Archives For Malawi

Fanny is taking a leap forward

Suddenly raising seven children

When Fanny’s sister passed away, leaving four children behind, the choice was clear—she had to adopt them. Already a single mother, Fanny suddenly found herself the sole provider for seven school-age children.

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As one of Malawi’s 2 million small-scale farmers, Fanny set her mind to working hard, knowing that her efforts meant nourishment for her children. She managed to meet her family’s basic needs but struggled to find money for school fees or even soap. “Some months, I wouldn’t have money at all,” she says.

When Fanny heard about savings groups forming at her church, she recalls, “I was the first to sign up.” Saving small amounts of money with her group, Fanny no longer needed to sell her own family’s food for extra cash. It was the boost she needed to leap forward.

Refusing to give up

When severe flooding in early 2015 rendered 230,000 Malawians homeless, Fanny’s crops and home were washed away. Despite the devastating loss, Fanny quickly moved in with her sister next door and used her savings to launch a side business selling used clothing. Even though she lost everything, she determinedly began to rebuild her home.

Less than a year after the floods, Fanny did something few in her community have been able to afford: she paid to install a water tap next to her home to help with irrigation and household chores.

“I can say this is my testimony,” Fanny says. “Before the savings group, I had no business of my own, and my children were suffering from hunger. But now, I am rebuilding my own house, and my goal is to see my children educated.”

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A place to belong

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Joining the savings group has not only provided financial stability for Fanny; it has brought her closer to God and to friends in her community.  An active member of her church, Fanny leads worship and visits those who are ill or grieving. Eager to give back, Fanny’s savings enable her to bring offerings to church—something she wasn’t able to do before.

Fanny’s savings group has given her a sense of belonging. “My challenges have grown less because I am supported,” she says. “My fellow group members encourage me and pray for me. … Since I joined the group, I’m a more joyful person.”

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by Alisa Hoober, Recruitment and Retention Manager

I used to think I was generous. Now I know I have a lot to learn.

I recently had an opportunity to visit HOPE’s savings program in Malawi. We traveled a windy dirt road for several hours to visit a savings celebration in a small village. After meeting for a year and a half, today was the day they were to celebrate the end of their latest savings cycle and receive back the money they had saved. Today was a day to celebrate their hard work. And they were ready to celebrate! We were greeted with singing, dancing, and hugs.

I learned a few things about generosity that day.

There is a difference between giving our leftovers and giving our first fruits.
Shortly after we arrived, we were told that the group had prepared a lunch for us. This was unexpected, but we accepted this as an incredible act of hospitality. We were so grateful. We sat down to a feast of rice, beans, nsima, and chicken. We later learned that this village ate chicken every six months. And they chose to share with us—visitors that they didn’t know. We enjoyed the meal and felt so blessed, knowing that this was an incredible gift we had been given.

This group gave from their first fruits, sharing their best with guests they hardly knew.

Continue Reading…

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by Tyson Presnell, HOPE Field Communications Fellow

A journal entry after visiting a savings group in Lilongwe, Malawi

As I stand up to clear off the table, I carry a strange assortment of foods to the pantry: a pumpkin, peanuts (known here as groundnuts), beans, and eggs. You’d think I had just come from the grocery store or stopped at a roadside stand. No, this food was special. It was from my clients.

I traveled to this savings group on the outskirts of Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital. The group was singing as we arrived. Their group name was fitting: Chimwemwe, which is Chichewa for happiness. After we were introduced to the group, they continued their worship. Following a short message on the importance of prayer, it was time for the savings portion of the meeting. The group chose to worship while turning in their savings because they saw it as a time to celebrate. Continue Reading…

HOPE Malawi staff

by Sylvie Somerville, Former Program Manager, HOPE Malawi

A myth of HOPE expat work is that we spend every day interacting with clients, drinking from the hose of transformation stories you can find all over this blog.

Instead, I spent about one day a month in the field with the savings group members HOPE Malawi serves. I cherished these times of watching and listening to the unique ways people save, build businesses, and discuss the changes in their lives and communities.

My two years in Malawi, however, were filled with ongoing stories from those I did get to watch every day—partner and office staff. God is moving through HOPE and through our church partners to change lives at every level! I cannot think of a single person I’ve been privileged to spend my daily HOPE life with who doesn’t have a beautiful story of spiritual and economic transformation. I’ll cherish these stories and relationships above all else that I experienced in this lovely country.

 

Gertrude

Getrude (left) is the most ambitious Malawian girl I’ve met. In addition to her duties mentoring 27 church volunteers, coaching groups during share-outs of their savings, analyzing reports, and writing member stories, she purchased a refrigerator using her own share-out from our staff savings group. At only 23 years old, her plans are underway to open a small restaurant in town. She wakes up at 4 a.m. most mornings, eager to not waste a single minute seeking God and His purpose for her life. Her prayer life and ability to disciple others have blossomed in her last two years with HOPE.

 

Trevor

Trevor hit one of the lowest points in his life right before joining HOPE as a regional field coordinator through his church. Nearly burnt out with the emotionally taxing duties of pastoral care in a broken and disunified denomination, he was questioning God’s purposes and ready to quit. The peace and unity the savings ministry has brought his denomination have also brought new life and meaning in Trevor’s life. Continue Reading…

Jean

After her husband died nearly 10 years ago, Jean began growing and selling assorted vegetables to provide for her seven children. In Malawi, where 88 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day, Jean often struggled to put food on the table or pay school fees.

When Jean’s church began training groups of people to save money together, she became one of the founding members of Chivumbulutso, meaning “Revelation,” savings group. A proud pioneer of this ministry, Jean describes the financial and spiritual transformation she has experienced: “I became a Christian a long time ago and have been reading the Bible since my youth days, but it had never occurred to me that the Scripture can help me on financial matters.”

Prior to joining the savings group, Jean struggled to manage her finances, remaining in constant debt. Now, saving approximately $2 each week, she owns a piece of land for farming and has hired several workers. Jean dreams of growing her business and opening a grocery store.

Her spiritual life has also flourished through prayer and meditation on the Word of God. “My knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures as the living Word of God speaking directly to me has increased greatly through the sharing of the Word and experiences which we have at our group every time we meet,” Jean explains. Now, she views communication with God as a two-way street, saying, “God speaks directly to me through His Word while I speak directly to Him through prayer.”

Continue Reading…

Malawi sunset

by Sylvie Somerville, Program Manager, HOPE Malawi

Last Friday, the 14-year-old daughter of my gardener, Levi, went missing. The family searched all weekend for her. No friends or relatives knew where she had gone. The police wouldn’t listen to Levi’s pleas because there is a 14-day wait policy for missing persons, and Levi was too poor to attract their interest.

Levi and I finally went together in my car to the police station six days after Maines went missing. With the sight of a seemingly wealthy white person, they were willing to help, but only after an hour of negotiating with everyone in the management chain.

We were worried that Maines had been trafficked. Her best friend testified that she was planning to “go to China and make 50,000 Kwacha a month [double the salary of a gardener].” What better ploy to attract a young and uneducated girl with no marketable skills. The police officers weren’t fazed:

Many 14-year-old girls run off to get married. Don’t worry. This is normal.

I can’t wrap my mind around this prognosis.

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