Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tikuferanji – the sky rocket for change

By their nature wars are terrifying and can be a scaring lot: lives are lost, survivors get displaced, property gets damaged and so is infrastructure the aftermath can be costly…

Whereas military wars would disperse and displace people ADRA MALAWI’s media combat converges and places them together for some behavioral change mitigation.

Unlike with war-zones the ADRA battle-field is civilian – dramatists, comedians or folk-tellers spearheading behavioral change through drama.

Discussing such issues like promiscuity, voluntary blood testing even encouraging unmarried couples to have their blood tested before wedlock sometimes sound misplaced as many regard these as private issues.

However, this is a fight ADRA MALAWI has braved – changing the world-view.

And when it recently took its Tikuferanji drama series to two of the country’s central province districts of Ntchisi and Salima not only was the turn-out encouraging but so was the audiences’ reaction.

With Salima district rated as one with the highest HIV-Aids prevalence areas the media content in the drama series was befitting as the sequel thoroughly addressed the three issues to the audiences’ acceptance.

Senior village headwoman Che Nyama hailed the organisation for the video shows saying such initiative complemented very well efforts she was fostering in her area for her subordinates to go for VCT.

“Am particularly happy for such video shows as an intervention measure you could see for yourself the way those dramatists articulated issues and how the audience responded.

“Drama and video drama in particular can be good weaponry to fighting people’s risky behaviors,” said the senior chief.

Echoing the senior chief Ntchisi district youth officer Jesse Mwansambo hailed the video show-initiative as an effective tool of communicating to masses especially in the very remotest areas where rurals do not have access to such forms of media.

ADRA MALAWI regularly conducts video shows in remote areas which have limited access to television either due to inaccessibility of electricity or lack of the gadget itself.

Author: Tamanda Matebule

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A mother in Mulanje

“The most important thing is to show your children that you love them, then the rest comes a bit easier,” says 30 year old Grace Chisoso from Naliya village in Mulanje district.

Since her husband died in 2001 she has raised and supported her three children on her own. A task that is never entirely simple, especially because her husband’s relatives took their house and most of their possessions when he died. Grace moved in with her mother and has had to struggle to find money to buy food and clothes for the children.

“Life has been difficult,” Grace reflects on her situation. “There are two things that are difficult. The first thing is raising enough money on my own to look after the kids properly. The second thing is bringing up the children, you know, moulding them, guiding them on how to behave.”

Though her own family have supported her in her struggle, they are not in a position, where they can help her out materially. So when Grace joined the, ADRA initiative, LEFAM (let's fight AIDS in Malawi) farmer group last year it was a big relief. The group has just harvested their maize, and Grace really feels she has benefitted from the project. She has maize enough now - not only for her family but she will be able to sell a bit as well.

Single parents’ choice

Though the family is very poor, Grace is happy about her choice to stay with her children.

“A lot of my friends have advised me to just leave the children with my mother and then go out as a sex worker. But I said no, I will not take that route - it is not the best for my children,” Grace narrates. She says, that most women, who have lost a husband, either opt to get remarried or work as commercial sex workers. ”But you know, if you take that road of commercial sex work, chances of staying alive long enough to raise your children is very slim”

Rather Grace is considering going into the egg business.

Being a single parent is never easy, and in the upbringing of her children she often misses having her husband around.

“Within the family setup you definitely need support from the husband. Sometimes the word from the husband carries more weight than the word from the mother. So it is sometimes difficult.” Her two sons are 11 and 13 now, and often times they could use some fatherly advice but Grace does what she can. She suspects, that it will be easier with her youngest daughter Linda.

Support from the women

It has been tough on Grace to watch how her children suffer from the loss of their father. Especially her eldest son Lawrence, who was 7 when his father passed away, took it hard. “At that age he was aware of what was happening, so it affected him very much. The two others were still quite small but now they are realising that there is no father around,” Grace says.

She talks about how the children are slowly realising that their lives might have been different if their father was still around. ” It affects them, especially when they see their fellow children with their fathers, the love that they get from them. And they only get advice from one side.”

Grace has found support in the, ADRA initiative, LEFAM women’s group that meet every Tuesday to discuss different topics such as domestic violence, voluntary HIV testing or how the community can deal with the growing number of orphans. The possibility to openly discuss the hardships, she is facing, with her fellow women in the village has lifted a burden from her shoulders. “I get a lot of moral support from my family, but the ladies from the women’s club, that is where I get most of the support.” 

