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In Malawi, a desperately poor country in south east Africa, the primary causes of death for women of reproductive age are diseases related to AIDS, and complications associated with pregnancy and childbearing. Tearfund’s partners are bringing hope and practical help to women with HIV. Before Tearfund Ireland’s project in Malawi began, one in five children being born to HIV-infected mothers were starting their life with HIV – a death sentence at birth. And 4,600 women died every year due to pregnancy-related complications, with a third of these deaths attributed to HIV.
IMPACT stands for Improving Parent and Child Outcomes. Working with two local partner organisations in three marginalised districts of Malawi, IMPACT aims to halve the rate of HIV transmission from parent to child to 7%, through a network of church-based volunteers.
Above picture is baby Maureen born free from HIV. Her mother Dorothy previously lost a baby due to miscarriage and was able to receive psychological support through this project as well.
IMPACT is embraced by local health authorities, communities and churches. An innovative component of the programme is its ‘Mother Buddies’ scheme, mobilising HIV-positive women to support HIV women who are pregnant, alongside their husbands, by linking them to the nearest clinic.
It was hailed as a ‘best practise project’ in an independent evaluation. A recent article in The Guardian newspaper quotes one of the Mother Buddies as saying:
‘Since starting [the programme], all women have delivered HIV negative babies, which has contributed to reducing child mortality in this area. [The programme has] also helped to mobilise men to support their wives. The number of women dying in childbirth has also dropped.’ Fanny Luwemba, Sandi.
Alongside its support for IMPACT, Tearfund Ireland funds vocational training for vulnerable young people in an effort to address the shortage of opportunities for relevant further education, and the lack of opportunities to earn a living.
- The parent to child transmission rate has been reduced to 6%.
- EAM’s Mother Buddies initiative supported 194 HIV-positive pregnant mothers and 160 pregnant couples with counselling, information on birth plans, good nutrition and the importance of specific Anti Retroviral drugs.
- Within a six-month period, EAM tested 1,131 people in six mobile HIV testing and counselling campaigns in two districts – an increase of 293 people compared to the previous year.
- Within Mzimba district, 61% of pregnant women were accompanied to ante-natal clinics by their male partners.
- Marriage counselling and training on parent-to-child transmission reached more than 6,000 people.
- Vocational training in carpentry and tailoring is delivered to 20 direct beneficiaries leading to an externally certified qualification.
Umoja, from the Swahili language of East Africa, means being of one mind and captures the spirit of people working together. The Umoja programme which Tearfund runs in Cambodia works through our local partner, International Cooperation Cambodia (ICC) and is about helping the local church to work with its community, sharing a vision to address local needs using their own resources.
Umoja brings remarkable transformation to local churches and their communities. This is the story of Sok Vanny (pictured left) a volunteer facilitator of VIDP-Umoja project in Prey Tachab Village and Buth Samdy (pictured below) pastor of Tasu New Life Church in Cambodia.
My name is Sok Vanny, I am 31 years old and I am a volunteer facilitator of VIDP in Prey Tachab Village. This VIDP-Umoja project began in 2012 and I have been involved since December that year. Before I was involved in the Umoja program, I was living in a very small house and I didn’t have enough income to support my family. I was hired to carry soil and build houses and I also worked in a factory. At that time I had bad health as working in the factory caused problems with my respiratory tract. I was working too hard, and the chemicals in the factory’s clothing were badly affecting my health.
One day, Pastor Vannak told my church and me about the Umoja program. He said, “Umoja is a unity program, which will develop our church and community”. So, I decided to learn how best to implement Umoja. I had training sessions one day a week for three months with Mr. Herry and Pastor Vannak. These sessions were hard as they were given only in English. Despite this initial difficulty I worked hard to take all of the information on board. Three months after the training, I had started to raise chickens as my own personal project and set up a Saving Group Project too.
Nowadays, my family’s livelihood is getting better. Since I have been involved in the chicken-raising project, I have been earning some extra money for my family. Beside this, I have joined the Saving Group and invested some money in the Unity Tailor Project too. I don’t have to spend much money buying medicine anymore, because I have good health now. I have learned how to use all the resources available to me in order to improve my family’s livelihood.
Umoja has taught me to have a good relationship with God. I have been encouraged by the words of God, in particular John 6:1-14 (Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand). Here I have learned that I have to be faithful, and believe that God will always provide us. Since I’ve become involved in the Umoja program my vision has never changed. As I am a facilitator, I want to see my church grow spiritually and improve their livelihoods. I want to see the people in my community work, help and love one another.
Umoja has taught me to be self reliant
My name’s Buth Samdy, I am 29 years old and I am the pastor of Tasu New Life Church. I have been implementing Umoja in my church since July 2009.
In 2009, a pastor from our Mother Church introduced me to a program called Umoja. I did not know what Umoja was but they told me that it would be a good program for our community. It would help the church to stand strong while being self-dependent. I spent some time thinking about whether Umoja would be suitable for our goals or not.
Before I agreed to receive Umoja, I had always been dependent on the support and help of foreigners or other organizations. Even as I prayed that God would provide my church with a garden and a frame I was still thinking that God would send someone else in to support my church. I had never thought about how I could help my village to improve their livelihoods. I was focused on my growing belief in God and doing evangelism within the church’s community.
During the time that I was considering whether or not to receive Umoja, I was praying very hard to God and asking that His will be done. Then, I heard God say to me, “Let’s do it.” So, I decided to stop receiving support from others and since that time, I have noticed that my own mindset has changed. God has blessed me through Umoja and helped me to discover more of my own abilities. Now I am aware of and can use the resources all around me whereas before I didn’t even know that I had them!
God is encouraging me to be self-reliant. I’ve learned that in order to make good decisions I must listen for God’s voice. I believe that He will be with me, and He will support my church in the future.
One day, when my church had started to build the frame for our new garden, I encouraged my church to give an offering. We decided to give the offering towards the building of the church garden, frame and toilet. I am so happy to see how great our God is and that he has blessed us through Umoja.
Now, I don’t look on Umoja as the program of an organization, but I treat it as my church’s own ministry. My dream is to see our church members, who aren’t involved in the Umoja program, as well the outer community, living a better life. I don’t only see their livelihoods getting better but I also long for them to grow spiritually too.
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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