Life was okay for Sandrason Jere until his mud brick house collapsed about a year and a half ago. At 83, Jere is widowed but has a son who happens to be his nightmare. Culturally every man wishes for a son to take care of him in his old age, apart from inheriting his name and carrying on the family line. But the same cannot be said for Jere.
After his mud brick house fell, Jere was rendered homeless and destitute though his son, who is married, lives in a burnt brick house within the same compound.
The octogenarian recounts: “After my house fell, my son didn’t want to take me in. I didn’t have resources to rebuild my house but I still needed a roof to sleep under and also to preserve my dignity. So I made this grass shelter.”
Jere hails from Chimaliro Village in Group Head Mchingalombo in Traditional Authority Kabunduli in Nkhata Bay.
He is a social cash transfer beneficiary receiving K15 000 per month. but being his sole income, life is challenging for him compounded by his broken hip which makes it difficult for him to do productive or income generating activities.
The Government of Malawi’s Social Cash Transfer Programme (SCTP) was introduced to help the ultra-poor households meet basic needs.
In March this year, government recruited young men and women to work as enumerators in the Unified Beneficiary Registry (UBR), which maintains databases for all households for social support.
This was the beginning of change for Jere’s story. When these enumerators went on a door to door household data collection in the area, they were moved with what they saw at his place.
“We were dumb-stricken with despair and it took us time to recover and continue with the interview,” explains Kelvin Kapira who with his colleague, Victor, formed a resource mobilisation platform called Helping Hands to construct a house for Jere.
“I mean in 2021, exactly 57 years after our country gained independence from colonial masters, how can a senior citizen be living under such miserable conditions?” Kapira wondered.
He and other enumerators resolved to do something for him. When their supervisors got the news, they mobilised more people through social media to help in the construction of a burnt brick single-bedroomed house for the old man.
According to Kapira, who is the team leader, the house is estimated to cost between K280 000 and K300 000.
The district’s Desk officer for social cash transfer, Wisdom Mwafulirwa, says he was impressed with the enumerators’ gesture.
“It’s rare to find young people who can do such a charity. Most young people today think of receiving than giving. So when Kelvin and his fellows approached me about Sandrason, I assured them of my full support and went ahead to share the same with members of the district social support committee (DSSC),” he explains.
However, since Jere sustained a broken hip few days before his house fell, he is not fit to work and cannot benefit from micro loans and other social support activities that require one to work or to service the loan.
Towards the run up to the 2019 Tripartite Elections, some party manifestos had outlined monthly allocations to help the elderly live dignified lives.
However, that funding is yet to materialise otherwise people like Jere, who are not only old but also living in abject poverty, would be singing a different song.
According to Kapira, Jere’s case is not isolated but he is happy that the charity is receiving some support to finalise construction of his house.
“We may not realise K300 000 from our individual contributions as enumerators but we’re asking well-wishers to come in and support in whatever way they can. We have sounded an SOS through WhatsApp, Facebook and other social media platforms and we believe the project will materialise,” Kapira concludes.