Letitia Puni

In her final year at College, Letitia Puni was selected as a Youth Ambassador for World Vision. Earlier this year, she travelled to Malawi to see the work that World Vision undertakes – it’s all about a ‘hand up not a handout.’ Here, Letitia reports on her trip:

The day after I had returned from the African nation of Malawi I caught up with mum over our usual weekly grocery shopping. However, this time was different. I had just come back from a country in the middle of a food crisis, where the people are literally fighting to survive each day. As I was sharing a few stories, I paused and looked down the aisles in front of me. I began to cry. When mum asked what was wrong, all I could say was, ‘There is just too much food.’

Running through my mind were the faces, names and stories of those I had met. But they didn’t just belong to people in a country on the other side of the world; they were loved ones, sisters, brothers, friends and family. The people I met became a part of my extended family, so to be standing in a supermarket where I could have any food I wanted, while they would probably be going hungry tonight, absolutely broke me. 

From the second I met a young girl named Mtipulula we were inseparable. Though we couldn’t communicate easily due to the language barrier, we played and laughed together, I taught her English and she showed me how to dance. Little did I know that it was her family that World Vision and I was about to visit. I walked through the door of a tiny mud hut with a thatched roof to see her sitting on the floor beside her family. She introduced me to her two younger sisters, Ruth, baby Arinafe, her younger brother Mofat and her parents Alana and Nevtie. Her family shared with us their daily struggles while I sat there in silence, tears running down my face.

They told us how a typical day sees them waking up at 4.30am to walk for 30 minutes to collect the only water that is available to them. We had visited that stream earlier in the day and it was filthy. I wouldn’t have even swum in that water, let alone drink from it. Mtipulula, Ruth and Mofat then walk for two hours to school while their parents work in the fields and look after Arinafe. The family’s  first meal isn’t until 11am once the children are home from school and they only eat what they can grow. Like most Malawian families, they grow corn which is ground into flour and cooked with hot water. They call it nshima. We call it play dough. The family then all works in the fields until around 8pm and if there is food they have dinner, if not they go to sleep. What hit me the most was that this hard working family only earns $30 a year. That is less than 10 cents a day. But Mtipulula’s parents still hope to give their children every opportunity to make their own dreams come true.

There were many heart wrenching stories like Mtipulula’s however, I also witnessed the incredible hope that World Vision was giving the people of Malawi through empowering them. While visiting a school we were asked by a young girl named Florence, ‘How can you help empower us, the people of Malawi?’ This question only re-enforced that what World Vision was doing by providing a hand up and not a handout was what the people of Malawi truly wanted.

At the end of our trip we visited a village that had been partnered with World Vision for 15 years, and saw proof of the difference that World Vision had made. Thomas was given a goat and a 6 day training session on how to care for it by World Vision. Thomas then passed the goat’s offspring on to a local family which resulted in a positive ripple effect through the village. Owning a goat is like having savings put away for a rainy day, as to sell a goat for $21,000 kwacha, ($60), is double what Mtipulula’s family earns a year. This can then pay for unexpected medical bills, children’s education and food during tough times. Thomas’s village also had many clean water boreholes to collect fresh and safe drinking water. This gave me joy because I knew families like Mtipulula’s would soon be thriving like Thomas’s due to her village’s partnership with World Vision.

So I would like to pose to you the question Florence posed to me, ‘What are you going to do to help empower the people of Malawi?’