Malawi is a largely agricultural country, making efforts to overcome decades of underdevelopment. Most Malawians rely on subsistence farming, but food supply is inconsistent and the country is prone to natural disasters of both extremes - from drought to heavy rainfalls. The land is also under pressure from drastic population growth in a country with a small land mass. Small wealthy cities exist among large poor rural areas, with high class resorts appearing completely out of place on the edge of dire poverty.
The people of Malawi face extreme trials in overcoming the dire social and physical poverty plaguing the country. Children are especially vulnerable in Malawi, and suffer from a lack of basic services. A dismal 2% of children are registered when they are born, reflecting the lack of government support for its people. Girls are especially vulnerable. Approximately 90% of girls will start the first grade of primary school, but only 40% will start the first grade of secondary school, and only 10% will remain. This is partly due to 50% of girls being married by age 18, and 35% giving birth by the same age.
Health care is a serious challenge in Malawi. The country has the fifth highest rate in the world of people living with HIV and the same rate of global deaths from AIDS. All eight of the countries Hands at Work serves in are within the 22 priority countries UNAIDS has identified in their Global Plan to focus on eliminating new HIV infections among children and keeping their mothers alive. 48% of children in Malawi suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition.
Amidst these challenges, Hands at Work has found hope in caring for the most vulnerable through the local churches of Malawi. Our vision for the local church to care for those in need is especially strong in Malawi where local volunteers are giving of themselves to care for their communities. Hands at Work supports the many men and women who have stepped up in the poorest communities to sacrificially care for the orphaned and vulnerable.
We envision the local church in Africa effectively caring for the dying, orphans and widows, and unified in this mission with the church outside Africa.
Orphaned children (age 0-17): 1,200,000
Children orphaned by hiv/aids: 790,000
UNDER 5 MORTALITY RATE PER 1000 LIVE BIRTHS:
FEMALE - 63 MALE -72
secondary school ATTENDANCE:
female - 10% Male 10%
People living with HIV: 1,000,000
Life expectancy at birth: female - 55 Male- 55
lifetime risk of maternal death: 1 in 34
population below the international
poverty line: 62%
Country rating (out of 187) on the Human Development Index: 174
— Sources: UNAIDS, UNDESA 2014, UNICEF 2014
Care Workers are the key in bringing healing and transformation to the lives of our children. They are men and women from the local churches within our communities who recognize their Biblical mandate and answer their call to care for the most vulnerable children. They demonstrate what it means to give freely, love unconditionally, and sacrifice everything. Often, Care Workers face their own traumas and live in dire poverty, just as the children they care for do, but their determination to persevere and care despite their own circumstances challenges everyone they come into contact with. They are greatest in the Kingdom of God!
Royie Nazombe, Dedza local office coordinator, shares, “This feeding program had a great impact. Grandmothers and caregivers could not believe this was happening to them. I remember meeting with the grandmothers after the packages were distributed. Before, all they were eating was a small amount of vegetables for lunch and supper. I heard them say ‘today I will taste nsima for the first time’. People were very happy.”
I wake up early and spend some quiet time with God, but I know this morning is different than any other I had spent so far in Malawi. I am going to visit Chinku Community, a community quite a far distance away. I hesitate – “Is it too far? Maybe I am not up to going out today.” I make excuses. My quiet time reflects my hesitation, and I ask God, “Why am I feeling this way? Why am I hesitating?” As tears well in my eyes, I know God has something different for me today. I do not know what to pray, but I know the Holy Spirit is praying – groaning on my behalf.
When many children were not going to school in their community of Mngwere, Malawi, Royie and Violet responded. They knew they were called to bring life to these orphaned and vulnerable children. Their vision began in 2007, when a group of people from the church Royie serves in as a pastor started caring for the most vulnerable children in Mngwere. In their poverty stricken community, mobilising the local church to sacrifice their own meagre resources to care for others was a challenge.
Facing life without her parents and her siblings could have brought a life full of grief and loneliness to Geradine. Thankfully, by the grace and calling of God, a group of men and women in Chinkhu have gathered together to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable families.
It is difficult to comprehend the struggles faced by the poor in Malawi. When it comes to education, many children dream of going to school and learning, living in the hope that they may one day succeed, get a job and escape the cycle of poverty they were born into. But for too many children in Malawi today, these dreams never come to fruition.
The cries of my newborn sister pierced the air. At 13 years of age I was excited to finally become a big. My excitement turned to stunned disbelief when I learned my mother had lost her life giving birth to my sister. What would become of our family now? How could we go on without our mother?