Grace Chisoso is also a volunteer Home Based Care provider in her village who helps taking care of aids patients who are feeling very ill.

Author: Lise Grauenkær Jensen - ADRA Denmark

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Bicycle ambulances to the rescue

Malawi is one country with a deficit of health facilities in the rural communities. It takes one to travel fifteen to twenty kilometres to access the nearest medical centre. With such long distances, it becomes difficult for the sickly and even their guardians to think of accessing clinical medical help, thereby resorting to witch doctors for medical assistance. Only when conditions deteriorate and become more serious is when people start thinking about taking the chronically ill to medical centres.

Bicycles and wheel barrows are the means of transport to ferry the patients. It normally becomes difficult for the patient to be transported on such because of the positioning of the patient and in some in most these sickly would not reach the clinics alive; they pass away on the way.

Having realised some of these problems in the areas where ADRA is operating, it was found that the best way to alleviate the problem was to provide these communities with bicycle ambulances which would aid and reduce transportation problems of the chronically ill. These would be stationed at the chief’s residence and be operated by the HBC committees who in turn would look in the welfare and the smooth operations and repairs of the ambulance. A partnerships with ADRA Denmark Business Club enabled ADRA Malawi to provide the first 6 bicycle ambulances.

Speaking at one of the sites of presentation in Chiradzulu district, Chief Kadewere, on behalf of his subjects thanked ADRA Malawi for the donation which came at the opportune time when many people were living with the HIV pandemic and had no means to travel to health centres. He also promised that proper care would be taken to maintain the condition of the ambulance at all times. And speaking for ADRA Malawi, District Coordinator for Chiradzulu Mrs Ethel Dzimbiri, urged the community to look at the bicycle ambulance not as an asset for the HBC committee only but as their own. She went on to plead with the committee to use the ambulance for ferrying patients and not bags of maize to the grinding mill and any other duties.

This donation is a milestone in alleviating transport problems faced by communities to ferry patients.

By: Edson Gunsalu - Communications Department/ADRA Malawi Lefam Project

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Review of LEFAM Project

The Danish funded project Let’s fight HIV/AIDS in Malawi (LEFAM) has now been running for just over 2 years and it was time for a mid-term review to follow-up on the progress of the implementation and to assess whether any changes should be made in the strategies used to achieve our set goals.

A team of 4 consultants were hired to carry out the review and the team included 1 Ugandan, 2 Danes and 1 Malawian and was carried out over a 2 week period in the month of April 2009. Key members of the project staff and representatives from ADRA Denmark also participated in the review. The review was conducted in 3 of the 5 implementation areas and included Mchinji, Machinga and Chiradzula Districts.

Many different stakeholders participated in focus group discussions during the 2 weeks including government officials from the districts, religious and traditional leaders, members of the targeted communities involved in the project activities like youth groups and farmer groups, project staff and leaders from ADRA Malawi administration.

The main focus of the project is to strengthen the communities through activities of HIV prevention and awareness, mitigation of the impact of HIV/AIDS and finally creating awareness and action on human right issues. The overall strategy is capacity building of both individuals and the communities at large in order for them to be able to act on their problems and create social change in their communities. One of the main methodologies is to use dialogue among individuals and groups to engage them in taking action on improving the situation of the communities.

Thus the review was aimed at assessing whether the project has been able to take its beneficiaries and targeted communities beyond mere awareness into creating social change, e.g. understood as people taking action into changing social norms, advocating for own rights and holding leaders accountable for their responsibilities.

Some of the preliminary findings from the review are that significant positive changes and improvement in health and social life have been made in the project sites and the project has managed to open up spaces for dialogue and discussions in the communities about issues like stigmatisation of HIV positive people and cultural and social norms. The youth has been engaged in rising awareness on HIV/AIDS in their communities and people living with HIV/AIDS have benefitted much from Home Based Care. One of the activities with the greatest success is gathering people in farmer clubs and improving their knowledge on farming methods which has improved the produce of the households and thus the resilience of people in their everyday lives. An area which on the other hand has faced some difficulties is awareness on rights and creating an environment where people know how to act on the problematic issues.

Now, after the review, what remains for the last months of the project is to implement the remaining activities according to the recommendations given by the review team and to develop an exit strategy in order to try to ensure that the communities will continue with their activities when the project staff no longer is there to supervise the activities.

Author: Anja Larsen - ADRA Denmark

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Strengthening Community Based Civil Society

During a recent visit to Milepa, one of ADRA’s “Let’s Fight Aids in Malawi Project” sites in Chiradzulu, we went to Namahala Village where we held Focus Group Discussions with various groups.  These comprised Traditional Leaders, Clergy, IGA Committee, Youth and CBO Executive members.

