There is no shortage of widows and orphans in Malawi. The HIV/AIDS crisis has devastated the country and much of the African continent, leaving millions of widows and orphans.
A woman who has been widowed has a tough time in Malawi. Families, traditionally, look to the husband for the majority of support while the wives take care of the home and the children. When the man dies, he leaves his widow without any support and, most of the time, ill-equipped to provide for the family. Often, the woman will lose everything.
Circle J Ministries has been working with Hope for Widows for more than five years. This organization is local to Malawi and helps provide a means of income for widows. In 2018, we were able to collect enough money to provide three treadle sewing machines and a knitting machine for the group in Lilongwe. This group has since secured a contract to make school sweaters for several schools in the area, providing income for many of the widows there. In addition, these ladies make purses, table mats, table runners, rugs, and jewelry which are sold to help provide additional income. Circle J Ministries always brings these items back home from the annual trips and sells them here in the US to help support this ministry.
Many times, both parents become victims of HIV/AIDS, resulting in many orphans throughout the country. The life expectancy in Malawi has risen significantly over the past decade from the low 40's to the low 60's as HIV/AIDS education and prevention have become more commonplace; however, right now the median age in Malawi is 16 years. When a husband and wife both die, there are very few options for the children. Most of the time, there are no grandparents to go to, so siblings take care of each other. As many as 1 in 4 children in the schools we visit live in sibling-led homes. If the oldest child is a male, he usually tries to find work to help feed his siblings. If the oldest sibling is female, more times than not, she will turn to prostitution just to feed the family. Of course, this is a vicious cycle as she will, undoubtedly, contract HIV.
Many organizations have feeding programs throughout the country. Circle J Ministries has plans to join these groups in providing one meal a day in the areas where we minister. We are trying to find funding for this project.