Our Co-Founder and Managing Director, Jo Hook, is currently visiting our projects in Malawi. Here’s her update on the current situation in Nkhata Bay North:
A couple of weeks ago I landed back in Malawi, with that wonderful feeling of ‘coming home’. Moyo, our driver and logistics officer, met me at the airport. He’s a very good man: one of life’s true gentlemen. We catch up, and ask each other about family, friends, work and life in general. The conversation soon turns to this year’s rainy season and this year’s hunger season. Every year, there’s a hunger season in Malawi: it’s the time of year when people have eaten all the crops they gained from the previous harvest, and are waiting for their new crops to grow.
During the hunger season, families often need to reduce their food intake to just one meal a day, or even one meal every other day, spending what little money they have to buy in some extra food. Most people in the area grow maize, which needs a stable rain source; however, unreliable rains last year led to a poor harvest, meaning people need to buy in more food than usual. The truly awful thing is that maize is double the price it was last year. Can you imagine how hungry you’d be if you ate just one meal every other day? Then can you imagine how you’d feel if food also doubled in price at this time?!
WHAT WE HAVE DONE
Temwa has done what it can to help in this dire situation. In 2016, we reported on the situation and carried out a food distribution programme, managing to improve the food security of 1,000 households in the region. We also set up a new programme, supporting communities to become more resilient in the face of poor harvests brought on by changing weather patterns.
Although we’re doing all that we can, we’re simply not able to reach everyone in our catchment area. We serve a community of 55,000 people living throughout 155 villages; we support communities in remote and hard to reach areas, and in most of these villages we are the only organisation helping them. While many of the people we work with will have food and will survive this hunger season, there are some that we haven’t been able to reach: the stark reality is, some people will die of hunger.
In this day and age, people should not be starving to death. We have the power to do something about it and I, for one, am going to do everything I can to change this. I’m more determined than ever to do more for the communities that we currently serve, as well as to expand Temwa, growing the organisation so we can help more people.
THE TEMWA FAMILY
When I arrived in Mzuzu, the capital of Malawi’s Northern Region, I met up with my team at our head office. Jericho, our project officer for microfinance, had very sadly lost his sister a couple of days previously. She had been living with HIV and, because she felt well, had stopped taking her ARVs – the drugs that prolong your life if you’re HIV-positive. Subsequently, she developed AIDS and sadly passed away. She leaves behind two children: Jericho will look after one of them, and the other will go to live with their aunt. Jericho’s story broke my heart. It’s desperately sad, and what’s even more sad is that this story is far from unique: there are over a million orphan children living in Malawi, with the AIDS epidemic playing a large part in this crisis.
Jericho and Moyo are more than colleagues; they are part of the Temwa family. The teams we work with are not just a community; they are my people. They welcome me into their homes, share their food, and call me azichi (sister), mama Joanna (mother), and agogo (grandma!) – they tease me! We laugh together, we cry together. Together, we are fighting for equality and to make life fairer and more just, for everyone. The UK is my land of birth: it’s my home and I love Bristol (my home city) and the UK for many reasons. Malawi is my other home: it’s my land of choice, the land I long to return to every year. I was lucky enough to visit many countries around the world in my younger years, as a backpacker, but of all the places I visited, Malawi is the only other place that felt like home.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Life is so unbelievably different if you compare Malawi to the UK. There are barely any social services provided by the government. If parents die their orphans go to live with extended families, and the extended families don’t receive any extra help. There are no food banks, so people are slowly starving to death, and as far as I am concerned the government hasn’t done enough about it.
I was brought up by my parents with the values and belief that as citizens of the world, we should treat each other with respect, we should fight for equality, and we should tackle any unfair and unjust issues. When you look at the situation in Malawi, you see that the world is extremely unfair and unjust. Let’s do all we can to change that. Temwa is tackling extreme poverty and inequality in Malawi, and you can help make a real difference to our work.
There are so many ways you can help us and support our projects:
Please join me in supporting some of the most remote and neglected communities in Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world. I am forever grateful to everyone who supports Temwa – we really are doing all that we can to transform people’s lives and help them to lift themselves out of poverty. Every donation we receive makes a real difference, and we need your support now more than ever. Thank you!