Wednesday, August 22, 2012


     By Claudio Sandoval

 This is an amazing and touching story narrated firsthand by Mr. Kazigonde Mapemba, member of Mulatha Village in the District of Mulanje, where he tells how a bicycle ambulance made the difference for him between life and death.

Kazigonde Mapemba
Kazigonde narrated that in a particular day he was quite alright and went about doing his normal work around the house and in his garden.  At the end of the day after returning home, he suddenly felt sick.  He felt weak and feverish and then started opening bowels. The situation deteriorated very rapidly and he became so weak.  It was then discovered that he had contracted cholera and needed to be transported to the health clinic urgently.

Deadly distance
The normal means of transporting a patient to hospital is to make a temporary stretcher using wooden poles which takes a lot of time to construct additional to the long distance from Mulatha Village to the nearest Health Center that is about 25 kilometers of bad road. 

A blessing for thousands
Blissfully for him, Mulatha Village had recently been benefited with a bicycle ambulance, donated by ADRA Malawi, as part of the Project: Bicycle Ambulances for Rural Communities in Malawi funded by the Ayuntamiento de Elche from Spain. At present this bicycle ambulance is increasing and facilitating a prompt and timely heath access to more than 5,700 people in Mulatha Village.

No time to loose
The patient narrated that when he was being transported, he really did not know what was happening as he was almost unconscious due to the weakness.  It was when he had arrived at the hospital and received some treatment and came to his senses that he realized he was in the hospital. This shows how seriously sick he had been. Due to the kind of disease it was extremely vital for him to receive a quick and appropriate treatment. 

Relief and gratitude
-“I believe I could have died that day had it not been for the presence of the bicycle ambulance which enabled my relatives to move me quickly to the nearest health facility”-, Kazigonde said.  -“The availability of the bicycle ambulance meant that we did not waste time constructing a stretcher but quickly moved to take him to the hospital”-, one of Kazigonde’s relatives also mentioned.

-“I am very grateful to ADRA for the donation of the bicycle ambulance and ask that God could bless the organization and the donors for the timely gesture”-, Kazigonde finalized.

ADRA Malawi donates ambulance bicycles

By Elias Banda

Claudio addressing community members in Mulanje
ADRA Malawi has donated 60 bicycle ambulances to village communities in Mulanje, Mchinji and Dowa to ease transport challenges people face when ferrying patients to the health centers.  Transport challenges coupled with poor road network have caused patients including pregnant mothers to die before reaching the health centers.
In Mulanje,  ADRA  Malawi has donated 7 ambulances in Traditional Authority Chikumbu with support fromAyuntamiento de Elche from Spain. 53 ambulances have been donated to communities in Mchinji and Dowa with funds from Pamplona City Council in Spain. In Mchinji, 27 ambulances have been donated to 13 villages communities in Traditional Authority(T/A) Kapondo and Sub T/A Simphasi.

handing over the ambulance to the community in Mchinji
Women  expressing happiness after receiving ambulance
In Dowa, 13 villages would benefit from 26 ambulances donated in Traditional Authorities; Kayembe, Chakhaza and Dzoole.
Speaking in an interview, ADRA Malawi Country Director Claudio Sandoval said the donation was a response to community needs and that the ambulances would enable patients get to the health centers much faster. He expressed the importance of mutual partnership existing between ADRA Malawi and her community partners. He urged community members to use the ambulances effectively and build trust in their leaders.
In Mulanje, the ambulances are expected to benefit 5, 700 people who would now able to take patients to Mulanje District Hospital or other health centers within the reasonable time.  

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Village banking improves women lives in Salima

By Francis Zande, Project Manager, Tsogolo Labwino

What started as a mere experiment in 2009 with 8 groups each composed of an average of 15 women in Salima district has turned out to be a life saver for many households in Traditional Authorities Kambwiri and Kalonga of the district. ADRA Malawi’s Australia funded Tsogolo Labwino Project is now working with more than one thousand women and men who have developed interest to increase their financial bases of their homes by engaging in group money savings and lending.
The project has currently seen an accumulated savings of more than Mk 20 million Kwacha ($75,000) from the 53 groups that are now practicing the popularly known village banking.
A lot of women are now able to start small businesses such as vegetable selling, fritter making or even grocery vending as the initiative offers them an opportunity to access loans to start up their business ventures.
“This initiative has tremendously increased the economic security of my household through the accumulation of assets such as a bicycle and a permanent house”, said  Mary Kasino of Futi village in Traditional Authority Kalonga.
A happy Mary kasino with her bicycle
ADRA has been the driving force for these groups to get established. Beginning with community awareness and sensitization to group formation and training; and training village instructor agents, many women have found a new lease of financial security from the new found banks that are right on their doorstep.
How the groups operate is not a miracle at all. Villagers from within the same community with similar characters organize themselves into groups not exceeding 20 people each. The village instructor agent starts giving them trainings such as group formation, group dynamics, constitutional development and finance management over a couple of weeks. During this period the group members start depositing an agreed upon share value in form of money into the group fund. Overtime the group members start borrowing money when they want to start a business or support their personal needs and pay back the money with an agreed upon interest of course within a given period of time.
Chisangalalo VSL Grocery

The monies are deposited for a period of 12 months during which saving and lending takes place. At the end of the agreed period the money is shared out basing on the number of shares each individual has accumulated and the interests accrued is also shared in the same ratio. The group then restarts the savings soon after shares are given out. Those who want to move out have the right to do so and others may join depending on the statutes laid down by the group.
Umodzi Women Group of T/A Kambwiri had an annual accrued share value of Mk1.3 million ($4,800) by December, 2011. When time to share out the money arrived, one woman, Rhoda Kamai, went away with a whooping Mk150,000 ($555). She has since expanded her business to an extent that she goes into other districts to source commodities such as beans which are not readily available in Salima district. She has since roofed her house with iron sheets, paid secondary school fees for her two children and is also running a small grocery.
What looked like a venture for poor women has now started to attract some government and private sector women too. The Project has been approached by school teachers, Police women and hospital workers to train them in starting up savings and loans groups.
The project has brought back smiles on women faces
There are some groups that have gone further in creating a group business. One such group is Chisangalalo which has opened a village shop and tea kiosk. They mobilized money for the construction of their shelter and payment to the builder. ADRA came in to assist with a starter pack fund of $750 for stocking the shop. Today the group has opened a business account with one of the banks in Salima and at times supports the elderly and orphans in their village as part of social responsibility. The treasurer of the group Mrs Litia Kwamdera said that “we share some profits on quarterly basis to buy some household needs; this has lessened dependency on our husbands who have at times been abusive.”

Each savings and loans group has a different money lending rate which spans between 20 to 30 percent and cases of defaulting repayment of loans have so far been less than 2 percent. This is due to the fact that these people know each other well and live within the same community.
“I have been able to buy a bicycle and a few cloth wrappers for myself. My husband takes me in high esteem now and I have at times given him some money to propel his personal business. I don’t regret joining ADRA groups in savings and loans” Litia says. “Above all, savings and loans groups have helped bond our relationships in this village because as women we share different skills and knowledge when we meet and this has helped build a better life in our homes,” she concludes.
As I leave for home from my routine monitoring visits, a song is tuned up from one of the women saying “wokana ADRA akagwere uko, safuna kutukuka” meaning those refusing or not joining ADRA initiatives should fall off because they don’t want to develop. As the sun sets in the evening, I cherish with satisfaction what I have seen and heard during my monitoring visit.
Tsogolo Labwino Project,  meaning bright future is being funded by Australia to bring about society and individual change in Salima, Central Malawi.