Alile is a typical 16 year old girl. She enjoys dancing, hiking and plays in her school’s football team. She is a model student, works hard and dreams of one day becoming a neuro-surgeon.
But Alile’s future hasn’t always been bright. More than ten years ago, at the height of the AIDS epidemic in Malawi, both her parents died of AIDS. Her grandmother took over the care of Alile and her sister, but struggled to find the funds to send the girls to school.
In 2004, Alile’s household came to the attention of Kwithu Women’s Group – a community- based organisation supporting vulnerable families struggling to cope with the devastating effects of HIV & AIDS in their neighbourhood. With Kwithu’s support, Alile’s grandmother was given vital nutritional support and Alile and her sister were able to receive a basic education. At around the same time, the driving force behind Kwithu, Anna Msowoya-Keys – a Malawian who worked for ActionAid – was establishing a local boarding school. The school’s purpose was, in part, to provide life-transforming educational opportunities for highly vulnerable children.
The Mzuzu Academy opened in 2010, and Alile – who had shown exceptional academic promise since her introduction to Kwithu six years earlier – was enrolled as one of its first intake of scholarship students, who were all funded by Egmont. All the supported children have lost one or both parents to AIDS, or are HIV+ themselves.
After four years, Mzuzu Academy is thriving, attracting Malawian government ministers’ children as well as students from Zambia and the United States. In 2013, the top three performing students were bursary pupils. Two scholarship pupils were recently selected by the American Embassy to study abroad for a month as part of the Pan- American Leadership Programme, and another student represented Malawi in the first African Youth Athletic Championships in Nigeria.
Alile, along with all the other bursary students, also helps out regularly at the Kwithu Women’s Group tutoring sessions.“It’s about giving back,” says Anna. “The older Kwithu kids see how important this place was for them, and they want to be there for the younger kids.”
“It’s about giving back,” says Anna. “The older Kwithu kids see how important this place was for them, and they want to be there for the younger kids.”
Egmont has directly supported Kwithu Women’s Group and the scholarship students at Mzuzu
for four years. Alile and all the other Egmont- supported students now look forward to tomorrow with hope. As Alile says: “AIDS took away my mum’s life. But this wasn’t the end of my life.”
This story appeared in our 2014 Summer Newsletter.