Malawi: Red Cross volunteer advocates for children in his village

Publié: 3 août 2016 9:30 CET

By: Lene Vendelbo, Danish Red Cross

Moffat Chiwaya is a determined volunteer with the Malawi Red Cross Society. So when he decided to change the future for 30 school drop outs in his village, he succeeded. The key word was humanitarian diplomacy targeting parents and traditional leaders.

Four years ago many orphaned and vulnerable children in the village Ramusi 2 in southern Malawi did not go to school. “About 30 children were just hanging around in the village,” recalls 38-year-old Moffat Chiwaya. A Red Cross volunteer, Chiwaya is himself, a father of four. “My own children all attend school. They have to or else they have no future.”

Chiwaya went to the traditional leader to consult him about his worries. “Our leader is very influential and he welcomed the idea that we should try to get these children back in school and that I, with his blessing, could talk to the people in the community who were responsible for the children.”

“Look into the future with me”

In Malawi, primary school is free. Parents only have to pay for uniforms and school materials. But secondary school is quite costly and talking to the parents and guardians of the secondary school drop outs was particularly difficult for Chiwaya. “While we managed to get the primary school children back in school fairly easy, the parents and the guardians had a hard time understanding the importance of a secondary school education. Many of them had arguments about money – that they could not afford to pay school fees and uniforms.”

Chiwaya took his time trying to explain. “I tried to get them to look into the future with me.” He emphasized that a life without an education would consist of piecework, while an educated person would have more possibilities and that, in the end, this would also benefit them as parents or guardians.

A change agent in the community

Chiwaya found himself in a deadlock when he heard that the Danish Red Cross, through the Malawi Red Cross Society, had decided to support the most vulnerable children in his community with school fees. “Now it was suddenly possible to make the change I had been fighting for.” All 30 children, who had previously just been hanging around, suddenly found themselves back in a classroom. Chiwaya had achieved his dream.

But he realized the project, which would phase out after four years, would only be a temporary solution. “I have initiated this change. Now the biggest challenge is to sustain the success. I will continue to work with the traditional leader and community so we can keep it a success, although the challenges are many.”

Moffat Chiwaya now considers himself as a change agent in his community. “I have built my own capacity in development and I hope that more people in my community will discover their volunteer spirit so we can do more capacity building.”