Mary’s story is one of perseverance, determination, and hope in the face of overwhelming odds. It is also a real life example of what a difference donors make. Mary lives in a small house made of clay bricks just a short walk from her school with her three younger siblings and older brother, her mother, and her grandmother. Mary’s father died only last year in September 2016, and the family has struggled ever since. The father was the main breadwinner of the family, and even when he was working, things were tight.
Since his passing, Mary’s mom finds odd jobs on other people’s farms. This is called “piece work”, and it consists of going out into the community and finding someone with a field that needs tending to and working in their fields for the day. Unfortunately, because the owners of the fields know the piece workers are in a desperate situation, they often take advantage of their labor and pay them poorly--if at all. An example of this, as Mary’s mother described, is when she goes to work in a field, about 50 x 50 yards, from morning until evening, and is only paid 25 kwacha for the day’s work. That is the equivalent of three people working an entire day only to be paid $2.50 in United States currency.
If Mary’s father’s passing hadn’t been enough, nor the exploitation Mary’s mother faced in trying to provide for her family, one child suffered a serious injury that required hospitalization, another became ill and was hospitalized at a different clinic, the grandmother’s health worsened, and school fees came due for Mary’s elder brother.
As we heard about the developing situation, we knew we had to step in. The level and type of need facing Mary’s family was beyond Strength in Sisters’ scope of mission. Nonetheless, this family was in a desperate situation because Mary’s mother could no longer tend to her crops or work because she was taking care of her sick children. Unfortunately, all of this happened during a month when it looked like Strength in Sisters would be unable to meet our operating budget. We contacted a consistent donor, shared the situation with them and were incredibly moved when they donated $500. Their generosity allowed us to not only help Mary’s mother, but also cover our budget! We helped cover transportation costs so Mary’s mother could get between the hospital and clinic easier, and we also helped provide food for the family while Mary’s mom took care of making sure her children were well and healthy. Because of the donor’s generosity we were also able to pay the eldest son’s school fees as well as pay for the medical care the children received.
Once Strength in Sisters stepped in to help, Mary’s mom finally got some sense of relief and security. With our help, she didn’t need to worry about food and she didn’t need to worry about getting to the hospital to see her children. We knew she was overwhelmed and in order for Mary to feel a sense of security, we knew we had to step in and help her family. As we sat in the dark living room of Mary’s home, her mother told us “You have fought a big battle for me. I would have gone mad by now” when she talks about that time.
We left Mary’s home that day feeling a new sense of purpose and truthfully, some reassurance as well, knowing we helped a family avoid what could have been an extreme circumstance. We know we are small and we have a long ways to grow, but we pride ourselves on helping where we can, especially in dire circumstances. We are incredibly thankful for generous donors who not only keep our program running, but allow us to be there and support the girls and their families when they face trying and otherwise insurmountable times.