While discussing with the CBO Executive Committee members (of Namahala CBO), we were pleasantly informed that this CBO had managed to submit a proposal to the National Aids Commission (NAC) and had received funding from the same. In fact they received about MK 900,000.00. They have since used about MK 200,000.00 for some activities (e.g. buying stationery, conducting more training for their members etc) and have about MK 700,000.00 as a balance. From the visits made to other sites, this CBO was the first we came across to have managed to source funds from other organizations through writing and submitting of a proposal.

This is a sign that the efforts of ADRA to build the capacity of Civil Society Organizations is bearing some fruit and to this the members themselves also testified.  Much as all the credit may not be credited to ADRA’s intervention, there’s definitely a significant contribution by ADRA in this endeavor. This will give confidence to the communities in our impact areas and play a big role towards ensuring sustainability of the project activities after the project comes to an end. From their own declaration they believe they will continue with their activities even after the ADRA project ends.

During the discussions, the members indicated that they were confident enough to be used as a role model and to help other CBOs in proposal writing if requested to do so. However, they requested if refresher training could be organized for them in order to consolidate the knowledge they had acquired during the training organized by ADRA earlier.

At the end of the discussions the CBO members were encouraged to continue working with the other established groups as well as other CBOs in order to synergize and have a joint effort in lobbying for assistance from various organizations and also from Government through the District Assembly Offices. They were informed that in having bigger numbers their proposals and requests would have greater impact and receive more attention.

Similar developments are taking place in all (or most) of our project sites.

Author: Dyson Mbengo

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A soft toy in her hands

In May, Rohde Åkesson and I from ADRA Sweden visited ADRA Malawi together with two representatives for the Swedish organization Water for All. Our purpose was to learn more about what ADRA Malawi does to provide people with water. We spent about ten days visiting various water installations, and we soon realized that ADRA Malawi is doing a very professional and competent work. But the visit included more than that. We also visited some of the beneficiaries in a Women Empowerment project that ADRA Malawi is implementing in the Mulanje area, and that ADRA Sweden is supporting with money from the Swedish Mission Council. We did this in order to give our friends from Water for All a better understanding of what life is like for people in the villages of Malawi.

One of the visits made a special impression on us. We stopped outside an ordinary African house built from locally made bricks. A group of children were standing outside the house. Or, they were not really children. Another year and they would be called youth.

One of them was a girl who may have been about 13 years old. Her clothes were colorful but worn. They looked very bright in the weak evening light – and when she saw us arrive, her face broke into a smile that was even brighter than the fabric in her clothes. Though she was poor she seemed to have the ability to enjoy life.

The girl had a soft toy in her hands, a small elephant, and while she was talking to her friends she was stitching up the neck of the elephant. Andiyesa Mhango, who was our guide and travel companion, told us that the girl’s parents were dead and she and her four siblings were now living with their maternal grandmother. The grandmother had a small plot of land where she grew maize and other foodstuff, but the plot was not large enough to give the family all what it needed. They had enough to eat, but the crop was not large enough to give them any extra produce that they could sell in the market. So money was a constant problem. There was no money for clothes or school uniforms – no money at all.

Andiyesa explained that this is why the soft toy that the girl was stitching was so important. It was her key to a better future. Selling toys gives the family an extra income. Without that income, the girl’s grandmother would not be able to keep the girl at home. She would have to marry her off, probably to an older man looking for a young wife. A couple of years later, the girl would be the mother of one child and expecting another. And when she was 17, the man would probably leave her for a younger woman. In order to provide for her children she would then have to find another man she could live with. A few years later, when she was 24 or 25, she would be the mother of four children, HIV positive and soon dead in AIDS. This is what life looks like for many young women.

But this is not the way her life will be. After the girl’s mother had died, the grandmother joined the Women Empowerment Project that ADRA Malawi is implementing in the area. One of the things she learnt there was how to start an income generating project. Since Mulanje is a tourist area, she chose toy-making as her project. And this has changed the life of the whole family.

The family is still poor, but they have a small and steady extra income that gives them security they did not have before. Now the children will be able to go to school, and they will have a better future, a better life, than what their grandmother has had. And all of it thanks to the small toy animals that the grandmother and the children are producing.

The visit left a lasting impression on us all. It made us see how ADRA changes lives for the better.

