During our trip we visited several graduates of the WeSeeHope vocational program. Here the children are identified by the village chief to be part of the program based on skill and the child’s background. All of these children are again orphans whose families are in a very difficult economic situation.
The first girl we met, Memory, lost her father in 2010 due to HIV/AIDs. By 2012, with her mother being unable to come up with the funds for her school fees, she was forced to drop out of school. The family lived a very difficult life, many nights going to bed hungry.
The father left behind three children (2 girls and 1 boy). Unable to support the three children, the eldest daughter was married off at the age of 17. Memory was then selected to be part of the WeSeeHope vocational program in 2017, where she has now learnt to be a taylor.
Now a graduate of the program, WeSeeHope provided her with the materials and the sewing machine for her to start her own tailoring business where she has become very successful and most of the village now sends their work to her. Memory now earns a comfortable salary and is not only the sole income earner for the family, she is also supporting her elder brother’s school fees.
Her future looks very bright as she has plans to save to purchase a second sewing machine and employ future graduates of the vocational program to build up her business even more. In return for this opportunity, she has agreed to pay it forward by teaching another 3 orphans who are selected in the future by passing on the trade and skills she has learnt.
Another graduate of the vocational program was a 17 year old boy, Oswald. He lost his mother in 2003 when he was only 3 years old. After that, the father left the village to marry another woman outside the village, leaving him and his brother to be raised by the grandmother.
Unfortunately, a few years later, his brother passed away. While his grandmother could support Oswald, and pay for his school fees through primary, she was unable to support him any further, also causing him to discontinue his studies after primary.
Last year, he was selected for the vocation program and just graduated a few weeks ago as a carpenter. Today, Oswald can build doors, window frames, coffee tables, stools, and bed frames. He wants to be able to save enough money to buy fertilizer to start building his garden to further make more income to build his first house.
He is also paying it forward and already has one student that he is training the skill of carpentry to. The income he earns now supports him and his grandmother who is very old and frail now, well over the age of 80.
Another wonderful encounter was with a student that opened his own carpentry shop called “Simple Man’s Workshop”. The shop was well situated near the main road, allowed for easy access for the graduates to gain business. Here we met one boy who lost his father at a very young age.
He had to drop out of school in Secondary School due to lack of funds for school fees. In 2015, the village chief selected him for the WeSeeHope vocational program. Before that, he would be working odd jobs in the fields, barely earning $1 per day. After the 6-month vocational program, he was provided with a toolkit which contained various tools such as a hammer, a saw, a vice grip, and other smaller tools, which enabled him to open his shop and start his carpentry skill. Today, the boy supports his entire family including his mother and younger brothers. His income has allowed him to start growing crops in his own garden and owns two pigs. His business has grown to be so successful that he relies entirely on taking orders, as opposed to building pieces that he then must sell in the markets. In 2016, he trained another orphaned boy. Together in 2017 they opened their shop near the main road.
This second boy’s father passed when he was only 3 years old. He was forced to drop out of Secondary Form 3 due to lack of school fees as well. He now also is the sole income earner in his family, supporting his brother and three sisters, purchasing clothing, food and even a bicycle for himself to assist in additional income generation. In the future, the two boys plan to employ even more graduates of the vocational program and grow their business. They even won a contract recently to build 50 desks for a government school which generated 100,000 Malawian Kwacha. The future looks very bright for these two. Furthermore, they are already paying it forward, training two more orphans to become carpenters.
One of the most memorable visits of graduates was a boy who lost both his parents. He was a victim of child abuse and was found living completely alone in his house, in a very bad state.
The village chief was extremely concerned about him and feared he would commit suicide if his situation was not improved. He was selected for the vocational program and was trained for free for 3 months to become a tinsmith. Today we met this boy right in front of the new house he is building for himself, for which you could see the pride in his face. This boy who was completely alone, today is building his own home and could afford having a metal roof being installed on his home while we were there.
Another memorable experience was meeting a group of six vocational students each learning a different skill: tailoring, carpentry, tinsmith, brick layer.
One of the boys, now a bricklayer through the vocational program, spoke about his life before the program that completely transformed his life. He used to be a member of a drug gang with the boys around him drinking and smoking their lives away.
Now after the vocational program, he has started to build his own house and has also built a new house for his grandmother, in fact before finishing his own!
Simply amazing transformation from where he was to where he has come.