Two young men who 20 years ago left their impoverished home and got raised by foster parents are finding it difficult to embrace their original family despite that all processes to trace their roots have been duly undertaken, WATIPASO MZUNGU writes.
The battle is certainly far from over for Margaret Bwanali who lived for 20 years without the knowledge of the whereabouts of two of her children.
After the Office of the Ombudsman reunited her with her ‘lost’ children two months go, Bwanali now has an uphill task to convince the ‘lost-but-found’ children that she is their real mother.
The father died in 1995, leaving behind 14 children in the care of a semi-literate woman who did not have a reliable source of income at the time.
Bwanali said after the death of her husband, she faced a huge struggle to raise the 14 children. It was this time that a certain organisation, Utatu Woyera, took her youngest children Mavuto, then 4 and Maxwell, then 5, for proper care and support.
Later, the Lilongwe District Social Welfare Office facilitated the transfer of the children from Utatu Woyera to an orphanage in Mchinji, Fosters Hope.
Bwanali said the Social Welfare Office advised her to be visiting them at the orphanage. But that never happened.
“For 20 years, I searched for my kids hopping from one office to another with no tangible help in sight. I felt cheated and I was convinced the children were trafficked by the government,” Bwanali narrated.
At one point, she added, she travelled to Thyolo in her search of the Social Welfare Officer who had facilitated the adoption process, but had now been transferred from Lilongwe.
“He convinced me to release my kids to a foster home in 1999. But when I travelled to Thyolo, I got no help either. The search for my children still endured,” she explained.
Spokesperson in the Office of the Ombudsman, Arthur Semba, said he believes that the destitute mother had committed her children into the care of foster parents on the premise that she would be visiting them every month Semba emphasised that Bwanali had been betrayed by the social welfare officers who failed to link her up with the foster home.
But, as an old adage stresses, every journey must have its end. So, was Bwanali’s search for her ‘lost’ children, which finally came to an end on May 20 this year when she knocked on the doors of the Office of the Ombudsman.
She had been tipped by a colleague who had attended an awareness rally by the Office of the Ombudsman in their locality.
This Good Samaritan encouraged Bwanali to seek help from Youth Net and Counselling (Yoneco) and later the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) before she was directed to the Ombudsman.
Thus, on May 20, Bwanali officially lodged a complaint at the Office of the Ombudsman, which combed through the files at the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) and the Ministry of Gender and Children Welfare, which had handled the matter before.
Ombudsman Martha Chizuma stated that the ‘separation of the children’ from their biological mother/ family was “a matter of official maladministration and I could not sit back”.
After a thorough tracing of files, the Ombudsman discovered that the children were in the care of Fosters Hope in Mchinji whose founder is Mary Nsundwe.
Five days later, the Ombudsman facilitated the reunion of the children and their biological mother at a ceremony that took place in Mchinji.
A seemingly excited Bwanali thanked God for the reunion before committing the work of the Ombudsman into the hands of the creator.
“Seeing them all learned and grown into responsible men can only be God. Madam Ombudsman, God should guide you,” she said.
Chizuma said her office felt duty-bound to assist the mother.
“Right now the children are grown up, one is a Luanar [Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources] graduate and the other one is working at a certain organisation in Ntchisi.
“The children need to be given time to digest what has happened because they were raised by the foster parents and they did not know they had a different mother until yesterday,” she said.
But as Bwanal i is celebrating her reunion with her ‘lost-but-found’ boys, securing a permanent reunion with her children is another uphill task the family has to surmount.
At the reunion ceremony, the boys openly refused the Ombudsman to have much about them published about the reunion.
Emma Bwanali, one of the siblings of Mavuto and Maxwell, confirmed with The Daily Times in an exclusive interview on Monday that the children are still resisting the family.
Emma disclosed that while one of them seems to accept and embrace their supposed biological family, the other one has vehemently refused to speak to his mother, Margaret.
“Since they were reunited to us, they have never attempted to call and talk to us,” Emma said.
“But we have not given up! They remain our brothers and we are planning to visit them anytime soon,” she said.
Semba said it is beyond the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman to change the mind of an adopted child towards his or her biological parents.
“We just expect that the family and the children should be able to understand and accommodate each other as time goes,” he said.