A beautiful family headed by a very determined Gogo

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Sheila meets a family of three children with special needs being looked after by their Grandmother.

During my visits to the families who have a child with disabilities I am accompanied by Elita who acts as my translator but also my guide along the many small roads and paths that criss cross the farmland around Sitima. On our way back from visiting a family we were stopped by a woman – Ava – she must have heard about what I was doing in Malawi and she started to tell us about her two granddaughters  – Rosina (7)  and Facilin  (11) who she said were both disabled – one limping badly  and one having epilepsy.

 

We chatted on the path and heard a very sad story of how the girl’s mother had died when Rosina was born and Gran ( Gogo in Chichewa ) had looked after the family of four  children ever since. There was no mention of Dad. I promised to visit her soon – in the mean time I would go to the girl’s school and meet them and their teacher.

At the school I discovered both girls were in Standard 1 and also had a brother, Chasa (8) in the same class – it was apparent that they all had learning disabilities. Malawi has an inclusion policy in its schools and the teacher certainly welcomed having them there but with at least 100 other children in that one class she had very little time to give the children anything like the extra support they would be receiving in the UK. The children were all doing their best to join in and in fact I was told Facilin cries if she is not allowed to write when the other children do, but their academic and communication skills are very much behind their peers.

On my second visit to Gran’s house the girls were at school but Chasa was just lying down under the tree. He had malaria, something he contracts several times a year. I asked if the family had a malaria net – we used to said Ava – but it was eaten by rats. That was a simple way to help the family – N4BW gave them a net and also showed Gran how to hang it so the rats can’t get at it. I would have liked to give them a cat too – maybe next time Fr Owen’s cat has kittens!!.

As on every visit I chatted with Gran about the future for the children and how to help them develop the skills they need to look after themselves. But Ava is already doing an incredibly good job, showing them how to garden and sweep and wash. In fact on my final visit we met the three children returning from the borehole, all carrying some water in small buckets on their heads. They went on their way and by the time we got to their house they had been washed, had changed into their only good clothes and were ready for visitors. They may not be academic but in Malawi they will have at least some survival skills – and may indeed end up helping out their Gran as she gets older.

The family are very poor, relying totally on the crops they grow so they have assistance from their church and also a Belgian NGO. It’s important N4BW works in partnership with other organisations so I spoke to the representative of the Belgian NGO and discovered the family are provided with maize and other supplies at times of most need in the year. The church had built the family a house so N4BW stepped in to fill the gaps; providing the malaria net, school uniforms, pencils with special grips for Facilin, school notebooks and some clothes for the children.