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Poverty and Disability, One Family’s Struggle

Rhoda second from right and Loyce next to Rhoda sit with their family

Chitipa: Friday, September 26, 2014

14 year old Rhoda Mlenga has high hopes for her future. She wants to be a teacher. She works hard in school and rarely misses her classes. Her 15 year old sister Loyce also has dreams of her own, “when I finish school, I want to be a professional tailor. I want to have my own tailoring shop.”

With hopes and ambitions this high, one would not imagine the hard times ahead for these two girls to accomplish their dreams.

Loyce and Rhoda are two bright girls who both have disabilities. Their disabilities are however impacting how they face everyday life and these challenges might affect them reaching their goals if nothing is done to help these two girls.

“Both girls were born able bodied. Their disabilities started to manifest as they reached adolescence,” says Jennings Munyimbiri, Child Protection Officer at Mevu in the area of Senior Group Village Headman Mwenewabanda in Chitipa.

Munyimbiri who informed officials at the District Social Welfare Offices in the district about the plight of these two girls and their family, says it seems the problem with the girls is genetic.

“One of their parents had a disability; it seems that gene was passed on to the children. Our worry right now is that their young siblings might also become disabled once they reach adolescence and the family’s struggles will increase,” he says.

Rhoda and Loyce are both orphans who live with their grandmother, Loness Mlenga, their great-grandmother and three siblings. Their grandmother who is 66 years old is the sole provider of the family of seven which relies on agriculture.

“I really struggle to take care of these children. I am not as strong as I used to be. The two girls cannot help out because of their disabilities, the other children are very young, and my mother is very old therefore she cannot offer any help,” said Mlenga.

Munyimbiri adds that the two girls need a lot of help for them to be able to achieve their goals. “The girls both need wheelchairs to ease their movement; I think they also need to have their fingers and toes straightened, especially Rhoda who now has difficulties in writing. If anyone can help them with this, it would ease their problems.”

For their grandmother life is a struggle each and every day, trying to take care of and support such a huge household.

 

Rhoda and Loyce were lucky because the day the letter from the child protection officers arrivedimages/The family at the Social Welfare Office, officials from the ministry’s headquarters in Lilongwe together with those from World Vision Malawi were distributing items to the needy in the area.

The two girls received some soap, clothes, a bag each and some clothes. However, the relief these items will bring to the family will be short term. The family needs help in the long term.

The joy and gratitude by the family upon receipt of the items could not be hidden. Mlenga fell to the ground, started rolling whilst pointing at the girls and making sleeping signs, an indication that their parents had died. Her actions were enough to the watcher to know how hard life had been on the woman and how happy she was.

For Rhoda and Loyce and their family, life continues to be an everyday struggle, and until someone comes in to help them, their dreams will only be a fluke and reality might never set in.