Kelvin Pushes Disability to the Corner

Kelvin sharing a lighter moment with his sister Kelvin sharing a lighter moment with his sister - pic by Happy Njalam'mano

Kelvin Chiwaya was born with a disability, just like her sister, Margaret. Both live at Joliji village Traditional Authority (TA) Chekucheku. He is 12.

"My dream is to become a bank manager one day," says Standard 6 Kelvin who goes to Nadzanga Primary School in Neno district.

If you walk or drive on the roads of Malawi, your eyes will not escape a sorry sight of parents and wards pushing their children with disabilities on their wheelchairs begging. Kelvin says this is not a solution.

"To my friends, do not take disability as inability. You can go to school and become independent and responsible citizen. As for me, I never look down on myself. I don't regard my disability as a barrier to my destiny. I go to school and mix with my friends freely.

"Although I used to face some discrimination in the past, I did not relent on going to school. Here I am today. I will sit for the Primary School Leaving Certificate of Education examinations in the next two years," says Kelvin.

Kelvin loves football. During his free time, he leaves his wheelchair and play football with his friends. He is as a goalkeeper.

"I am a big fan of FCB Nyasa Bullets. My wish is to watch my favorite team live at the stadium,” says Kelvin who amazingly mentioned a number of the team's players, coach and some of the trophies the team has won.

Pilirani Chiwaya, Kelvin's mother, says raising two children with disabilities is challenging.

"Some members of the community linked this to witchcraft. They used to say I was bewitched but I know that disability can fall on anyone any time," she says.

Chiwaya says carrying both children to and from school every day was not easy.

"It means I had to leave everything and take them to school and then back home. It was not easy since we rely on piece works for everyday living," says Chiwaya.

"We usually lack basic needs to support these children. Food, clothes and many others. Even our house is not that good," she says.

Life of Kelvin and her sister started transforming when Beyond Our Hearts Foundation intervened.

Chiwaya says that the Neno based non-governmental organization "supported us with wheelchairs for the children. This has eased mobility for the children when going to school.

"They have also bought us another wheelchair which is currently at the district hospital. We just need to go and collect it."

Chiwaya added that the organization also supports them with food items.

Beyond Our Hearts Foundation Executive Director, Russel Msiska, says they are supporting the family under the Save the Children Italy funded Localization Project.

"The project has capacitated us to identify the needs of the communities and mobilise the resources to support them. We saw the challenges that Kelvin and his sister were going through. We engaged various quarters who supported us by buying the wheelchairs for the children. We hope that by doing so, the marginalized groups will be empowered and live their potential," Msiska said.

He said this after donating food and nonfood items to the children and other survivors of Cyclone Freddy in the area of TA Chekucheku on Tuesday.

Secretary of the Area Civil Protection Committee, Beatrice Chifunga, says the project has capacitated the communities to safeguard rights and needs of children in the area.

"In the past, there was total disregard for children's rights. Nobody paid attention to them but now we are able to intervene when their rights are abused.

“Some child-headed households are being supported. We also include children with disabilities such as Kelvin and Margaret in our programs. The project, although it has not stayed for long, has transformed the area. We wish it was extended to reach out to many people," she said.

Neno District Commissioner, Hudson Kuphanga, has committed to provide a conducive environment for the organization to support people in the district.

"With my guidance, we have capable officers to work with you in terms of human capital. We cherish the support you are rendering to the district," he says.

The one-year-long localization project started in May 2022 and has been piloted in Neno and Zomba districts to strengthen the institutional capacity of government structures and civil Society.

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