Today we visited the Tithandizane Women Group in Ziyenda village, just outside of Lilongwe, and donated SM100 solar lights paid for by five readers on this blog after hearing about our favorite SunnyMoney employee, Lucy (here’s the background; Lucy, Lucy II and Lucy III).
I never expected to receive these donations and the amount sent was incredibly generous, beyond what Lucy needed to get back on her feet. After much discussion, including with Lucy, we ensured Lucy was able to start a new life away from her attacker and then funded an Employee Welfare Fund to support any future employee crises. And the balance we would give to a local charity that support women who have been through the same ordeal as Lucy.
It’s harder than you think finding such a group but Lucy did; the Tithandizane women care for the elderly, orphans, disabled and all those in need in their community. Lucy had proposed this group to Fishani, the chairperson of the Employee Welfare Fund, and he had the bright idea to convert these remaining funds into (discounted) solar lights. Fishani arranged a date and time and the three of us and 40 solar lights headed off for a 1pm ‘meeting’.
Although 15 minutes outside of Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi, this village (like 99% of the rural villages) is accessed by a potholed dusty road and is off the electricity grid with no power or lights. We turned into the community central area we realized this wasn’t going to be an informal meeting. The whole village seemed to have shown up to greet us – the chairperson, Ellen Kholoua, had even had prepared an agenda.
The women launched into a welcome song(s) and we were treated like guests of honor. Very touching and luckily captured on video – you have to watch this; Tithandizane women I, Tithandizane women II and Tithandizane women (with a jig from Fishani) with some nice shots of Lucy and Fishani.
Ellen explained the role of this group in their community; they collect savings from those able to care for themselves and use to buy soap, salt and battery torches for those they care for. Top marks Fishani; these toxic torches are the scourge of Malawi as they only last for a few weeks in an environment bathed in wonderful and endless solar light. So our lights were a big hit.
The Chief of Ziyenda village also gave a short and sincere speech, even showing his official ‘Chief ID’ card. Ellen translated for me when she could and Fishani gave the speech on behalf of SunnyMoney, explaining the events resulting in the donated lights. The kids seemed fascinated by the RAV4 which is now covered with small dusty hand prints.
Then the singing and dancing continued and we asked Ellen to video a ‘thank you’ to 4 of the 5 donors (I’m under oath to keep the 5th’s anonymity); Sloane White, Juliana Fermin and Alma Boutin-Martinez and ‘a friend of Mark Rutherford’ (sorry about that – the cameraman was hopeless).
Just a wonderful feeling to help direct the generosity of others in a way that so clearly will make a direct and significant impact on people’s lives. Sloane, Juliana, Alma, Mark’s Friend and Mystery Man #5: Lucy, the employees of SunnyMoney and the women of Tithandizane all thank you.
In fact, this experience so perfectly crystallized the reason for SunnyMoney/SolarAid’s existence we decided we will maintain a supporting role to this group. We’re trying to bring solar to the whole of Malawi but we’re also going to take a much more active role in the work of the Tithandizane Women’s group.
Ellen was so charismatic and a joy to be around.
We drove off to more songs and the kids running down the street behind the RAV4. An amazing experience.
A few people have asked how they can help Lucy and other women in need in Malawi. We’re going to direct any future donations to this group. For those who would like to help please type “Tithandizane” in the ‘Please Tell Us Why You’re Supporting the Solar Revolution‘ in the Donate Now form and we’ll make sure this is used for more solar lights for this wonderful group of women.