As a Westerner I was unaware that I had a misconception of the orphan crisis. It wasn't until I found myself in a dormitory of an orphan home in Malawi, Africa, living alongside the sweetest family of 10 brothers & sisters who although were not related by blood, they had a family. Within the walls of Esther's House they were able to create a family - filled with love, and care and safety. AND they actually did have blood relatives who loved and cared for them and would come visit as often as physically and financially possible.
The day the first family members came to visit during my time there, it hit me for the first time - the role poverty plays in the orphan crisis is a BIG one.
As a Westerner, I grew up watching Annie and shows alike, that depicted orphanages as horrid places where unwanted children were left & forgotten. And yes, many children within the statistics of "orphan" have been abandoned, but as I stood there and watched family members embrace after time apart, my mind began to shift. I leaned over and asked the Malawian Director "Why did the kids move here, instead of staying with other family members?" nodding towards the obvious love & affection being shared across the yard. To which he answered, "because they can't provide for them. They loved them enough to send them here, where they have everything they need to thrive." My heart broke.
Fast-forward another week or two, and I found myself facing a statistic that truly changed my life to this day. I was walking back to EH from a home visit for one of the kids in the community program with the American director who had lived in-country for two years. This specific child lived with his Uncle who could provide a home and the most basic necessities, but the family was supported through a Sponsorship program, where the kids were sponsored and provided with extra meals, school fees, and such. As I walked and was processing the impact that Sponsorship programs can provide to keep families together, I asked what the make-up of the families who had kids enrolled in the Community Sponsorship Program were. To which I was told, "Some live with their grandparents, and some live with aunts or uncles, but many have one living parent still and the sponsorship program allows that mom or dad to continue to raise their children. By definition, an orphan has lost either both or just one parent and then came the gut-punch, 4 out of 5 orphans have at least one living parent, but that parent CANNOT provide the most basic necessities for their children, meaning the central reason many children with living parents are being orphaned is due to poverty.
It was at that moment, I knew my life would not be lived in the same manner as before. It's why I began sponsoring a child the day I returned back to the States. It's why I shop with certain brands that give back to combat this crisis. It's why I decided that I wanted a percentage of my sales to go back to Ufulu Groups. They are working to empower mamas to earn a living wage, so that they will never have to face the decision of providing basic needs or parental rights for their sweet children. No parent should ever have to face that reality. I love that Ufulu Groups is reaching the issue before the problem begins. If we can empower women with job skills to earn a living wage - FAMILIES ARE CHANGED. Families can stay together. Poverty is alleviated. Children are provided a proper education, and that cycle, a positive cycle, is continued.
During my time in Malawi, I was told "Do for one what you wish you could do for many." I wish I could change the world so that NO parent would ever have to question whether or not they could provide basic needs for their kids. Families belong together. So, as I sew, and grow this business, my goal is to support Ufulu Groups as they do the work on the ground. I am fully aware I can't change the world, but I will do what I can and perhaps a whole bunch of pouches sold can help change the world for one.
• Learn more about my partnership with Ufulu Groups HERE.
• Learn more about sponsoring one of the sweet kiddos I adore at Esther's House HERE.