Friday, 28 October 2011

Mother's Day Celebration

On October 17th of this year, Somebody Cares put on a Mother’s Day celebration for the mothers of the communities we work in. In Malawi, Mother’s Day is actually a public holiday (which I'm sure many North American moms would appreciate, right?)! The day was full of joy and celebration as the women took part in dramas, choirs, solos, and as they worshipped and danced together.
There were various speakers as well, from the USA and Malawi (SC’s founder and director Theresa Malila, Linda Rinzel from the USA, Karl Mueller from Visionledd USA, Jim and Lynn from the Visionledd USA team, and Father Martin from Malawi).

The speakers focused on women and how they are unique and special, how they fill a special place in the world that men cannot. Father Martin spoke about how women need to be educated, quoting, "If you educate a man you educate an individual; if you educate a woman you educate a nation". The women were told that they have the ability to change their nation, to change their families, and to that they can be a blessing to their husbands and their children.
Both Father Martin and Linda Rinzel also spoke out against violence against women and encouraged women that they can still live abundant lives, no matter what has happened in their life.

The last event of the day was a meal of rice and chicken for the women, which was a definite treat for the average Malawian who generally eats Malawi’s staple of nsima every day. The day ended with hugs, dancing, singing, and smiles. Hopefully these women felt appreciated and valued as they truly are!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

A Widow Story

Staff member Fatmata Kargbo (1st photo to the right) spends her days with Somebody Cares working with widows and supervising income generating programs. Fatmata is a widow herself, which helps her to easily understand the feelings and struggles of the widows she ministers to. She is a lovely woman, a woman who loves to praise her God and who truly cares about the women she works with. Recently, Fatmata's obedience to the Lord instigated a great change in the life of one of the widows from Mtandire. Here is the story:

Nandiliza Chinganga (2nd photo to the right) is an elderly woman, a great grandmother and a widow. Several years ago, her husband passed away as a result of being poisoned, which was greatly traumatic for Nandiliza. In the years following, both of her two children also passed away from being sick with Tuberculosis, leaving her alone to fend for herself. She has a living grandson and great grandchildren, but they live in another village. This situation is quite difficult for an elderly woman in Malawi, having no family members around to take care of her and to provide income. Fortunately, Nandiliza has managed to earn a little income by molding bricks.

Nandiliza happens to live very close to the widows' meeting place in Mtandire, which caused Fatmata to notice her. Fatmata continued to develop a great interest for Nandiliza and decided to visit her, explaining "I try to force myself to befriend people who aren't normally included. I don't want to have fear, but want to encourage people to come to God and to come to the widows' group." As Fatmata continued spending time with Nandiliza, she learned about her story, her family hurts, and about her belief in ancestral worship. Nandiliza had believed in ancestral worship ever since she could remember- she regularly prayed to the ancestors about her problems and believed that the ancestors acted as a mediator between her and a higher force. However, even though Nandiliza believed in the power of ancestral worship, she shared that her soul was not at peace. As Fatmata learned about Nandiliza's life, she was given the opportunity to then share of God's love, how God loved her so much that He even sent His own son to die on a cross for her.

After receiving encouragement from Fatmata, Nandiliza finally decided to give the widows' group a try. And when she did, things began to change. The first time she attended, one of the widows was sharing about loving and supporting one another as God does for us. This greatly impacted her and she could not believe how different this group of women was! The widows spoke of reaching out to others and feeding those in need. She also noticed how the widows' lives had visibly improved- they were learning skills and were happy and at peace. They exhibited a peace that she did not have, and Nandiliza wanted whatever this was. She then prayed with Fatmata, who led her in accepting Jesus Christ as her Saviour!

Full of hope, Nandiliza decided to join the church nearest her, a church she had seen for years, but had never even set foot in. She has also continued attending the widows' group and is eager to learn more from the Bible. A few weeks after accepting Jesus as her Saviour, Nandiliza shared her progress and excitement with Fatmata, "Everyone at church and the widows group has welcomed me so warmly! They've made me feel like I am at home. I am no longer lonely because now I have God and a new family!"

