Malawi (MNN) — Chisomo Idea is all about partnering with people in at-risk communities and helping them stand on their own two feet.
The end goal: helping people thrive.
“If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up” (Ecclesiastes 4:10).
As poet John Donne wrote:
No man is an island,
entire of itself,
every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main.
Last month, Chisomo Idea’s Noel Musicha defined Chisomo as the “grace to do.” But this month, the ministry is reminding us that even in difficult times, we are “not alone.”
Holly Cunningham, Chief Operating Officer for Chisomo Idea, explains how that idea can expand culture. First, she says, “We act out our daily actions because of the grace that God has given us to come alongside individuals in at-risk communities in Malawi, Africa, to say, ‘We are here. We want to be by your side.’”
But it’s not limited to helping one person at a time. By helping that one person do for himself, the ripple effect spreads. Cunningham clarifies their message: “‘If you’ve fallen, we want to help.’ And we want to equip them to then be able to do that throughout their communities, as well.”
Take, for example, the Chinsapo community, just outside the capital city of Lilongwe, Malawi. Cunningham describes it as “a 70% Muslim community. It’s known in the Lilongwe area as the community where all of the thieves live.”
To say it’s a rough neighborhood, is putting it mildly.
A while back, Chisomo Idea came alongside the community and started a women’s empowerment micro-enterprise loan program.
Let’s take a look at how it helps: Doreen Tseka is one of the beneficiaries of the women’s empowerment program in the Chinsapo community. She has been helping Chisomo Idea for four years in many ways in the Chinsapo community.
Doreen has been married for 16 years; she has three children. Three years ago, her husband left for South Africa in search for better job opportunities. He sends money once in a while, but it’s still not enough. Doreen opened a shop, too. “Right in front of her home, she has a little stand where she sells different things like tomatoes or nsima (a thickly-mashed maize porridge), which is a food that they eat in Malawi quite often,” explains Cunningham. The money she earned helped, but it wasn’t enough for the needs of 6-year-old Takondwa, 9-year-old Gabriel and 14-year-old Shaqueal.
Then, “Her middle son, Gabriel, had been diagnosed with tuberculosis and cerebral malaria. She had not been able to afford the medical bills to be able to get him the medical treatment that he needed.”
With the loan Doreen received from the Chisomo Idea, she was able to expand her business. “So now, instead of just doing tomatoes and nsima, she has charcoal, popcorn, doughnuts, peanut flour, as well as cooking flour.”
Cunningham says with the microloan (about $80 USD), she has been able to learn not only how to save some money, but also how take care of school fees and more pressing issues. “She has been able to provide the medical needs necessary for Gabriel. Just recently, the doctors have said that he is free of tuberculosis.”
Doreen added her own thoughts: “I am very grateful to all supporters for their faith in this program, because I was able to buy medicine for my son. He has improved greatly. [I] am grateful to Chisomo Idea for letting us be our own solutions to our problems. I have a great anticipation for the future and all the things I will be able to do and am able to do because of the loan program.”
Cunningham says Doreen is a month away from repaying her loan. What’s more, the Chisomo women’s empowerment loan program has had 100% success rate in full repayment at this point. This is because of the way it is set up. They are only able to increase the amounts of their loans in the future if they pay it back in full. They work as a team in the community for accountability to pay back so that they all have the capacity to receive future loans.
More importantly, Cunningham adds, are the biblical principles being taught along with finance. “We are a ‘go’ and a ‘do’ Gospel ministry,” she explains. “We want to be in the communities, be living as Christ’s light so that they begin to see that in us and they begin to ask questions.”
Because Doreen is a part of this women’s empowerment program and getting these microloans, “There’s a group of these women who actually meet together to do this. They actually started asking if we would help them set up a Bible study that they could do together.”
How can we tell them they’re not alone? As 2015 nears an end, consider praying. The ministry team needs prayer for wisdom, creativity, and boldness. Through grace, there is hope. Although it’s oft repeated, it’s worth saying time and again, concludes Cunningham: sharing hope is the next step in community transformation. “Going and doing in their own community for others is, of course, something that we advocate for; however, in terms of Chisomo, funds are always necessary.”