Having had a rough background and a father who married a lot and left children from the other women to be raised by Babra Matoga’s mother with a lot of financial struggles inspired her to embrace kids who have a similar plight. Today she is looking after vulnerable children through Destiny Home Care Centre. She talks to Paida Mpaso.
Where do you come from?
I was born in Zimbabwe. I came to Malawi when I was very young while in primary school. It was during the time there was the land issue between blacks and the whites in Zimbabwe. During this time, young people were being told to go and fight, so as a way of running from this, we came to Malawi. I did my secondary education at Dharap, and later I went to the Polytechnic where I did secretarial courses. I worked for Sacranie and company for 17 years, and then I retired.
You run a centre for children, how did it start?
The name of the centre is Destiny Home Care Centre, it started as a home based care centre over a decade ago in Faith of God church branches which are across the country. In these branches, vulnerable children would come and the pastors from these centres would feed them among others. In addition, tuition fees were also being paid. But as time went on my husband and I realised that we needed to build an infrastructure for the children so that we could monitor their progress among others. And so that is how we began. We built a home for them in 2008.
What initiated this project?
As pastors we move quite a lot, and in all these places we meet people who are facing all kinds of hardships. Some approach us for help. But sometimes we just observe. So when we noticed the suffering that was there, we decided to build something for the children in order to help them.
How are the children identified to come to this place?
Through the office of the social welfare; some come through their relations and others approach us as a church.
How many children did you start with and how many do you have now?
I started with 26 children, and I currently have 25 children. Usually some children do go back home, while others do graduate from this place. So the figure keeps changing.
What is the age range?
The youngest is two years old and the oldest is 12 years old.
It is generally difficult to raise children born from different mothers, how do you handle these children?
That is very true and in many cases you have children with different characters and it’s usually difficult to try to harmonise such. But what I do as their mother is to take a fair motherly role. I have women who help me look after them. I know centres cannot be compared to homes, but we try to instil love and home setting. These women are called mothers and these children are taught the household chores. We teach them how best to live with people. We teach them manners and try to instil discipline in them. We realise that these are key for not only their today survival but for the general well being.
Describe how these children spend their day?
In the morning, they go to school; almost all the children are at Chichiri Primary School. From school they will have their lunch, relax, and do their chores before doing home work. In this centre we have a class room setting where these children are further schooled. The aim is to try to keep them busy with school. We want them to realise that education is very important in many aspects of our lives. As their mother, I also supervise their work. I have to know how school is progressing and how they are fairing. I follow their lives because they are my children and I care and love them.
Where do you get the funds to support them with?
I have my children abroad, who are helping me. I also have members of the Hindu Community who have been very supportive to me. Apart from using our family resources, the church also supports us.
Do these children know where they are coming from?
Yes, we try as much as possible to maintain all the contacts from their relations. The fact that they are here does not mean they can forgo their relations. They are still part of each other and that is why we encourage them to visit their relations, especially during holidays.
Is there anything in your background that gave you passion to take care of these children?
Yes, I had a very rough background; my father married a lot. In the end he married somewhere only to return when he was very sick, and years later he died. He ended up letting my mother raise all the children from the other mothers. As a family we really struggled a lot. It was not easy to grow up in a big family. We had step brothers and sisters but my mother tried to make us one. I know she struggled and I give her credit.
We were eight in my family and I was the fourth one. After some time my mother also died. So, my brothers would do piece work, just to take care of us their siblings. It was a real struggle. Then the first born got a job and started to take care of the rest, then the second one started doing the same. That is how we survived. We pretty much raised ourselves.
Seeing children go through something similar to what I went through makes me sore and that is why I try to help out whenever I can.
What are some of the challenges you encounter while raising these children?
Issues of witchcraft are really common and do happen. There was a time we took in some children who were practising witchcraft. We tried to help them as a church, to no avail. We decided to engage the District Commissioner of their area and the chief to help us, and we realise that the problems stemmed from way back. And so we had to release them. When we went to drop them, the people who were teaching these children, did not even look remorseful. They did not even care that they are destroying the life of these children, it was very sad.
There are also some children, who bring their old behaviours to this centre which further spread to schools. There are times when the teachers have personally summoned me to attend such hearings where issues of theft, fights and the like came out. But I have to discipline my children to stop such behaviours.
What are your expectations of these children?
That one day they will be great men and women in this society.
What do your children do?
The first born is in the USA, working. The second born is a worshipper and has his own band. The third born is a doctor and works here in Malawi, while the last born is in third year in USA as well.
How has your husband helped you become the person you are today?
My husband is a very good man; he has taught me the importance of faith and loving people. He is a man, who enjoys seeing people succeed in life. That is why we run the centre. We have grown to love and care for them like our own children.
What kind of dressing do you like?
I love skirts.
I love chicken, nsima and rice. I also love eating a lot of fruits.
The virtuous woman
2012 has gone and 2013 has come. I believe that God has good things in store this year, and when we put God first in our lives, making Him our true contentment, everything falls into place.
And it is the above context that has drawn me to Isaiah 60. I know the verses will encourage many of you to walk in the Kingdom authority so you can manifest the brightness of who He is wherever you are.
Isaiah 60:1-2 reads: Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the LORD will arise over you and His glory will be seen upon you. In 2013, you need to:
l Know whether you are in Christ and live in His Presence (Psalm 22:3).
lAsk your Father how He wants to demonstrate His goodness through you.
Ask Him to transform the atmosphere of your nation, community, workplace and family by the goodness of His Presence in you.
One of the most significant crises in this hour is an identity crisis both in the world as well as the church. The world needs authentic, Godly men and women who will step up to the plate and be the people God has called them to be in their respective assignments.
How are you being prepared to walk in your calling? Who is speaking into your life and mentoring you? Who is helping you find the path to effectiveness in the area God has led you to?
Have you ever thought of who is equipping you to walk in the fullness of who you are called to be? How are you equipping the next generation of leaders?
May you be hungry enough to learn and be transformed, with a clear vision of how to move forward into the role God has chosen for you!