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Fochta: Where orphans, vulnerable find relief

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Ever heard of Friends of Claude Ho Thyolo Association (Fochta) that cares for needy children and orphans in Thyolo district?

Fochta is a nongovernmental organisation that pays school fees to children from form one to university, and was established in the country by Australian national Claude Ho, who came to Malawi in 2002.

He saw the plight of the orphans and offered to form a charitable organisation to assist them.

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Sooner than later, he decided to promote education to orphans and vulnerable children as priority. That time he was working with Medicines San Frontier (MSF) in Malawi.

According to Ho, who is the patron of the organisation, while working in several remote areas he could see a lot of children absconding classes, while some could not go to school because of lack of money with which to pay school fees.

Ho realised that it was poverty that was keeping most of the children away from school.

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Since 2002, the organisation has so far assisted 1,975 children. Some of them graduated from university colleges, others from Teacher Training Colleges and others have become medical doctors.

Graduates at the institution pay back as they come during holidays to teach their fellow brothers and sisters at the centre.

The centre benefits pupils from traditional authorities Kapichi, Nanseta, Nchiramwela, Chimaliro and Bvumbwe in Thyolo district. For one to qualify for fees from Fochta, he must be an orphan or vulnerable and come from the mentioned areas.

A process to get and veto the beneficiaries takes place. Chairman of Fochta, Labana Steven, says a committee was set up and it identifies the beneficiaries from the community. The committee works with village heads in the identification of the beneficiaries.

“When we enroll a child we assess his vulnerability to see the kind of help he will require. Others are more vulnerable and apart from fees, we give them school uniform, a monthly up-keep, a 50 kg bag of maize each month, a pair of shoes, and learning materials. If he has no proper home, we construct a house for him or her,” explains Steven.

“Our priority is to see that the one that we are parenting should enjoy all the benefits befitting their orphanage and vulnerability. Although we provide them with essential commodities, we also support their guardians,” says Steven.

Executive director of Fochta Zione Matale says the organization has developed faster because it has already transformed from just mere learning institution to a vocational skills centre. Fochta has so far constructed a K174 million Vocational and Skills Training Centre where they are teaching computer lessons, tailoring, carpentry, and farming.

She describes it as a panorama along the Mulanje-Thyolo road at Luchenza.

Matale is grateful to traditional leaders in the area for providing land for the centre.

Luwiza Monesire from Mbelenga Village in the area of chief Kapichi is pursing computer lessons at the centre. She lost both parents, the father in 1999 while mother in 2003. She says after losing both parents, she almost gave up in life. She was in Form two when her mother died.

“The deaths of my parents confused and disturbed me. I did not know what to do. I stopped going to school because there was nobody to help me,” says Monesire.

“But,” she adds, “Someone advised to go to Fochta. I went and met the chairperson who interviewed me and later found me qualifying for their assistance. They started paying fees for me until I completed form four,” says Monesire who was only 12 years when she approached Fochta.

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