Advertisement
Features

Courageous, mother of 70

Advertisement
COURAGEOUS—I know what it means to be homeless

Some 10 years ago, Courageous Musasa was just a mere street-connected child.

After being abandoned by parents at a tender age, all hope was seemingly lost for her. If anything, her hope was the streets, where she would seek alms and indulge in actins associated with those used to street life.

She was then rescued by Friends of Mulanje Orphanage, who took care of her and educated her until she completed secondary education.

Advertisement

From her base in Chilobwe, Blantyre, Courageous, 28, has turned into a blessing.

She is a proud owner of Courageous Kids Foundation, which takes care of orphans and children who were taken off the streets.

The foundation has, since 2015, grown from a simple idea to the home of 70 children, all of them evacuated from the streets.

Advertisement

Courageous is called a mother, not in the sense of a biological mother but someone who treats other people’s children as her own.

Without donors, she relies on proceeds from a small business she runs with friends. Sometimes well-wishers reach up to her with material and financial support.

“Taking care of about 70 children has never been easy. They have to eat on daily basis and also go to school but, unfortunately, we do not have donors to hold our hand.

“However, we will not quit,” Courageous challenged.

She said her mission is to, one day, see streets with street-connected children.

“I have been in the streets and I know what it means to be homeless. I have seen it all. Worse still, many things are thrown at you when you are a female street connected child, where facing various forms of abuse becomes a daily experience. I would like to, one day, see no homeless child; a day when all street connected children will be taken to safer homes,” she said.

Courageous, however, lamented that lack of funds to sustain the initiative is a major stumbling block, one that stands between her dreams and reality.

“I need about K650,000 to feed these children on monthly basis, something that is not easy. Food is our main challenge,” she said.

She also requires about K60,000 for water and K12,000 for electricity bills each month.

On the day of our visit, at around 11 o’clock in the morning, the children were yet to eat anything as there was no food in the house.

“It [life] is tough here,” Anaya, one of the children, said.

“Food and school fees are our biggest needs. We salute madam (Courageous) for rescuing us. She has been trying her best and doing everything in her power; only that we are just too many. I ask other well-wishers to come forth and join her in this cause,” Esnart, who is in form three, said.

The foundation is housed in a rented house in Chilobwe. They have to fetch out K518,000 for rentals every three months. Courageous said this has never been easy and thanked those who have supported them to reach this far.

“The challenge now is that the owner is selling the house and has since extended the offer to us. The owner has said, if we have the money, we can buy it. On our own, we cannot afford the required K35 million to buy it. I wish we had bought it because it is a big house which accommodates all of us. I call upon those who can assist us to do so,” she said.

Despite facing challenges, some of which are insurmountable, Courageous can stand with her shoulders held high as the initiative has, so far, seen five students pursuing their education in universities and colleges.

“One is at Malawi University of Science and Technology while the other was selected to the University of Malawi in Zomba. Three others are in different colleges. I am happy because this signifies that, with proper support and care, these children from the streets can do wonders,” Courageous said.

It is estimated that over 4,000 connected children live in the country’s cities of Lilongwe, Blantyre, Mzuzu and Zomba.

Efforts have been there to remove the children from the streets, as some of them have been accused of engaging in criminal activities.

The country’s streets in towns and cities have sadly turned into homes for children who have been separated from their parents. Sadly, some irresponsible parents are contributing to what has become a social problem.

However, the question has been where to relocate them when they are evacuated from the streets.

Last year, the government, through Minister of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare Patricia Kaliati, boldly announced that it was removing these children from the streets so that they are integrated with their families.

“Some are of the age when they can be encouraged to go for vocational training in order to acquire certain skills that could enable them to earn a living without solely depending on alms from the streets,” Kaliati said.

Blantyre City Council (BCC) recently setup a taskforce to look into the issue of removing street connected children from the streets.

“Our approach is to not only remove the children from the streets but, rather, bring them into communities and ensure that they get what they were lacking. That is why we have taken a holistic approach by, among other things, working with various partners like the police, Samaritan Trust, the Indian business community and the church so that we can achieve our intended goals,” BCC mayor Wild Ndipo said.

All these efforts point to the fact that removing these children from the streets is a big issue that should not be ignored.

Most children who stay or work in the streets can be categorised as children in need of care and protection, as defined in the Child Care, Protection and Justice Act of 2010. Many have experienced abuse, neglect, abandonment, harm, trauma or been forced to beg or work in the streets.

Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance Executive Director Victor Mhango says a 2007 study on street-connected children in Lilongwe indicated that half of the children who participated in the research left their homes due to food insecurity.

Other reasons for leaving home included abuse (25 percent), rejection (56 percent) and being sent away by parents (11.1 percent).

In that study, Mhango says 42 percent of the children reported returning home each day.

According to Mhango, a 2017 government study estimated that Lilongwe and Blantyre each had populations of children living and/or working on the streets of approximately 2,000 each, with more than 80 percent of those children reportedly returning home each day.

Mhango said children can be on the streets for many reasons.

The time they spend on the streets varies, too. Therefore, he says, describing someone as a “street child” or “homeless person” can be stigmatising.

He argued that a person’s experience of homelessness is but one aspect of their life and who they are.

Mhango added that it is also reminiscent of colonial-era discourses on public spaces where mobile populations are often deemed undesirable, with very little acknowledgement of how states and economies foster inequalities.

“It is crucial to bear in mind that mobility is a survival tactic that has been used by the rich and poor alike for centuries. Children also often migrate between homes, cities and countries depending on a household’s ability to care for them,” Mhango postulated.

According to Mhango, in October 2018, Judge Fiona Mwale noted that the plight of street-connected children remains a significant concern to the country.

And, in March 2019, former ombudsman Martha Chizuma pointed out in a report that city and district councils have been negligent in their response to children living and/ or working on the streets.

For instance, Chizuma found that the Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare had failed to implement its own National Strategy on Children Living and Working in the Streets.

Chizuma cautioned that district social welfare officers were neglecting their duty of supporting vulnerable children living and working on the streets. In her report, she further noted a significant lack of resources to attend to the needs of children living and/or working on the streets, and concluded that city and district councils had failed to implement their statutory duties to provide accommodation for children in need.

Chizuma observed that “forcing children to return to a ‘home’ which they chose to leave and where they face abuse, unhappiness and hunger, will increase their vulnerability, including to disease.”

This shows that, for the most part, words have not been matched with action.

However, it is a fact that lack of places to keep these children, once they are removed from the streets, is another problem.

However, Courageous has shown that, with determination, it is possible to stop singing about removing these children from the streets and act.

If people like her can be supported in this cause, maybe the country can make strides in keeping children away from the streets.

Recognising Courageous’ bravery, a fortnight ago, Young Achievers for Development included her in their inaugural Achievers’ Awards.

“People like Courageous have to be recognized because they are doing a lot to the country. They are unsung heroes who are using small resources to transform lives of others,” said Jefferson Milanzie, the organisation’s executive director.

At 28, Courageous has just proved to the world that it does not take the size of one’s pocket to reach out to others but, rather, a golden heart.

Facebook Notice for EU! You need to login to view and post FB Comments!
Advertisement
Tags
Show More
Advertisement

Related Articles

Back to top button
Close

Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker