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Tearfund recently advertised that we were looking for a World Changer to join our team here in the office. What we have come to realise however is that there are world changers everywhere…
Meet John and his wife Dina. John and Dina attend Open Arms Church in Newbridge, here they heard about the work Tearfund partners have been doing in Haiti since the devastating earthquake of 2010. Open Arms Church is a Tearfund Connected Church, this relationship and their support of people in Haiti began when their church leader Elizabeth Booth watched the earthquake unfold on the TV here in Ireland and was moved at how people praised God that they were still alive when they were pulled from the rubble.
John and Dina then took it upon themselves to go to Haiti to see the work on the ground, to meet with the people and children affected by the earthquake and the people working with them. They went to offer their love, prayers and support.
During their time in Haiti they met with people from Salem Baptist Church; Tearfund’s partner in Haiti that has set up a free school for children, who as a result of poverty have been given away into domestic-service. These children are known as ‘restavek’ children, a slur word for worthless. Restavek children face a life of domestic servitude and a range of other abuse, Salem Baptist Church through the school they have set up are however providing these children with an education, and hope for a better life.
From Left to right: Adlin Junues, Adlin is a widow she is not part of the church but appreciates being able to send her children to the afternoon school at Salem Baptist. She has 3 children herself and has adopted a fourth child. Esperanda Leande, is a widow with four children. LeMoine Jean Batiste is a widow with one child and has adopted two other children. She lives in an unfinished part of the church building and cleans the church. Eva Casseus has two children, one she adopted and one she had herself. She gave birth to her child two days before the earthquake in 2010 and needed to jump from the first floor of the hospital to save herself and her child. Clements Mondesir is an active member of the church, she is a widow with one child.
Back home now John and Dina are leading a committee within Open Arms to deepen the ties between the two churches. John and Dina had an opportunity to listen to the stories of these courageous women and see how the people of Haiti are slowly recovering from one of the worst natural disasters in modern history. They, having being truly inspired themselves by the people they met, could then come home and pass on these stories to their own church congregation, inspiring them to keep praying, keep supporting and keep being part of a miracle.
Hawa Sikweya is a 28 year old farmer from Kalmbo Village, Traditional Authority Kachenga, Balaka District in Malawi. Her husband left her when she was pregnant as she was diagnosed HIV positive while attending antenatal services at hospital. Below is her story.
Hawa had been falling sick quite often and she did not know what the problem was. When she became pregnant in 2012 she did not want to go to hospital fearing that she would test HIV positive. As a result she used to worry about her baby in case she too would be HIV positive. Again due to frequent illness she was afraid that she would die leaving her husband and her other children.
“I was too worried that I was HIV positive and would pass the HIV to my unborn baby. I did not know what to do as there was no one in the village to advise on what I should do.”
A mother buddy who are locally called Bwenzi la amayi started visiting Hawa and encouraged her to start going for antenatal services. The mother buddy explained to her the right things she needed to do as a pregnant woman to remain healthy and ensure that her baby is safe. Tearfund through the Improving Parent and Child Outcomes Project (IMPACT) train these mother buddies who are primarily local church volunteers who are themselves HIV positive mothers, to pass their experience to other expectant mothers in their villages.
Hawa indicated that she was particularly motivated to hear that the mother buddy herself, who looked very healthy, was HIV positive. Hawa started visiting the antenatal clinic where she received counselling from the hospital staff including going for an HIV test where she tested HIV positive. However when she reported her results to her husband he accused her of infidelity and he left her. The mother buddy continued to visit her and provide support and encouragement. Huwa delivered a healthy baby born HIV negative.
“I am very happy as I managed to deliver a negative HIV baby as a result of the support I got from the mother buddy. I am very sure that without the support of the mother buddy my baby would have been HIV positive since I would not have followed the instructions I got from the hospital which has helped me not to pass the HIV virus to my baby.” Said Hawa.
“Now I encourage every pregnant woman to go for antenatal services so that she can get proper advice. In addition I tell them that they need to get an HIV tests so that they know how to take care of themselves.”