Author: Per Bolling – ADRA Sweden.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Community leading Home Based Care

How tactical approaches change the world! ADRA’s aspiration of changing the world; one life at time might sound too ambitious to be real but with a well-coordinated and humble approach on the ground everything is getting possible.

Coming from an always-receiving tendency where communities have been more used to receiving than doing things on their own, implementation of some initiatives have often been uncertain with regards to sustainability.

However, as tales from Kayembe – Dowa district in Malawi’s central province testify for itself ADRA’s mission of changing one life at a time seem to be bearing fruits as communities are able to mobilize resources for their own as taught to them by the organisation.

And upon being given Community Home Based Care (CHBC) kits containing basic medicine needed for PLWHIV-Aids traditional authorities have responded by mobilizing their subordinates to contribute approximately $3.5 towards replenishing HBC kits that were donated by ADRA MALAWI.

Asked why they thought about replenishing the kits village headman Kayembe said ADRA MALAWI had shown them the way of doing things.

“We used to have many people suffering but since ADRA trained HBC providers the situation has eased because these people are not only offering mobile clinic services but also offering psychosocial support to the infected.

 “We therefore thought it was more productive try stand on own as proof to the world that we are now able to apply what ADRA MALAWI taught us by building our capacity,” said village headmen Kayembe.

ADRA MALAWI has so far oriented more than 400orientated HBC providers, this has resulted in more communities having access to medical attention when need arises from the HBC providers.

By: Tamanda Matebule

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Words from the Communities

Interview by: Stanley Mpasa (District Manager - Mulanje)

Several areas of positive change have been realized through the Let's Fight AIDS in Malawi project activities. Orphans, vulnerable children, HIV support groups have been given support items like sugar, porridge flour, beans and others items. Farmers have been given farm inputs like fertilizer, seeds, sweet potato vines and cassava cuttings. Knowledge on best practices like manure making, ridging and crop spacing among others has been cultivated.

The chronically ill have not been left aside, rather they have been taken care of by making available Home Based Care (HBC) Kits and training HBC providers. As such two of ADRA beneficiaries in Mulanje explain how they have benefited from LEFAM Project.

Excerpt of interview to Esther Mohammed.

Q: What are some of the activities that are done by ADRA in this area?

A: ADRA has helped us form Farmers Clubs, taught us modern farming methods and gave us maize, groundnut and soya seeds and some fertilizer. This has helped us to harvest more food for our families. This year they have also given us potato vines and cassava cuttings.

Q: Why do you think ADRA decided to form these Clubs?

A: To help the sick, orphans and the poor in the area to produce enough food to last them the whole year

Q: How have you and your family benefited from being a member of the Farmers Club?

A: The knowledge of modern farming methods, the seeds provided and the use of manure have helped us increase the food production.

Q: Apart from farming, what else does ADRA do?

A: It has helped us gain more knowledge through the formation of  Men’s, Women’s and Youth Groups  which regularly meet to discuss issues relating to HIV and AIDS, rights of Children, Women and HIV Infected people and other relevant topics. The groups also help spread the message about HIV and AIDS and how to prevent its spread. The Organization has also provided training and medicine to people who look after the chronically ill.


Excerpt of Interview to Nellie Mawindo

Q: How have you benefited from the activities done by ADRA in this area?

A: They have helped us increase our harvest through the new farming methods and manure making that has been taught to us. ADRA also provided seeds to the farm clubs. ADRA has also taught us about HIV and AIDS which has enabled us to make better decisions regarding our sexual lives. They have taught us about our rights and they help us to look after the people who are suffering from AIDS in the village.

Q: What do you think is the aim of ADRA for doing this?

A: To help fight the spread of HIV and AIDS and to improve the lives of those suffering from the disease and those affected by it like orphans.

Summing up the benefits of the collaboration wiht ADRA, the beneficiaries indicated that in order to maximize opportunity to enhance their livelihood, there is need for them to be at the centre stage of all activities being implemented. Communities have acknowledged that information becomes power when it is put into practice like the case of beneficiaries in Mulanje.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

First anniversary of ADRA Malawi Today

May 6, marks the first anniversary of ADRA Malawi Today. During this year of existence, published 47 stories, and had, on average, close to 5 different visitors a day in a total of 1676 visitors during the 12 months.

The top 5 countries reading ADRA Malawi Today where: Malawi, United States of America, United Kingdom, Denmark and Australia; 107 different countries were recorded as visiting at least once our blog. Other than Malawi the African country with the most recorded visits was South Africa.

The map above shows the visitors locations during the last 12 months.