Pieta, our Programmes Development Manager has been visiting the communities we support in Malawi for the first time and has shared her thoughts and experiences with some blogs. Here’s her first on the situation in Nkhata Bay North and describing some of the local heroes.
Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world. But this year has been particularly tough with an acute food crisis ravaging our communities. Since I started working at Temwa this July, I have read a lot of bad news and sad statistics. The HIV rates there are even higher than the national average, and literacy levels continue to be very low. The deforestation rate is accelerating year-by-year and the adverse effects of climate change are becoming increasingly prominent.
Over the last months, I have worked closely with our Malawi team. Devising together new programme strategies and drafting reports on the precarious situation. Sitting in a small office on the other side of the globe, I wonder how and when things are really going to change for the vulnerable communities that Temwa supports?
Faces of development
Then I met Katie. She has four children and twelve grandchildren, some of whom have lost their parents. Several members of the family are HIV-positive, and presently Katie looks after 18 people in her house. She is the only breadwinner – a superwoman for her age. Katie does not only provide for the family, she has also been incredibly active in her local community, Usisya, ever since she first joined a Temwa project more than ten years ago.
Currently, Katie participates in Temwa’s tree planting activities as a member of the local Village Natural Resource Management Committee. She functions as a discipline secretary at her church. Plus, she is also one of a handful of women, who have volunteered to be Temwa’s Lead Farmers. Training their peers in the community on the principles and practices of sustainable farming.
Visiting projects and meeting beneficiaries gives a face to the challenges that people are struggling with on a daily basis – and to the solutions that are changing their lives. For Temwa, Katie is one of our precious, inspiring agents of change.
Supporting winds of change
To visit the remote communities where Temwa works, we drove around on treacherous gravel roads that wind along steep mountain slopes and drops that are severely eroded by rains.
Many people who we passed were shouting the names of Joanna, our Co-Founder and Managing Director, sitting on the front seat; Mr Moyo, our driver; and Fishani, our Project Officer for Health and Education, who sat at the back of the truck. We were joking about which one of them is the most famous here, as each of them was greeted with such big smiles and enthusiastic waving. You could see that Temwa is very well-known and respected in the area.
I only stepped into the big shoes of my predecessor a few months ago. So for me, this was my first trip to get to know Temwa’s local staff and to see our projects on the ground. With the ongoing severe food crisis, the communities are going through a very difficult time. We asked all the project participants who we visited about their food situation, and many families were already skipping meals, even though the hunger months normally only start in December.
At the same time, the stories of the participants always brought a smile to our faces. The stories tell of such inspiring personal transformations and winds of change in the communities. I cannot wait to go back again.