In addition Hawa also received goats as a source of livelihood. Through this program the Evangelical Association of Malawi is supporting 436 HIV positive pregnant mothers.
My name is U Myint Wai (pictured right) and there are five members in my family. Before and after Nargis cyclone strikes our region, I worked as daily labour and sometime fishing in night to feed my family. My wife worked as a teacher in village monastic school. My eldest also worked as a paid farmer for land owners. My two daughters also had to work as daily labours to support our family basic needs.
My elder daughter went until grade ten but as we cannot afford for her school fees, she had to leave the school. Even though all of our family members work, we could not save any money for emergency uses, only the debt increased.
While working in others’ fields, I realised that as a skilled farmer only farming can get my family out from this desperate situation. Thus, with the hope to free from debt and have better situation, I asked my landowner to let me be his tenant. Sadly, I didn’t get the chance. As one of our Burmese saying, “There’s no chance of little banyan tree to grow under a full-grown banyan tree”, who will give us a chance to grow. Thus, the ray of hope to free from debt was fad away.
In August, 2011, by chance I attended the discussion about Rice Producers Group (RPG) held by World Concern Myanmar (Tearfund’s partner). The purpose of that discussion which is “to produce more rice and to have food security” attracted me. Hence, I joined the group. As a worker of a landowner, I have very limited time to participate in the group. Then, I decided to quit from group though I was interested in the group as I cannot fully follow the rules and regulations of the group. But with the encouragement and help of my fellow members, until now I can be a member of the group. The unforgettable words from one of my fellows said, “Do you want to be other’s worker and work for them the rest of your life? The objectives and procedures of this group can change our lives and our village!” His words help me to make a right decision.
In 2011-2012 season, I got a chance to work on 2.82 acres as a landless tenant and lend 70,000 kyats (€53.32) for farming materials and 90,000 kyats (€67.27) for initial farming cost with 1 percent interest rate. During that year, my children and I worked both in our field and as daily labours, and my wife taught as the old days. After repaying all the debts, I had eight baskets of seeds for next plantation and rice enough for one month for our family at the end of harvesting. I was very happy that I can have farming materials at the end of the season as they are essential tools to shape our dream.
This year, I work on 13.3 acres and my children and I, we work together in our fields. This year, I get a chance to lend 250,000 kyats (€186.86) for farming materials and 190,000 kyats (€142.01) for initial framing cost with 2 percent interest rate from RPG. Now, I have a buffalo, a till and a harrow that I never dream to own. Moreover, I get a chance to learn not only the new techniques related to framing but also capacity building training which help me to work more systematic in farming and get more knowledge in society. Another thing that I am so grateful is we can send our elder daughter, Kay Mi Kyaw, to school again.
In the past, our nights were full of stress and worries and we rarely had quality time for us. But now we can spend more time together – having dinner together, discussing our needs and future plans. Previously, we had to try very hard in order to give 2,000/3,000 (€1.49/€2.24) kyats donations for village social affairs but I can donate 150,000 kyats (€112.11) in last Ka Tain. As I am a Buddhist, I am so glad that I can make these good deeds.
My dream is to become a land owner and stand on our own. I decided to take part in keeping our Rice Produces Group last long and hand over to our new generations because this group is my guiding star. I would like to send my gratitude to World Concern Myanmar and all the donors who help me see the ray of hope for this life and life after this. I wish you can help more people like me and be a guiding star for many more banyan trees like me.
This particular Tearfund’s project finished couple of months ago but we keep people of Ayeyarwady Delta Region in our prayers.
Hailu Asaro (pictured below – right) is part of Geta Yirdan ‘May the Lord Help Us’ Self Help Group (SHG) in Ethiopia that represents 60 household members including 40 children: 19 boys and 21 girls. We have asked him what does being part of this SHG mean to him?
