This young girl is the head of a “child headed household”, defined as a minor caring for younger siblings. Sadly, we are encountering more and more of these families.
Edina Moses is a 13 year old girl living in Khombe, Malawi. She was in the sixth grade when she stopped attending school. Her parents died three years ago, when she was ten.
Edina cares for Cecilia (7) in second grade, Dalitso, (5) in preschool and John (3). The two boys are HIV positive.
The responsibilities of caring for her siblings prevent any more schooling for Edina. In addition to maintaining her household she works to earn money for food. Edina works in the fields and fetches water for anyone who will pay her. She earns about 500 kwacha; that’s about a dollar a week.
Often they have no food. With her income, and some occasional small gifts from the poor villagers of Khombe, she buys maize.
With so little money they can only afford some porridge in the evenings.
Maize is the staple food of Malawi and Edina cannot afford to make sima, the thicker, nearly solid cornmeal that is ubiquitous at every meal in Malawi.
Instead they eat watered down porridge, hoping to stave off hunger pains so the four siblings might sleep under two shared blankets.
It is chilly in Malawi during winter. At night the temperature may drop to below 50F.
The youngest boy, John, is three and Edina has raised him. As a ten year old Edina had to take on the responsibility for an infant, as well as Cecilia and Dalitso who were four and two at the time. The two boys are frequently sick; due to being HIV positive.
They go to church and Edina says she trusts Jesus. She believes God will continue to meet her needs. This week the Lord led Feed the Hungry to this family. Indeed God will continue to meet their needs. Already they have been supplied with rice meals.
Further, the FTH team in Malawi is preparing a plan to care for Edina and the other child-headed households we discovered in Khombe. Beyond the food we also seek to provide spiritual care and discipleship as well as support and encouragement. Local believers will be engaged to come alongside and watch over these households, to ease their burden.
That’s what we are supposed to do for one another; share the load. If we have two coats, we give one to the person who has none. Ultimately the Lord tells us to put our cares on Him. Since we are the body of Christ I think that we are supposed to do what He would do.
Dr. David Livingstone, the great missionary and explorer, spent much time in Malawi. Blantyre, the closest city to Khombe, where Edina lives, was named after Livingstone’s birthplace. Present day Christianity in Malawi can be credited to his pioneering work.
Livingstone kept detailed journals and his words have been inspirational to many.
This week I am particularly moved by his imperative “sympathy is no substitute for action.”