by JIMMY MAKANDE
Family background – Jimmy Makande was born in 1987 in Khoviwa village in one of the mountainous districts of Malawi, Mulanje. Jimmy is the third and last born in the family, now only he and one sister remain as another sister passed on before he was born. Since my parents were not good at keeping records it is very difficult for me to be exact on the date I was born, as such I chose 24th December to be my birthday for I consider it the day of hope. Both my father and mum were from the same district.
My father was a hard worker; he spent much of his time working as a Motor Vehicle Mechanic at one of the well known trading centers on the outskirts of our village and we all lived happily as a family. The death of my father in the early 1990s changed every aspect of my life; my family started living a miserable life as my mother could not afford to take care of us. Worse still, soon after my father’s death, his relatives grabbed everything leaving us desperate and helpless as we had nobody to turn to in times of trouble as he was the only bread winner.
Later on, my mother moved to Blantyre, one of the Malawi’s commercial cities where she secured a job before she died two years later. My mother’s death opened another chapter in my life; I was an orphan only five years of age who had to live with an old granny in the village. The most unfortunate part, I was left by my parents when I had not yet started primary school.
Things were not easy for me including my Sister. Thanks to my tender age, sometimes I could not understand what was really happening. However as I grew up I noticed that things were not the same. Coupled with old age of my grandmother, we really experience hard times. Sleeping on empty stomachs and spending nights on the floor without blankets to cover ourselves in cruel cold months in a dilapidated house. Usually, we dressed in torn and oversized clothes most of them given by well wishers. None of my father’s relatives paid attention to the miserable situation I and my sister were going through; instead they were busy enjoying whatever my father left.
In all the situations we went through, Life was really miserable and un bearable but we endured as my grandmother was there for us providing comfort and I remember her words and I quote “ my son, do not worry so much, there is a light at the end of tunnel and God will take care of us”
Education background – Despite all the challenges I was going through, my grandmother, though not educated sent me to school. I started my primary education at the age of seven at one of the nearby primary school in our village, Chisitu Primary School.
My life at school was still remained a misery. The situation was still unbearable. Pressure mounted on our grandmother to provide us with the required necessities but still her old age posed a challenge. She repeatedly reminded us that education is a key to success. Sometimes she could narrate to us stories of successful people who had gone through tough times.
In return, such speeches would give us courage and forced us to go and fetch fire wood in Mulanje Mountain which we could sell to purchase soap and note books, sometimes I would wake up earlier to do pieces in the field before I went go to school, so we could get some necessities. Despite the challenges I faced regarding my education I was among the hard working students. I passed the Primary School Leaving Certificate Examinations and got selected to Mulanje Secondary School and I was a happy person with hope that my selection to boarding secondary school would bring new dimension to my life.
My Entry at FOMO – The celebration to my selection into Secondary school was thwarted by my grandmother’s open declaration that she could not manage to pay for my fees. I tried to consult my relatives whom I felt could be assisting paying for my school fees but to no avail. Weeks and days passed without reporting for school until the grace period erupted. It was really a painful moment as no one showed any interest in my condition. With time I thought of taking up piece work where I managed to raise MK1, 000.00 and part of my fees. To minimize my problems, the Headmaster responded to my proposal to start operating from home.
One day I approached one of my teachers to who was shocked with my situation. He then referred the matter to our Head teacher who was already aware of my situation and the two introduced me to a vibrant and well known charity organization in Mulanje. Dressing in his usual grey colored suit the Head master broke the silence, “we have finally defeated the devil…from now on wards you will never operate from your home because we have finally secured a scholarship for you”. This was how I was found in the hands of Friends of Mulanje Orphans (FOMO), a vibrant and respected charity organization in Mulanje.
When I brought the news to my grandmother, she was so astonished for God had finally answered our prayers, meaning that FOMO had finally taken over her responsibility of me. I promised hard working to show my appreciation for the golden chance God had given me to attend education. Although I limited time to attend classes before I was called on campus, I worked hard and scored position one in end of term one exams.
One of my happiest moments came in when I was given a chance to have an audience with my Benefactor, Mary Woodworth, Founder and Director of FOMO. She encouraged me to work extra harder and assured me of more help as I continued to do better in my education.
Life at FOMO – Since I joined FOMO in 2004, my life has changed completely. The organization provided me with school fees. FOMO also provided me with material support and others as required by the school. More importantly when I was in Form one, I was even offered an opportunity to attend computer lessons. In 2007, I was among the best performing students in Malawi School Certificate of Education at Mulanje Secondary school and qualified for the University Entrance Examinations.
While waiting for the next UEE I attended the Primary School teaching course at Blantyre Teachers College with assistance from FOMO. In 2009, when I was about to finish my course in Primary Teaching, I realized my dream when I was considered to pursue a Bachelor of Science Water Resources Management at one of the public Universities in Malawi, Mzuzu University of which am certain of finishing this December, 2013.
Acknowledgements – Considering the fact that it has been a long journey at FOMO, I have find it necessary to thank the following people for all the support they have rendered to me throughout the hard times I have been going through. I therefore would like to sincerely thank Aunt Mary Woodworth and Uncle Keith Woodworth for giving me an opportunity to attend education and the effort they have played to bring a difference to my life. It was beyond my imagination how my future could have been had it not been for your assistance but with your incredible support and encouragement I am determined to make a good future.
I will always cherish your love and care for you have been there for me in all the hurdles I was experiencing and I attribute all success I made to your encouragement and support. To me and my colleagues at FOMO, you are really parents of Golden Heart, who show love and give hope to the hopeless. Since the time you held my hand I have never felt as an orphan. It is because of this reason that I ask God to give you long life and bless you abundantly.
Personal Experiences at FOMO – Since I joined FOMO in 2004, I have been exposed to different opportunities based on potentials I showed. Despite paying for my school fees, FOMO had given me opportunities to orientate myself in different careers which among others are teaching in Nursery school, Stores management, Project Management and Education Officer. More importantly, both my time and my involvement in various activities at FOMO offered me an opportunity to work and interact with people of all calibres such as Lawyers, Politicians and Journalists.
First Left – Experiencing one of my golden times at FOMO: Meeting the state President of the Republic of Malawi, Her Excellency Dr. Joyce Banda at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre.
My Future Plans – As a person who has greatly benefited from FOMO, it is my wish to dedicate my services to FOMO so that I should be part of the system to assist the organization achieve its objectives. I am always proud to be part of FOMO and always glad to see FOMO sustaining its operations. It is also my wish to proceed with education to increase my understanding on some of the areas which are crucial but better for my society including FOMO.
My plea to the Donors and Well-wishers. – I would like to earnestly thank all the donors and well-wishers who have always worked tirelessly to assist Aunt Mary and Uncle Keith in improving the lives of orphans of Mulanje. Your help has really brought a difference to the lives of many orphans in Mulanje. It has been observed that Malawi being one of the poorest sub-Saharan African countries, it is hard for vulnerable children such as orphans to meet their basic needs. Your help is really benefiting us and is my heartfelt hope that you will continue contributing towards improving the lives of orphans in Mulanje in the name of FOMO
Words to My Fellow Beneficiaries – It is a golden chance to get assistance from well wishers. Remember, it is not all orphans in Malawi who have the chance of being assisted. We should consider ourselves lucky to get assistance from FOMO as such we need not to take this chance for granted, let’s utilize this to the fullest so that we should build our future. Let’s support FOMO’s effort by assisting it in achieving its objectives.