Hope to the vulnerable

Chiyembekezo School is aptly named. Meaning “hope” in Chichewa, the school brings hope to orphans and vulnerable children in Ntaja, Malawi.

Chiyembekezo School is aptly named. Meaning “hope” in Chichewa, the school brings hope to orphans and vulnerable children in Ntaja, Malawi. 

Before the school opened in September 2013, the OM team went into the community to invite children to attend school; these children became the first preschool class and will always be the oldest class, as each year a new grade is added to accommodate them until they reach grade eight.

The second year, people came to the school to ask if their child could enrol. 

“The biggest thing that makes us different from other schools is that we are a Christ-centred school, and we apply Christian values,” said Catherine Phiri, the pre-school teacher. “Also [we have] teachers who are passionate; not just teaching because it's a career, but because it is a calling.

“Before we start teaching we have a devotion and take the value from the story, if it's love then the whole day we will be reminding them about love, and as we teach the other subjects, we go back to what the devotion said.”

The children show signs that they are different from when they first started attending the school. They are eager to go to class and apply what they have learnt in their lives.

“Many times now they remind each other if they see someone doing something that they are not supposed to do,” Catherine said smiling. “They will say, 'Stop doing that; what did we learn?'”

Chiyembekezo School is making a difference in the lives of two seven-year-old boys in particular. 

Simiton

Simiton's mother died when he was five. His father wasn't around, so he lived with his grandmother, who was very old. When she could no longer care for him, Simiton went to live with his uncle. Though his uncle loved him, his aunt and cousins did not. They refused to have anything to do with him, so it was up to his uncle to feed and bathe him. When his uncle wasn't home, Simiton would come to school dirty. After school he played wherever he wanted. He grew up without boundaries and became unruly.

Recognising the situation, OM approached the uncle about finding a new place for Simiton to live. The uncle was very thankful, wanting Simiton to be in a family where everyone loved him and where he would be safe.

Kasim

Kasim is from a Muslim background. His parents separated when he was two, and he stayed with his mother who was mentally unstable and who prostituted herself. Kasim went to stay with his father, but he spent most of his time out of the house drinking. 

After staying a year with his father, Kasim moved back in with his mother. A few months later she left him in the house and took off. Kasim was sick with malaria when a neighbour found him and brought him back to his father.

Hope and value

The OM Malawi leadership prayed about the best options for Simiton and Kasim.

“We knew we had to take them in. We will always be taking care of such children,” said Eleanor du Plessis, co-field leader of OM Malawi.

They decided the boys would do best in a family setting, and they thought of Alice. 

A single mother of three, Alice was the cook for the workers who built the school and had stayed on to cook for the students. 

“Alice has really grown through the three years we've known her,” said Eleanor. “We saw her heart and her passion to work with the vulnerable.” 

Alice had already been helping the boys, washing them when they came to school dirty, and she welcomed them into her home.

During the school week the boys stay with Alice, but during the weekends they return to their families. This is important so “that they have that connection with their families,” explained Eleanor. “This is not an orphanage we are starting.

“We know that [the boys] will change, and we believe that they are going to change and that they will grow up with good principles in their lives.”

Because they had been raised very differently from the way Alice raises her children, it wasn't easy at first for the boys to adjust to the new arrangement.

Every evening Alice would ask them how their day was and what they liked about school. If they had done something wrong she would teach them what the Bible said about it, and they would pray together as a family. 

The boys used to laugh at this, but through Alice's patience and her other children's gentle reminders, the boys have learnt to appreciate this time in the evening and praying before sleeping. 

Both boys have changed. They used to speak loudly, get into trouble and hit their friends, but now they are calmer and gentler. 

At school, and now at home, Simiton and Kasim experience hope and value.

“They value what the teacher tells them in class. [Before it was just:] They don't care what I do, nobody loves me, everybody throws me away. But here they see and experience love,” Eleanor said. “They even have little tasks [around the school grounds], helping the gardener water and weed. Small responsibilities help them grow.”  

Praise God for the lives of Simiton and Kasim. Pray that they would grow up to be men of God who will lead others to the truth. Pray for OM Malawi and Chiyembekezo School.

 

By Rebecca Rempel