Students for Kids International Projects (SKIP) Glasgow Team

SKIP sent 7 volunteers from Glasgow University for 5 weeks in June and July 2018. Their project included working closely with youth groups, hosting activities such as HIV/AIDS awareness workshops, leadership workshops, and eliminating mental health stigma. They also worked closely with the Girls Boy Trust at NAYO to help them to continue their innovative work and inspire young entrepreneurs in the community. Their work reached further than just Nancholi, as they visited and taught in a local young offenders institution.

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Howard University GROW team

A team from Howard University (Washington DC) joined us for 5 weeks in the months of May and June 2018 to empower the youth, specifically young women. Their project focused on HIV/AIDs prevention, mental health awareness, and the promotion of women’s role within society. They carried out many workshops in which they used skits, interviews, and open discussions to raise awareness for gender equality and the elimination of domestic violence.

Awareness Campaign in Mbinda Village

On the 5th of July NAYO held a campaign at Mbinda village to spread awareness of HIV and AIDS, including the importance of getting tested and knowing your status. The campaign was a huge success, attracting a large crowd with at least 85 people getting tested during the course of the campaign.

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Performances were given by the Judges Cultural Group, the children of Nancholi Youth Organisation music and drama groups and the Bristol Volunteers for Development Abroad (BVDA).DSC_0125

Prior to the start of the programme, chlorine was distributed to households around the village for water purification as part of the Hygiene and Sanitation project being carried out by the Bristol Volunteers. Mosquito nets were also handed out during the course of the campaign.

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Future awareness campaigns are currently being planned for further villages and we hope to build on the success of this first campaign.

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Community Irrigation Scheme

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Pictures of our community irrigation scheme. The maize harvested here is sold to be cooked whole on a coal grill or boiled – in March or April after the rainy season maize is harvested to be made into maize flour for Malawi’s staple food Nsima.

The money made from the project goes back into the community working the fields, towards buying food for those HIV clients who most need it, as well as buying more seeds. The simple irrigation channel is much needed in the dry hot season of September to November. It dramatically cuts down on the labour hours – otherwise the farmers would be watering their crops by hand with buckets.

At the moment the irrigation channel is very basic, just a hand dug 3 foot ditch which is plugged by plastic bin liners and using big rocks as sluice gates. In the future NAYO would like to construct a more permanent structure using cement – currently the channel is rebuilt every year after the rains have washed it away.

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The tragic story of Enifa

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Enifa Chirombo is a recent NAYO client who we have mentioned in a previous blog post, we have since learnt more of her story. She is 19 years old and extremely sick both physically and mentally. Her life has been a series of tragic events of which she has been a helpless victim, this is a space to voice her sad story.

She was orphaned at the age of one and was taken into the care of her aunt, Chrissy. As a three year old toddler Enifa was often found outside her house during the night. Her aunt believed, according to folklore, that witches were taking Enifa in the night to initiate her in witchcraft and therefore Enifa had become a witch. What Enifa did receive at the age of four from these nocturnal outings was cerebral malaria. She started convulsing twice daily and nightly. Chrissy took Enifa to a ‘herbalist’ or witch doctor and the convulsions stopped for one year but returned after that. She had epilepsy.

At the age of ten she fell in the cooking fire and severely burnt her upper arm. There is a huge scar there now from her shoulder to 10 cm above her elbow. From then on she stopped going to school. She was befuddled, confused and probably psychologically disturbed.  At seventeen years old she became pregnant from sexual abuse by men taking advantage of her mental illness. The baby was born prematurely and died at four days old. Enifa had contracted HIV and genital ulcers. She is now on ART treatment but has abdominal pains, diarrhea, is anemic and malnourished. She is often found in other people’s houses.

This is a serious case of constant neglect from the guardian. Her aunt Chrissy, who is a widow with her own children and surviving on earnings from piece work, sees Enifa as a burden with the stigma of being a witch and HIV positive. Chrissy refuses to take her to the hospital and is expecting NAYO to provide all the money to support Enifa for food, medicine and transport costs.

Enifa is completely vulnerable, with no strength and in constant pain. She also has no voice – with little schooling and has retreated mentally inside herself- most likely due to psychological trauma form her experiences. She can only voice her basic needs of escaping from pain, water, food and warmth. NAYO’s nurse has entered Enifa onto the palliative care programme to monitor her many illnesses.

Ultimately what Enifa desperately needs besides her basic human rights, is love and care. There is no easy answer, Malawi is without the infrastructure to protect the most vulnerable and silent apart from individual NGO’s with limited resources like NAYO.

