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SOS child in bath in Malawi
Nearly a third of Malawi's children do not attend primary school, and more than one in ten live with HIV/AIDS. We work in Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu to help families provide a safe, happy childhood for their children, and to provide care for those who cannot grow up with their parents. … more about our charity work in Malawi

The difference the SOS Family Strengthening Programme can make in Malawi

Sarah, her seven children and three grandchildren live a more comfortable life thanks to the SOS Family Strengthening Programme
Sarah, her seven children and three grandchildren live a more comfortable life thanks to the SOS Family Strengthening Programme

Racheal, 35, and Sarah, 51, live in the same city but in very different circumstances. Sarah successfully exited the SOS Family Strengthening Programme in 2013. Racheal and her family have just been accepted into the programme.

Racheal and her daughters live in a mud house with no running water or electricity. Sarah and her family live in a brick house, with full amenities, including a stereo system. Both women face challenges in raising and schooling their children, but Sarah has more resources to cope.

Racheal’s story

In the slums of Mzuzu, Malawi, stands a small mud-house. Part of the home has crumbled, leaving a giant hole in the rear wall. Maize sacks are stretched wide over the opening to provide privacy. The home has no running water, electricity or windows. This dark, dusty mud house is home to Racheal, her husband and four daughters.

Mother and her four daughters outside their mud home in Malawi
Racheal and her family sit outside their mud home

Racheal spends most of her time outside with her girls. Racheal’s six-month-old daughter is usually resting on her hip while she supervises her toddlers play with old bicycle tires. Being unemployed has been a major challenge, but she tries to earn a living by cooking nsima (stiff porridge) in town. When she cooks, she has her two toddlers with her. But, Racheal explains that the hardest part is selling her food without a license.

In the city of Mzuzu, you must be a registered vendor to sell goods. Racheal explains that the city council usually confiscates her ingredients and utensils, which leaves her feeling like a criminal when she is only a desperate mother.

“It’s like starting all over again, every time it happens. But, I have no choice, this is how I provide for my family,” explains Racheal. “On a good day – if I am not caught – I can earn US $3 to $6.”

Racheal’s situation will improve in the coming months. The SOS Family Strengthening team will be providing Racheal with training in entrepreneurship and facilitate her joining a local savings and loan scheme. The team will also assist her in registering her business.

“I am able to send my children to school with the profit I make, but I dream of having a strong business, so that my family has all their needs met,” says Racheal.

Sarah’s success story

FSP in Malawi, a women feeding rabbits
Sarah feeds her rabbits that she sells for a profit

Sarah’s brick house is filled with furniture and decorations. Loud music echoes the halls of the house as children run in the home, zig-zagging into the different rooms. Sarah lives here with her seven children and three grandchildren.

“Don’t be fooled, it was not always like this,” explains Sarah. “Before I joined the SOS Family Strengthening Programme in 2006, I couldn’t pay the school fees of any of my children. My husband and I could barely provide food each day.”

Her husband died in 2013 and for a time she felt as if her life was over. She explains that she had to go back to the drawing board to readapt her family’s plan. She was able to do this with the training she received from SOS Children’s Villages.

All of her children are either enrolled or have graduated school. Sarah uses the sewing skills she learned at the SOS Vocational Training Centre to produce re-usable sanitary pads to females in her neighbourhood. This initiative helps empower her community as thousands of girls miss school because of their menstrual cycle. Sarah uses plastic material or second-hand clothes to create a wrap for the knicker-line with a slot where rolled up cloth can be is inserted to act as an interchangeable pad. One wrap including a ‘pad’ costs US $1. “It usually takes me five minutes to make and I can earn up to US $27 a week,” says Sarah.

She also built an annexe that she rents out for additional income. When Sarah joined the programme she received a male and female pig.  Her piggery is now booming and she also sells rabbits for US $3.60.

“I am so grateful for the SOS programme. I learned how to spend my money and how to make a profit. My wish now is for the whole family to be well educated so that we can help each other in the years to come,” says Sarah. 

SOS Children operates close to 500 family strengthening programmes around the world. Help us reach more vulnerable families. Donate today.