When we arrived at Kamuzu International Airport, we were greeted with friendly smiles and welcoming voices. Though the airport was simple there was a abundance of warm hearted people that guided us into Malawi. It is the same treatment that we received as we drove to the country side, heading to the district of Mangochi. As we climbed in elevation through the mountains the air turned fresh and cold, as if welcoming us to the warm coastal weather of Lake Malawi.
Our visit to Malawi was an invitation from Warm Hearts Foundation which has been working in Malawi for over a decade. They wanted to partner with Opening Village Doors Foundation to provide micro-lending to empower women in the district of Mangochi. Warm Hearts Foundation liked the OVDF micro-lending model in Kenya- to directly engage individuals ready to start income generating projects. Once these individuals have shown an interest, we work with them to develop a business plan, provide training, and give starting capital and mentorship. The ultimate goal being to walk alongside those who we support so they can succeed in business and in life.
During our visit we had the opportunity to meet some of the 12 business women that the two organizations have been able to partner with. The businesses are located in the Mangochi Market. This market is open seven days a week and encompasses a multitude of goods, such as, fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, beans and other things. Anything you could want can be found in this market, it is a busy place full of activity and trading. In the market we found Gloria, who operates a stand of fresh fruits, vegetables, and spices. She captures the essence of this partnership as she remarks that “ …before this, I did not have a way of paying for my child’s education, healthcare or meeting basic needs, now, I am able to pay tuition for them in the private school and I am able to support my family”…she then added, “thank you so much for your support”. Gloria’s story is not unique for these 12 business women, her statement encompasses how all of them feel about the new opportunity.
As we end our visit in Malawi we are reminded of the African proverb that states “…one hand cannot take cows to the river by itself…” meaning, that in order to fight poverty through business start-ups we need the support of donors, staff and volunteers, who value our mission and vision so those we work with can thrive.
By Frederick Bw’Ombongi and Alexis Shannon