Children in every culture and every country need to be protected and we believe that protection should be as strong in a developing country as it is in a Western country. Recognizing this, Determined to Develop (D2D), through the leadership of our Executive Director, has further formalized our signature program, the residential youth home, to make sure we are responding to international standards in protecting our children.
Without meaning to, D2D started a residential program beginning in 2010, when one orphan needed a place to live. From that small act, the program grew organically and, over the years, many others have found their home at our Maji Zuwa campus through our residential boy’s program which now hosts more than 50 live-in youth.
It’s our most successful initiative. By providing a stable, family-oriented home life for youth, they can concentrate on school, focus on academics, and have the space to study and push themselves forward. We have seen incredible results and our live-in youth are routinely at the top of their classes at both our local schools and the boarding school to which many are sent. A dozen are currently in college or university programs and are always recognized as leaders out of hundreds of peers.
To be considered for the residential program, a young person has to demonstrate a need and a desire to live in a controlled setting. About one third of our residential boys are complete orphans with neither parent alive, who are referred to us by chiefs and principals of schools. Another third are from households with a single mother who is struggling to provide, and the final third are from our surrounding community and whose families see the value in the structure and rules we have that keep their young person on track.
As the program has grown, we have now introduced advisory, supervisory and reporting structures that mimic those one would find in Western countries. By doing so, we hope to protect the children under our roof and make sure they have access to several avenues of complaint if they ever had the need to speak up about any injustice.
This past week, we launched the supervisory committee in charge of oversight for the youth house, led by the permanent chair, Mr. Paul Kondowe, who is the child protection officer with the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Welfare. Mr. Kondowe chairs our committee but is also responsible for government approval of any projects which touch on the well-being of children as well as responding to any cases where the rights of children have been infringed.
The rest of the committee is made up of our chief, GVH Mtolyifwa, our advisor to the village, Mr. Zikka Mkandawire, our spiritual advisor and the local chair for the Catholic lay people Ms. Hilda Kondowe, a parent representative and the mother of Robert and Kayoka (two of our residential youth) Mrs. Lucia Msofie Chikwezga, our local doctor at Sangilo Hospital, Mr. Lloyd Nyondo, and two staff members, Geoff Mzembe, in charge of external and community relations for D2D, and Frackson Mhango, our Live-In Coordinator for our residential Youth. We also have one of our live-in youth, Kennedy, as a permanent member of the committee and he attends all meetings as a full member.
By partnering with members of our community, parents and government, D2D gives children the opportunity to be heard and to feel safe. As we continue to strengthen our safeguarding, we also become examples for others in Malawi so that our best practices become normal practices in other organizations, schools, and NGOs that work alongside children. At the end of the day, all of our aims are to help children become healthy, engaged, intelligent and competent adults that develop their communities and their country.