Felina Katema has endured plenty of knocks throughout her young life in Malawi.
Poverty too has landed some hefty punches, but not only is Felina still standing, with Tearfund’s help she’s making a comeback. No longer is she being assailed by hunger, desperation and hopelessness.
Life had been secure for Felina until 2010 when her husband died, leaving her with a three-year-old son Benjamin to bring up. With no income, she headed for the Malawian capital Lilongwe where she got a low paid job.
Then another hammer blow landed. Felina’s brother and sister died in quick succession, leaving their three orphaned children to her care.
‘Life was unbearable in the city since my employers paid me very little and often times too late. My son was often sick and this bothered me a lot. It was so painful to live in a rich neighbourhood but under poverty so one day I decided to return to my village,’ said Felina.
Here she came to the attention of Tearfund partner Ministry of Hope which runs a project to assist children at risk and their carers.
Felina took part in various training sessions aimed at improving her livelihood, focusing on health, nutrition, livestock farming, conservation agriculture, fruit tree management and basic business skills. Besides the training, the project provided Felina with fertiliser and seeds to grow crops.
She was also linked with a partner-organised Self-Help Group, where women come together to form a savings and loan club and also to share problems and support each other. Every member saves a regular amount and in time becomes eligible to take out a loan. Felina used hers to start a business buying and selling fruit and vegetables.
‘Immediately my life changed dramatically since my small business started producing results,’ said Felina.
‘We no longer slept on an empty stomach since we had enough money to buy food. I also managed to buy things like soap, salt, sugar and clothes. The seeds and fertiliser enabled me to harvest enough food for my family.’
Joining our partner’s project had a notable psychological impact on Felina as the discussions about how to improve lives changed her thinking: ‘The counselling I received from Ministry of Hope helped me to realise that as an individual I have potential to turn my situation around.
‘I no longer need to move to cities to find a job to feed and educate my family. Now I have managed to build a decent house through my business and farming. However my priority is to ensure that Benjamin and the other three children are going to school.
‘I’m so thankful to God. I have seen God’s love in the work of Tearfund and Ministry of Hope.’
With 51 per cent of the 15 million people in Malawi living below the poverty line, helping poor households build sustainable livelihoods and a better quality life is a top priority of Tearfund’s work in the country.
Tearfund works in partnership with 11 Christian organisations and church development departments across Malawi, focusing on reducing people's exposure to disasters, helping them adapt to climate change, improving their access to food, water and sanitation, as well as supporting children at risk and people living with HIV.
Our work began in 1998, through the Evangelical Association of Malawi, and with partners it is now reaching more than a million people.
In April 2008, Tearfund established a country office in Lilongwe to provide administrative as well as technical support to the 11 partners who are implementing projects.
In recent years, Tearfund supporters have been introduced to our long-term work in Malawi through the evolving story of Fombe village in the southern region of Chikwawa.
Tearfund partner Eagles began working in Fombe, among other villages, during the food crisis of 2002, and has moved beyond providing emergency relief to mobilising the church to respond to the development needs of the community.
As a result of the church’s work, the community has created vegetable gardens, established community-based childcare centres and drilled boreholes to provide clean safe water. Before, most women could not read or write, but now, thanks to an adult literacy school, 65 per cent of women in the village can read.