In Malawi, an American NGO, “Bola Moyo-Malawi,“ is working to improve the skills and training of the underprivileged. The organization, located in the southern district of Balaka, has created a center where both youths and adults learn different skills that will provide them with better life.
Projects Manager Desiree Cooper says Bola Moyo, which means “Better Life” in the national language, Chichewa, works to eliminate poverty and disease in rural areas in Africa.
The organization has programs designed to support children's caretakers, and enhance children's formal education. It uses the creative arts to broaden their minds and skills.
“We have academic programs that cater for subjects like mathematics, English and Chichewa,” says Cooper. “We also really focus on doing creative arts: some music, dance theater, pottery and drawing and other programming among youths, with emphasis on providing hope for the future,” she says.
The organization also runs adult literacy programs in which participants learn how to read and write. So far, three out of more than 60 students attending classes are men.
Agnes Mpeta is learning to read. The 66-year-old grandmother, who never went to school in her younger days, says her new skills have transformed her life.
“I enrolled because I wanted to learn to read bus signposts, so that I could know which bus to board when I travel. But now I am even able to read the Bible and write a letter. I have also learned to greet in English,” she says.
Cooper says the organization also provides business training and small loans to people, mostly women, so they can generate income for their families.
In addition to the skills training, Bola Moyo also supports child daycare centers with supplies and educational resources, including learning materials for adults about child health and nutrition.
It also assists orphans and other vulnerable children by helping them with school fees, uniforms, books, notebooks, pencils, etc.
Traditional leaders in the area are upbeat about Bola Moyo’s work with local people. More than 1,000 people have benefited from the programs since it was created four years ago.
Joseph Kambewa is the group village headman in Kandengwe. He is responsible for several villages in the area.
“The education initiative championed by the organization has really improved the lives of most of my subjects,” says the village leader. “Most of the elderly in my village are now able to read and write because of the adult literacy education offered by Bola Moyo,” he said. “In addition, children who are doing basic education in government schools are finding chances of learning other life skills at the organization’s youth center.”
Margaret Nandoli is the program manager for the organization. She says attendance has been the major challenge. For example, she says, only half of those registered attend classes. She attributed this to negative attitudes that she said most people in the area have towards education. But these attitudes are slowly changing, she said, because the organization now engages role models who teach the students the benefits of an education.
“Sometimes we invite some friends who have been to school before, like retired teachers or nurses, to talk with them. We also give them some examples like the lady in Mwanza [district] who wrote standard 8 examinations and passed. We have a picture of her on the newspaper cuttings and we tell them that you can reach up to this level if you go ahead with your education,” she said.
But the global financial meltdown was another challenge that affected operations of the organization whose projects are funded by donations of individuals.
“Last year [was] a very challenging time for public sector NGOs, especially Bola Moyo, since we don’t have a big financier like UNICEF,” said Projects Manager Cooper. “So, the financial crisis that hit worldwide has definitely impacted our financial solvency, but I think that has been a case in every charity, thankfully we are pulling through.”
Despite the challenges, she says the organization plans to expand to other districts, like Lilongwe and Thyolo. Funds permitting, the organization also plans to open its doors in Zambia.