by Tara Finglas
It is amazing what can be accomplished in so little time, I saw with my own eyes the miracle that has happened in just one year for orphans in the village of Patsankhondo in Malawi.
Fountain of Hope children’s home owes its existence and success to the imagination and hard work of one man, Moses Njovu. He is a rare example of a volunteer who wanted to make a difference for the good of orphans in Malawi. With his vision he built an orphanage that caters for 1, 800 Malawian orphans on a daily basis. By overcoming so many obstacles, Moses has gained the trust and help of the local villagers who now see Fountain of Hope as an integral part of the survival of the community.
‘The children who come here walk very far to get here; some of them walk 15km every day. I went to Canada in 2007 to study development in leadership, and the people who helped me study also helped me to build this centre,’ says Moses.
Despite 1, 800 orphans showing up to the door of the orphanage daily, Moses and his team of volunteers can only afford to feed 400 orphans. Fountain of Hope does not receive government grants or assistance from any other NGO, it relies totally on the goodwill of people. Last month during the excitement of the Malawi parliamentary elections, the orphanage received many political visitors who assured Moses and his team that funds would be on the way. The new cabinet has been sworn in and the ministers have taken up their respective posts but the money has not trickled down to the orphanage.
Electricity in Malawi is severely hampered by poor infrastructure and bad planning. The orphanage is trying its best but more could be done if it had access to one of the most basic utilities, electricity. Lacking financial assistance and daily food supplies, the orphanage has gone as far as it can without electricity, if it wants to reach its goal of being sustainable electricity is a must.
‘We have no regular income, it all comes from donations but we do have a small income generating activity going on but all of this is very difficult without electricity,’ says Moses, ‘we are still waiting for power, we are connected and we have paid for everything. Escom say they are waiting for materials but why didn’t they use the money we paid to buy materials, it is crazy and it is the children who suffer.’
Moses knows that innovation and hard work is what will make a difference to the lives of the children. In the last year, Moses and his team of volunteers have used innovative and sustainable ways to boost the resources of the orphanage.
According to Moses, ‘the bore hole was our first project. We hired a private company to come and drill it for us. Then we started with the community washrooms eight months ago. We have five showers, five toilets and urinals for the boys.
‘You know in the community they use the pit latrines, which are not hygienic. We also have showers so that when the children come to school dirty they can wash but we cannot use any of this as we are still waiting for Escom to turn the power on.’
The goal of any new orphanage is the ability to have a good income generating activity. With this in mind, the orphanage bought a brick making machine and has two milking cows that produce 20 litres of milk daily. The orphanage volunteers boil the milk first and then sell the milk to the local community. In a small wooden structure next to the cows 100 chickens run free. The chickens produce good quality eggs which are also sold to the local community to raise money for the orphanage.
‘We buy a bag of cement each month and we make bricks so that we can eventually build classroom blocks. We want to have one teacher for every 40 students, not the government norm of one teacher to 60 students, we want to do better. We also have a small vegetable garden; we grow tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage and relish this garden feeds all of the children,’ says Moses, ‘previously we had to rent a piece of land nearby to grow maize, we grew 500kg of maize, which we then cook and make into Nsima the traditional Malawian staple food for the children.’
Fountain of Hope orphanage is filling a gap in the community but in order to ensure its survival it needs more help. Right now the orphanage is only able to deal with the basic needs of the children; feeding. Another major issue that plagues the children is HIV. With many Malawian children suffering the effects of malnutrition and wasting, the demise of children’s immune systems as a result of HIV is common.
‘Some of the children inherited HIV but we don’t differentiate them from the other children. The children do not know each other’s status. We know which children are HIV positive so that if they get sick we can care for them in the correct way. About 10% of the children here are HIV positive, and their immune systems are quiet bad. When sunset comes the children walk home but for villages that are more than 15kms away our volunteers here will bring them back on the back of bicycles. They are too little to walk by themselves,’ says Moses.