“I’m married with seven family members. Before I joined my group, I used to work as a daily labourer at a construction site and my wage was very low to feed my family. I worked really hard but was still unable to put food on the table for my family three times a day.
After joining my group, they gave me a loan and I opened a small kiosk selling food items for the village people. My kiosk is less labour intensive than my former job and has a better income. I returned my loan with its interest and retained the shop for my family. Besides my kiosk, I also work for the wholesale business owned by our group and they pay me for the time I spend in the shop. I am a shareholder and also employee of the business. My family’s life is getting much better now. We eat three meals a day; my children are going to school; I buy clothes for my children and in a nutshell we are all happy. This is basically because of the Self Help Group approach. It was a lack of knowledge that kept us in poverty but now we understood we have potential of our own to come out of poverty.”
With your help, we can support the further development of the Self Help Group programme so that more people can work together to use their own resources to feed their families, send their children to school and improve their communities as this group has done.
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On his recent trip to Malawi, Markus Köker, Tearfund’s International Programme Manager visited Ekwendeni, where Tearfund’s partner LISAP with partnership of local churches is providing marriage counselling to couples. The program has become so popular that it has been adopted in other villages around the area.
Amos Mukandavire and Theresa Dinidi, a young couple, that received counselling, reported to Markus that their family has changed. They became closer and more intimate as a couple. The husband has also started to inform his wife about his business, whilst previously he would have never told her for how long he was going to be away from their home. They feel that they have opened up to each other and they trust each other more.
Village Headman and wife Thomas and Angela Ngwira is another couple who received counselling. Angela testified that thanks to it, now they do things together. They are both tobacco farmers (tobacco is the most popular cash crop in Malawi). They grow it and they sell it together, making income, whilst before her husband would have gone to sell it on his own and would have spent the money inappropriately.
Markus also spoke to Wiseman Nkosi and Darlise Nyirenda (pictured left) who are marriage counsellors for those with families and those preparing for marriage. Their report about the benefits of the program is clear: marriage counselling has helped reduce gender based violence, maternal deaths, HIV (thanks to men becoming faithful), and has also changed families by debunking myths (i.e. about not being able to sleep with your wife after her menopause in fear of producing something other than a baby) and teaching men how to help wives with food if is she is sick rather than still expect it of her (traditionally in Africa only women cook). After counselling men are also known to care more about women who are pregnant and after the babies are born.
Markus, who has lived in Africa for over 4 years and has visited many African countries, after visiting this particular program says: “I have never seen people in Africa hugging each other and expressing love openly. That’s unique”.
Marriage counselling in Malawi is another success story – not only does it bring couples closer together but it also has a real impact on serious social issues within Malawian communities, whilst reducing the spread of HIV.
In Autumn 2012 we brought you the story of young Moses from Organgora Uganda (pictured right).
Moses has a love of football and a cheeky grin and is like many other twelve year old boys. But poverty had made his life anything but normal. When food was in short supply his stomach and face swelled up as if he were fat.
Tearfund’s partner Pentecostal Assemblies of God (PAG) is one the largest evangelical denominations in Uganda with some 4,500 churches. Since 2001 it has been mobilising churches and communities in Soroti district, using the Bible as a catalyst for community action that brings physical and spiritual transformation in the areas where the need is greatest.
Hunger has been halved in the communities that are part of PAG’s programmes to mobilise people to realise the resources that they do have and to make use of them. Pastor Wilbrod and his wife Grace (pictured below) were part of PAG’s programme in their village.
We identified agriculture as a way we could help ourselves. I learned that the soil in our part of Uganda is perfect for growing oranges. I sold a bull I owned and bought 100 orange tree seedlings. I now have 300 trees which I can harvest and last year I earned 2.7 million shillings (about €800) by selling the fruit. This has enabled me to send my daughter to University and I have been able to buy 7 cows, pigs and chickens.
Your giving can stop hunger, a regular donation of €12 a month can enable a family like Wilbrod’s to participate in one of PAG’s programmes and ensure that they are fed not just for today but for the rest of their lives.