Addressing needs – empowering communities

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The work of KINDLE Orphan Outreach is supported by SIM Malawi project MW96758 KINDLE Outreach and Development in Nanjoka

 

KINDLE Orphan Outreach, based in Nanjoka near Salima, is looking to empower the communities and the people, especially orphans and vulnerable children, who live in its catchment area based around Nanjoka between Salima and Lilongwe

KINDLE Orphan Outreach has an interesting ‘business model’ in the way it approaches its work. As its name suggested, KINDLE – which stands for Kids In Need Deserve Love and Encouragement – works with orphans and vulnerable children, but it does not have an orphanage in which to carry out the work.

Community Development: Children from Elias Village in front of an area of Acacia trees planted in 2016

Its mission statement states: “addressing the physical, mental, social and spiritual needs of orphans, vulnerable children and their guardians within their community” (emphasis mine-Ed).

Those last three words are crucial as KINDLE operates within the community inside its catchment area. It is this close link to the community that has helped KINDLE grow and develop, and why so many people from within that community are starting to see significant improvements in their lifestyles.

“We think our approach is different because KINDLE is a small organisation so people do not expect a lot from us in terms of handouts,” said Joseph Kandiyesa, Director of KINDLE Orphan Outreach.

“They know how KINDLE was born; it was born inside their community. They have seen KINDLE as a baby, they have seen KINDLE as a toddler, and now they see KINDLE as an adolescent. They know KINDLE can’t afford many things but at the same time when they see some of the successes that have come about because of their participation, when we tell them they believe us.”

KINDLE serves its community in four main ways; through the provision of good-quality HEALTHCARE, through helping children into EDUCATION, through COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT, and all of this is underpinned by its work looking after the SPIRITUAL NEEDS of the community (each of these will be subject of articles in the coming issues of Malawi Amoto).

Education: Teachers’ houses nearing completion at Mbira Primary School

At each stage along its development path, KINDLE has looked to involve chiefs and senior people in the communities to make sure they are on board with the development plans. Often, discussions with these key people have resulted in the communities and villages themselves coming up with ideas and plans to make improvements, which KINDLE has then been able to support.

“During my first two months at KINDLE, I made a commitment to meet each of the senior group village head men at their houses,” said Joseph.

“In those one-to-one meetings, I could try to sell them what I believe in, in terms of community participation. I am happy to report that, as a result of these meetings, for instance, two teachers’ houses, the first of their kind, are currently occupied by teachers at Mbira Junior Primary School. These have been constructed by the community, and KINDLE came in to support them with some iron sheets and timber for the roofs and some cement for the floors.”

And it is not just the area of Education in which KINDLE is making inroads.

In its Healthcare area, the Katawa Clinic is serving some 10,000 people in a 20km radius of its site and more than this from outside of its site/catchment area. Quality attracts. New services, such as cervical-cancer screening have been added to its  ante-natal and out-patients’ work. Plans are well under way for the construction of a full maternity unit which will bring together all pre- and ante-natal services as well as wider childcare provision.

In Community Development, KINDLE is helping local people to increase farming yields through irrigation farming and mixing fertiliser with goat manure to make it go further. One farming co-operative is seeing maize being harvested four times a year. A lady in the ‘Kolezani’ programme (Chichewa for ‘kindle the flame’) is now growing so much maize that she has enough to feed her family and has fifty 50kg bags of maize in a secure food store and another with 20 bags.

In the area of Spiritual Needs, Pastor Thomas Mbereko KINDLE’s Chaplain, has worked with pastors from churches in the KINDLE catchment area, and a programme called ‘Umodzi’ – Unity – has seen closer working not just of the pastors but also youth groups and family-life groups in the area. And the stories go on.

All of this is a long way from the setting up of KINDLE. The brainchild of Andrew and Frances Barr (Andrew is the third generation of the Barr family that has served in Malawi since 1938) to help meet the growing need to care for the increasing number of children orphaned due to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. But some of its early work was to act as a food-distribution centre following two years of poor rains and poor crops at the turn of the 21st Century.

Slowly the organisation grew, working out of the Barr family farm in the hills in Nanjoka district. Another part of the development of KINDLE came through a stream of sick people coming to the farm requesting transport to take them to Salima District Hospital for treatment. This led to the idea of building and equipping a medical facility in the area the better to serve the local population, and so Katawa Clinic came into being.

Health: Nurse/Midwife Chimwemwe Lodzeni (standing) teaching village ladies about Cervical Cancer and the screening available from the Katawa Clinic

Slowly over the years, under the Directorship first of Andrew, then his mother Marilyn Barr, Ian William, and SIM Malawi missionary Dean Stocker, then more recently under Joseph Kandiyesa, KINDLE has flourished into the community-empowering organisation it is today.

That phrase, ‘community-empowering’, is set to be the driving force for the future development of the organisation, as Joseph Kandiyesa explained.

“I think that community empowerment is in our DNA at KINDLE, and that is what we want to grow and grow and grow,” he said.

“You know Malawi is poor; the majority of households are living under the poverty line, and no-one can satisfy all of those needs if the intended beneficiaries are not able to participate. So that is why we believe in empowerment.

“As a Christian organisation, what we believe is that God has created everyone equal. People are sharp up here [taps his head] no matter how tough their situations are. If you take them on board, let them participate in decision-making, let them use their hands, let them use their locally available resources and you are there to kindle the fire, to give them the morale, things will happen and communities will be transformed. To us we think that is the way to go; handouts have left us undeveloped for so many years.”

Top: Andrew and Frances Barr, founders of KINDLE

Below  KINDLE’s first premises, a shipping container

But this is not the end of the story, Joseph is certain that there is still more to come in terms of KINDLE’s development and its work to empower communities. He even dreams about what the future will look like!

“When I am sleeping, or when I am thinking, or when I am praying, I see KINDLE coming to that point of becoming a model of community engagement. I am already doing that now and I am seeing that growing and growing and growing,” he said

“But the area in which we have some challenges is because we depend on donor money. We believe that, through community participation, we may save some money. We are planning to venture into what we call social enterprise where we can do some services to raise money; money that will go back to the community.

“We want to have a piece of land so we can build some small houses which people will rent, and the money that they pay us will be used to invest into some of our activities. It is social-enterprise development that I want us to venture into so that we can have reliable sources of funding,

“You know donors have been very supportive of our work, but one day they will have fatigue; so then, if funds dry up, what happens? Shall we close our offices, shall we close the hospital, shall we close the clinic? That is why we are thinking eventually to do social enterprise.

“To me it is very sustainable because, like from the clinic, the small contributions that we do get are enough sometimes to buy fuel, perhaps when donor monies are delayed, or maybe sometimes when we have unexpected needs, we use that money.

“So, we are like: ‘OK. What if we had a bigger business component of our work?’

“That could even pay salaries for two or three people. So that means you are saving money so that if one donor changes his mind or maybe the agreement has come to an end, you don’t blame them because at least they gave you some seed.

“So, I am very positive about this way of working and about the future development of KINDLE and the communities it serves.”

 

 

 

Joseph Kandiyesa, Director of KINDLE Orphan Outreach

 

 


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