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

A Rare Passion

Last week, I visited Chikudzulire along with Somebody Cares staff members and a team from City of Grace, Arizona. We joined a group of youth from ages 9 to 20-something who were gathered to learn from God and spend time with one another. It was here that I saw something so inspiring and in a way, surprising- so unlike what I am used to seeing among youth. As we joined the youth, they began their time excitedly dancing and singing, led by SC staff Edward Phiri and other youth leaders. As things began to calm down, the youth visibly entered a state of deep worship, not seeming fake in any way, but as though they were ready to enter into God's presence. Most ended up on their knees, with arms raised high and expressions passionate.
Although I could not understand the prayers and songs of worship I was hearing, it was evident that God was touching the hearts of these young people. As they were told to look at specific scriptures in the teaching time, one girl in particular searched for the passages with such interest and enthusiasm, as though this moment was more important than anything! Perhaps these youth truly realize what God has done and do not take it for granted. What differs them from many other youth around the world is not something I am sure of, but I do know that what these youth have is something rare and very special!
By Alisa Gagne

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Breaking the Silence

A Story about Breaking the Silence of Sexual Violence in Malawi 
By Unknown
Edited by Alisa Gagne

Sexual violence is a reality in the lives of many women and children in Malawi. Rapes and domestic violence continue to go unreported as the victims fear the repercussions from their abusers, as well as the fear of lack of support from family, friends and government.
Meet Maria Khosa (not real name)- a seven year old from Mgona. As a little child, she came to the centre for Likuni Phala (porridge). Now, she is in school in standard 1. Maria's mother comes to the centre as a volunteer. 

Only last year, when she was just five years old, she was raped by her neighbour. 

Her mother had left to buy maize and her father had left the house to find work. Maria was left with older brothers, who went outside to play... leaving Maria alone.

It was not long before her neighbour, a man of about 40 years old, called her into his house. Once inside, he tore off her clothes and viciously raped her. Maria's mother came back from the garden to find Maria weeping uncontrollably. After some coaxing, Maria confessed her story. Her mother immediately approached the chief and they took him to the police. The man is currently in custody, facing penalty. Feeling not only wounded, but violated and completely torn inside, Maria was taken to the hospital and stayed there for the next three months. 

One of the points of advocacy is the penalties that these perpetrators face. In many cases, sentences are light and do not begin to reflect the depth of damage done to a child. In this case, what price is just enough to pay for the loss of innocence? What about the damage to the soul that cannot be accessed until it is seen in dysfunctional behaviour as Maria grows? Who pays for that? 

This is where Somebody Cares rape crisis counsellors come in. Somebody Cares has established survivor support systems to enable those traumatized by abuse to access help. In Maria's case, she has been able to spend time talking to an assigned community counsellor. With this support system, rape survivors have a platform to speak and get out what they have held within for so long. It is the beginning of an attack against this vicious onslaught on the lives of women and children.

Update: Maria is progressing very well and has begun attending school again. Her mother has a newborn baby and has made a vow to never leave her children alone- a small but substantial step in providing protection for Maria and her siblings. 

Monday, 1 August 2011

ee-ya, ee-ya

Malawians sing and dance ALL the time (well a LOT Of the time at least)! They sing and dance to welcome a new comer, to rejoice about a new gift, to teach children lessons, to show their emotion. Song and dance is very important to a Malawian- it reveals who they are as a people.

In this short video, the children are singing/dancing to a popular song that you probably have heard if you've ever visited Somebody Cares communities. They actually aren't singing any real word words- they're just saying "ee-ya, ee-ya, ya-ya-ya-ya-ya, eee-ya"! Sing along ;)

Friday, 29 July 2011

New Blog!!

Welcome to the new Somebody Cares blog! We hope this blog can be an inspiration and information source to those supporting and/or interested in our ministry here in Lilongwe, Malawi.

In this blog you will see the faces and places of Somebody Cares. You will also read stories from the perspectives of staff members, volunteers, widows, orphans, teachers, the sick, and much more.

A child at the Mgona Community Centre
Thanks for reading and we hope you'll enjoy! Any feedback is also welcome :)