Saturday, 13 October 2012

All Things are Possible - a Father's Story

Recently, Somebody Cares has been partnering with with Women Judge's Association of Malawi bringing truth to victims of rape and domestic abuse about their rights as citizens under Malawian law.  During a visit to Mtandire (a community near Lilongwe where 60+ incidents of rape and domestic abuse are reported each month), we heard Richard Milanzi's story.  This was a case where we could be 'Silent No More'.  Read his story below.

Court Case: Richard James Milanzi
Community: Mtandire
Date: 2 October, 2012

Richard Milanzi is a husband and father of four children in Mtandire.  He and his wife separated in September 2012.  At that time the 3 younger children were still at home, while the oldest daughter is married living in Salima.  The separation came about as a result of his wife being unfaithful, her being caught in the act of adultery on two occasions.  She is also fighting with her co-workers at her place of work, as she has been going out with their husbands too. 

As Mrs. Milanzi was moving out of the family home, she took with her all of the household items: all of the pots, all of the mats, all of the blankets, everything.  Richard was left with nothing to help take care of the children.  They were forced to cook in small tins and to sleep on the cold floor. 
The youngest boy, Yohane (15), refused to continue to eat.  He was so upset at what was happening between his parents.  The counselors in Mtandire visited the home to speak with him in order to bring him some comfort and help.  The daughter in Salima took her youngest sister, Shailene (12), to live with her in order to help the family. 

Richard earns a living from the rental of 5 small, one-room houses that he has built near his own home- bringing in a meager monthly income of MK2500.  In the divorce proceedings, Mrs. Milanzi wanted the 5 houses sold in order for her to have her portion of the profits from those sales.  Richard refused to do so as this is the only source of income for the children.  But Mrs. Milanzi pressed the issue and Richard was given a court order to pay her MK60,000 for her share of the land and the houses.  This was money Richard simply did not have.  Nor did he feel this was appropriate since the reason for the divorce was her infidelity. 

In recent months, SC has partnered with judges and lawyers (WOJAM-Women Judges Association of Malawi) to work with them in community, informing people of the law and their rights. On one such visit the counselors in Mtandire asked lawyer/advocate Martha Chizuma to represent Richard at the court hearing.  She was more than happy to do so as this seemed to be a case of misrepresentation of the facts in court.  Martha reminded Richard that Jesus went through trials,  Jesus had faith in the Father and He will never fail us.  It’s that same trust in the Lord that Richard will need, she encouraged.  God will intervene. 

On 2nd October, 2012, Richard, Martha and Mrs. Thomas (zone leader and a champion counselor from Mtandire) went to the Magistrate building.  Magistrate Mwangonde called for Richard’s file.  He was to pay MK60,000 – MK15,000 a month for the next 4 months – to Mrs. Milanzi.  If he’s unable to pay, he would lose the land completely.  Martha spoke up and explained to the judge that this amount was too costly.  She explained that Richard is still taking care of the children and that the rental income was his sole source of funds.  After hearing the case, Magistrate Mwangonde reduced the amount to MK2,000 every month to be paid to Richard’s ex-wife.

Richard is very thankful to Martha and Somebody Cares who have helped him.  It was a pleasure for him to see that the counselors would not let him stand alone.  He thought that since the counselors that were helping him were women, that they would not be able to handle his ex-wife.  But now he is more than satisfied that that is not the case.  He is relieved at the outcome and can now sleep peacefully. 

Richard is thankful that his plot of land was not taken away.  He is also grateful for the reduced cost of only MK2000 a month so that he can still take care of his two boys living at home.  He appreciates the work of the counselors and chiefs as they have given of their time, energy and sympathy for his situation.  He thanks God for the good works that have been shown to him and the support of the community around him.

On 8 October, Richard was called back to the Magistrate’s office.  Magistrate Mwangonde told Richard that he had read the entire file for his case and had chosen to reverse the court’s decision.  Richard was told he was to pay nothing to Mrs. Milanzi.  After reading all of the facts in the case, the Magistrate was convinced that all of the issues in this case were at the hand of Mrs. Milanzi; and therefore Richard was not financially responsible to his ex-wife in any way.  After years of fighting though infidelity and divorce, he is finally free from this woman. 

Mrs. Thomas and Richard were overjoyed.  Richard now has faith that all things are possible through Christ who strengthens us.  He is thankful for the good works of the Lord, and the hard work of all of those who stood by him through this ordeal.  

Thursday, 4 October 2012

My Appreciation

We received a letter today from one of our youth, Alex Mausen from Mgona. Alex has been a part of the Somebody Cares family since 2007 when he nearly dropped out of school because he needed help paying his school fees. Alex came to know Christ through his time in the Somebody Cares family. Prior to that, he was a Muslim. Yet being a part of this family, and seeing Christ's love lived out through the staff and volunteers, Alex gave his life to the Lord. We could not be more proud of the man of God he has become. Please take a minute to read his letter:

Subject: My Appreciation

 I would like to thank God a lot for using the ministry of Somebody Cares to be a step-up transforming factor of my life in all the essential angles of my life (social and spiritual).

I became a son of Somebody Cares in the year 2007 when I was taken to start my secondary education after a long time of just staying at home doe to lack of school fees.  This was because there was no one to pay my school fees, but Somebody Cares came to the rescue and I was taken away from the uneducated world.  I worked hard all the way in my education so that I could make good use  of the money that Somebody Cares paid me for fees until I wrote my Malawi School Certificate examinations in the year 2010.

After the MSCE results came out, my wish to be in one of the universities of Malawi grew bigger and I worked hard towards writing the university entrance examinations.  Unfortunately, I wasn't on the list of selected candidates to go to university.  Somebody Cares further helped me to sit again for the entrance examination and as I was waiting for the results, I was told to find a course I could be studying and it was like my prayer answered.  I chose to study computer engineering at Beston College of Accounting and now I have written the certificate in computer engineering examinations.  Thank you Somebody Cares!

Now the university entrance examination results are out but unfortunately, I'm not on the list of the selected candidates again.  The University of Malawi just took 908 candidates out of thousands.  This means I still have a long term of being out of the university, but all the same I don't lose hope for I know God's time is the best, no matter how long.  But what He made for me shall come in His own time.

My life hasn't been the same since Somebody Cares embraced me and it is my prayer that God should cast light of the Holy Spirit on the ministry for its long existence.  May the God bless and give long life to the F.E.D. (Founder and Executive Director, Theresa Malilia) for using the knowledge that God gave her to establish this ministry.  Thanks to the entire family of Somebody Cares for the support and encouragement.

May the good Lord bless you all!

Alex Mausen

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 ;)