In less than four years, the Reap What You Sew School for Women in Malawi, Africa has been quietly changing the culture of one of the poorest countries in the world. Over 80% of the school’s graduates are now running successful businesses in their villages. The school’s unique approach was featured in the acclaimed documentary film aptly titled “Reap What You Sew,” which has garnered nine film festival awards. The school’s founder— speaker, author and radio personality Dr. Deb Waterbury— has announced plans to expand this “hand-up” approach to benevolence to a brand-new educational facility called Project Malonda which will be adjacent to the renowned Kondanani Children’s Village in Malawi. Waterbury says the first hurdle of finding land in a country whose government makes it difficult to purchase property became a pivotal moment.
“I was talking with Annie Chikhwaza who founded the Kondanani orphanage and who is referred to as the ‘Mother of Malawi,'” says Waterbury. “Annie is a remarkable woman who has done so much to better the lives of the orphans in that country. I was sharing my dream to build a larger school that would teach women not only tailoring, but also cosmetology and the culinary arts. Annie looked at me and said, ‘Debs, I have some land you can have.’ I was floored—I almost fell out of my chair! Annie’s generosity and kindness astounds me.”
The word “Malonda” means “trade” in the Malawi language of Chichewa, and Waterbury says this new trade school will broaden the model that has made the Reap What You Sew school successful. A year ago, the Likatho family in Malawi, Africa was starving. The parents were unable to find work and feed their children. Their daughter, Maureen, was an uneducated 22-year-old who enrolled in the Reap What You Sew School for Women. During the six-month program, Maureen learned the skills to become a tailor and entrepreneur. Through generous donors in the United States, Maureen and her fellow graduates were given free sewing machines and material along with business training. Today, Maureen’s business is helping to feed herself, her parents, and her siblings. Waterbury says Project Malonda will replicate what the Reap What You Sew school continues to do for families like Maureen’s, and while donations are necessary now in order to build Project Malonda, her hope is that it will begin to sustain itself in just a few years.
“We want to give these women a hand-up, not a hand-out,” says Waterbury. “Many of these women are left widowed by AIDS or are left by their husbands for a myriad of reasons. We have watched women open bank accounts for the first time in their lives and are now able to pay school fees for their children. We are literally changing the culture one woman, one business at a time.”
For more information visit https://projectmalonda.org/.