faith in her pockets, Ednas’ story is a tale of awe, twists and shock. Ednas is a beneficiary of our university scholarship programme – she received our scholarship in 2016. She is a resolute young woman with a strong confident voice and when she wants things done, she gets things done. That is the spirit that has pushed her forward even when her university education was at the brink of destruction due to financial difficulties. Our scholarship to Ednas sponsored her diploma in Nursing and Midwifery – a profession that she had always aspired to pursue since her childhood.

When I chatted with Ednas in 2019, almost three years after she received the scholarship, she confided in me that her vision was to open a private hospital in her community. She said her plan was to provide affordable health care to people in her village – most of who travel long distances to access such services at the nearest hospital. At that time, it might have seemed like Ednas had an oversized ambition which may take decades to achieve. And I must admit, that is what I thought so too but surprise, surprise, surprise. Yes, life is full of them.

In 2019, Ednas completed her diploma and graduated as a qualified medical practitioner. She disclosed that she was eagerly awaiting to fulfil her goal of opening a health clinic. For starters, Ednas said, she had been saving part of the money that our scholarship programme provided her as upkeep allowance. That alone, guaranteed the first step towards succeeding in her vision. Straight from college, Ednas secured employment at a private hospital at a small township in Dowa, her home district. The hospital was owned by a woman – something which motivated Ednas further and piqued her vision of running her own health facility.

“I was really inspired. For one, it is rare to see a woman owning her own health institution. Most of the businesses, companies and big institutions are run by men.” Ednas explained, stressing that the woman became her mentor. Ednas comes from a setting where women are still undervalued. She was raised in a community which believes that women should be seen and not heard because their place is in the kitchen. Actually, according to Ednas, she was determined to be just like the woman who employed her so that she can go back to her village with one good lesson – that women can run their own thing too.

With that goal heavy in her mind, Ednas doubled her efforts in saving capital to launch her private clinic. Somewhere down the line, she invested some money in the tobacco business and realized a sizable profit which she added to her savings. Unbeknownst to her, something big was peeping round the corner. A close friend to her tipped Ednas of a potential break, in her vision. A particular individual who was operating a small private health centre was closing the clinic and looking for someone to potentially take over. Ednas took maximum advantage of the prospect. This was her chance to finally nail the dream she had carried since she was a kid. After going through the necessary stages and processes, Ednas took over management of the small private clinic.

“I used the funds I had been saving from my salary and the little that I kept from my upkeep to buy essential drugs, pay for rentals and hire a nurse to support me at the clinic.” Indeed, Ednas not only opened a clinic but she also became an employer along the way having recruited a fellow qualified nurse. I was impressed when she told me that she is paying Emily, the nurse she employed, twice the amount she was receiving at her old job. Apparently, Emily was a shop attendant at a pharmacy close to where Ednas worked. At a time when the Malawi government is struggling to recruit the nurses it had been training, Ednas has positioned herself as an employer, albeit on a very minute scale.

Ednas’ clinic is slowly gaining recognition. Ednas makes sure that she gives her patients the best treatment ever. The initiative seems to be working because she told me that she receives over 10 patients a day, more than the three that the old owner of the hospital used to get. An added bonus is that it is the only private clinic in the vicinity and since it is a mere 5-minute walk from the District hospital, it is easily accessible to those who opt for private medical help.

The train does not stop here for Ednas. Now that she has finally accomplished her desire, is this it? I wanted to know. It turns out that Ednas is not complacent. Her next step, she declared, is to open a fully-fledged community hospital complete with patients’ wards, a state-of-the-art laboratory and a maternity wing. She has further plans to employ more nurses across the country. This time, when she said that, I did not consider her someone with an oversized ambition.

This time, I believed her confidence.

Ednas’ scholarship was made possible with funding from Nell Kirby through God’s Economy.