Enifa

Enifa

Changing perceptions on AIDS

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The backbone of NAYO is the group of field workers who each visit up to 30 clients suffering from HIV or AIDS normally twice a month. They are essentially social workers; each designated a catchment area of normally 2 villages to supervise. This is done with the help of local volunteers who are their ears on the ground, they report to the field worker if something is wrong with a client or if there are any other HIV sufferers that need to be enrolled as clients. It’s an impressive structure which encourages community responsibility and acts as a safety net for those that are really helpless.

One of the biggest challenges NAYO field workers face is the stigma of AIDS and HIV among people in the village where it can be linked to witchcraft. There is a pervading tradition that men with HIV should sleep with young virgins to cure themselves of the disease. People are often fearful to get tested for HIV as they don’t want to face the discrimination that comes with it from their neighbours.

One such victim of this stigma is Enifa a girl of nineteen years old with HIV whose mother died when she was little. She lives with an aunt and her family who do not look after he well and refuse to take her to the hospital when she needs to go. Enifa came to NAYO’s nutrition support handout but was too weak to carry the 50kg bag of maize back to her house. NAYO called her aunt to help who laughed at Enifa’s weakness. On visiting this girl at her home it is easy to see she is not being cared for properly. She is emaciated and shivering in the hot mid-morning sun, without a blanket she uses her chitenge for warmth, as she tries to eat a cold, congealed bowl of porridge. NAYO’s nurse and field workers are working on an intervention to educate the aunt on HIV and encourage her to care for her better.

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Enifa

At a different village, field worker Crispin visits another young woman suffering with HIV whose husband refused to accept this. He refuses to use contraception even though she is not well enough to have any more children. She looks about 18 years old and is already a mother of 3 year old twins and a newborn baby, more children would most probably kill her. His thinking is ‘you are my wife, why should I use contraception?’ He had only recently consented to have an HIV test himself, which was fortunately negative.

When we arrived the husband was out at work. We sat on stools in the house, the baby lying on a blanket on the floor and the toddler curled up protectively over his mother’s lap as she leaned helplessly against the wall. She was very thin and looked weak.

Crispin asked her questions to understand the full story. At one point the mother breast fed her baby, her breast was small, shriveled and lifeless. Crispin held his head in his hands, saying, “Look she can’t even feed her baby milk. She hasn’t enough food. This is so pathetic.” And it was heartbreaking to see this young mother not able to eat enough food herself yet alone nourish her three children, and yet she was being forced to be this baby-making machine.

Crispin set up another meeting where the husband could be present so he could counsel them together on family planning. He planned to also talk to the husband separately to try and instill the seriousness of his wife’s health. There is not much question of the wife leaving the husband. Divorce is rare and a taboo in rural life, especially a female instigated divorce. Most of the time, the woman and children are so dependent on the husband that it would just be inconceivable to leave him.

NAYO’s social work is simple, with little funding but effective at giving those most vulnerable people in the community – women, children, those with HIV-fundamental support and care. The field workers reliable presence, hard work and compassion among for with HIV or AIDS also help to break down the stigma attached to the disease.

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Nutrition Support

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On Saturday NAYO had their monthly nutrition support for those 105 clients suffering from HIV – 96 of these clients were able to come, the other 9 had too far to walk but the food is still at NAYO for them to collect when they can. NAYO’s field workers distributed 2kg sugar, 2 litres of cooking oil, 2kg dried Nyemba beans (kidney beans), 50kg maize, 2kg ground nuts (peanuts) per person. This amount of food will not be able to last them for a whole month as they will be feeding their families too but it will help. NAYO provides nutrition support alongside antiretroviral drugs as, due to their strength, they need to be taken with food.

NAYO is committed to giving their community support to help them become self sufficient. However with the flood crisis at the beginning of 2015 causing mass crop damage now resulting in rising food prices, many in Nancholi are now even more dependent on aid, particularly the vulnerable living with HIV. NAYO’s nutrition support is not a long term answer but it can at least give those with HIV the drugs and limited food to get healthy and stronger. If you would like to donate please contact nancholiyouthorganisation@gmail.com (we are currently setting up a Virgin Money Giving page to ensure an easy and quick way to donate, this will be ready soon.)

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Everyone sits patiently while the food is divided up.

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Peter and Joshua measure out the oil

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Ground nuts are an important source of fat and protein. They are ground and used with vegetables to make a relish

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Chisomo hands out the food packages