22 October 2015

Philofaxy at 10 years old - Chimwemwe - Amanda

Coming up at the end of next week is the 10th anniversary of Philofaxy, on 31st October 2005 the first posts appeared on-line starting with 'In the beginning'

As you know since that day the blog has grown beyond everyones expectations in to a worldwide community.

To help us celebrate this milestone we have asked and invited people to submit posts, the first of them is published today. Please read how your small donations all help such a wonderful charity.

Philofaxy and Chimwemwe

Philofaxy has been a great supporter of Chimwemwe for many years. You may have seen the logo on the sidebar and the request to make a donation if you are advertising items for sale on the Philofaxy adspot pages, but who or what is Chimwemwe?

Who are we?

Chimwemwe is short for Chimwemwe Children’s Centre, which is a Community Based Organisation (CBO), registered in Malawi. Our goal is to help homeless and poverty-afflicted children to get off the streets and back into a safe, supportive community and to be able to go to school and enjoy a childhood.

Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world (over 60% of the population live below the poverty line of $1 per day) and it has one of the lowest rates of adult literacy, with less than 15% of adults having completed secondary education. The country is also affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, with an estimated 25% of the urban population affected.

Chimwemwe works with some of the street children of Blantyre, the second largest city in Malawi. Children arrive on to the streets for a variety of reasons, but most of them have lost one or both of their parents to HIV/AIDS. There is an extended family system in Malawi where many orphaned children move into the care of their relatives. Whilst this can work out, it can also put an enormous burden on to the family, who may have been struggling to manage even before the arrival of more children. Many of them cannot manage the extra costs of sending the children to school, and some cannot manage the extra costs of feeding them. Instead of sending the children to school, they are sent onto the streets to beg. In some instances, the girls have been sent onto the streets as prostitutes.

I helped to set up Chimwemwe in 2009 after a chance meeting with Mac Nkhutabasa, the project manager, in Johannesburg airport, while on my way to Malawi. We got chatting in the airport and on a subsequent visit, I met the street-kids with Mac and then worked with Mac to help Chimwemwe Children’s Centre to become a reality.

What do we do?
Chimwemwe has four main projects:
To ensure children have a safe and secure place to live
To assist children back into education
To help the children to enjoy a childhood
To support the communities to try and stem the flow of children on to the streets
A safe and secure place to live:
The best place for a child is in a safe, loving, supportive environment and we work with the families and local communities to house the child with them wherever possible. For those children for which this is not possible (abuse in the family; no family remaining etc.) we work with local orphanages and ‘foster families’ to accommodate the children. We also ensure that each child has at least one good meal a day.

Schooling in Malawi can be haphazard. Primary schooling is compulsory but not enforced, and secondary schooling is neither compulsory nor free. To go to school, children need to have a uniform, even for primary schools. If their family can’t afford to buy uniforms the children don’t go to school. Orphans don’t have a hope of being able to buy a uniform, far less of finding fees for secondary school. Chimwemwe works with families and communities to help support the children to return to school. Often, just providing the uniforms is enough to allow an extended family to cope with extra children.

Nicholas has made the new uniforms for Prisca and Agnes

Since gaining CBO status in 2009, we have bought hundreds of uniforms, we are paying the secondary school fees for the older children and we are providing educational materials to the schools and to the children to support their learning – exercise books, textbooks, stationery etc.

We also work with the older children who are about to leave school, to help them to gain vocational training. The oldest boy in the project, Nicholas, has completed training to become a tailor (a thriving business in Malawi where most people do not buy ‘off the peg’ clothes in stores, but have tailors make their clothes for them). Chimwemwe will also help Nicholas with a start-up grant which will help him to pay rent on a shop, buy material, threads, buttons etc. and provide him with a sewing machine so that he is set up with a business and can become independent.

Nicholas and his sewing machine
Having a Childhood:
For many street children, the idea of a childhood where you can play is just an idea, not reality. From the start, we have given the children a safe environment in which to play, whether it is football mini-leagues, space to play bao (a very popular local board game), for them to run around playing ‘tag’ or any number of other games. Often all that is needed is some space and some adults present to ensure the children are safe, and maybe some water and snacks for afterwards.

Supporting the Communities:
We have provided money to families and communities to help them to start income-generating activities (including buying a father a sewing machine so that he could start his own tailoring business to support his family) and we have helped to set up community gardens for growing vegetables. We also work with the communities to raise awareness of the rights of the child and to provide education about health (including HIV awareness).

Saidi with the sewing machine which allowed him to set up his own business    
Our most recent big project has been to build a community centre where the children can go for life-lessons, play, homework clubs and vocational training. It is also a safe place that the children can call theirs – which may sound very simple, but for a street-kid who owns very little, can be hugely important.

How has Philofaxy helped?
Philofaxy has been a huge supporter of Chimwemwe for many years, helping us to raise money for these projects and awareness of the life of these children. The money raised through Philofaxy has allowed us to buy uniforms, provide the children with food and education, build the centre and buy them toys at Christmas, but perhaps almost as importantly, it has let the children know that lots of people care about them. Living on the streets is a lonely, scary life. You can’t trust anyone. You will get robbed, beaten, abused, ignored... for these kids, knowing that people right across the world are concerned about their plight and willing to help means an enormous amount. It has given them hope and support in their darkest times. There is a huge difference between feeling alone and with no-one and nothing for support, to feeling that there are people out there who care and who will try to help. I cannot thank Philofaxy and its readers enough, for the kindness and support that they have shown over the years.

Thank you Amanda for the update on the work you have been doing with Chimwemwe. 

In addition to the donations you make direct, when you purchase via links on Philofaxy to Amazon and other stores we make an annual donation equal to the commission we earn from those purchases via Philofaxy. Thank you for your continued support. 


  1. Thank you for your informative post, and especially for the good work that you do for the children of Malawi.

  2. Thank you, Amanda, for this welcome post about Chimwemwe and Philofaxy. Light & Peace....


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