If you ever have the chance to visit Mtendere Village – you will quickly realize that our program for orphans and vulnerable children would not be possible without the dedication and care of our “housemothers.” They are the glue that holds everything together – they are the heart of Mtendere Village.
Given the high number of orphans and the prevalence of domestic violence against women in Malawi, it is not surprising that many of our housemothers have a history that includes these elements. The stories of neglect and abuse are devastating, but I cannot help but smile at the redemptive power of their stories. Once broken themselves, these women understand the pain evident in the eyes of every abused child that is brought into the Mtendere family—an understanding that is critical to breaking through the protective facades and helping our children find healing. To provide insight, I’d like to introduce one of our housemothers.
Naomi was orphaned as a child, and in order to survive, she traveled from village to village to complete odd jobs in exchange for food. When that wasn’t enough, which it rarely was, she begged others for help. She lived on the street, had no protection from those who would take advantage, and was never quite sure where her next meal would come from. School was never an option, and Naomi never learned to read or write.
She did eventually marry, and she and her husband had five children. Sadly, her husband died and Naomi could no longer afford to send her children to school. The cycle of illiteracy and poverty, it seemed, would continue indefinitely.
When Naomi heard about Mtendere Village, she came to us and asked for a job. We quickly realized that she would be a wonderful addition to Mtendere Village, and we offered her a position as a housemother.
Because of her new job, Naomi was able to afford the school fees to send her youngest child to high school. Now that she is a grandmother, she sends money to her children to help make certain that her grandchildren are able to attend school. Naomi’s love and compassion for others is evident in everything that she does, and she is always the first to help others fulfill their dreams. Witnessing this, our team at 100X could not help but want to do something to help her achieve a lifelong dream.
Each time Naomi received her paycheck, she stamped her thumbprint to acknowledge the payment. This was not the result of some sophisticated identification technique, but was done because Naomi had never learned how to write her own name. With the help of Phyllis Collins, a volunteer teacher from the US, we began tutoring Naomi in reading and writing. After three months, I witnessed Naomi sign her name in my payroll book for the first time in her life! The joy for both of us was immense!
It is beautiful to see Naomi, an orphan who spent her childhood living and begging on the streets, loving and caring for other orphaned children, and it has been a privilege to walk alongside her and see her realize a dream she had abandoned any hope of achieving.