Elaine Zakreski, a Canadian retired educator, is stepping up efforts to transform lives of people in Traditional Authority Malemia in Zomba. Elaine is tackling poverty by providing interest-free loans to poor or HIV infected families, stationery materials to some early childhood development (ECD) centres and primary school children. She has also helped with funds to build a clinic in the area. Our reporter, WATIPASO MZUNGU JNR, talks to her.
Who is Elaine Zakreski?
I am a retired early childhood educator. I used to teach children of between three and five years old. I then became a consultant working with teachers and parents. Educating young children is most important as it lays the foundation for all future learning. From the time I was a child, being a teacher was my goal and found it to be the most rewarding career.
Briefly, can you tell me about your family?
I’ve been married for 52 years to Peter. Together, we have four children and seven grandchildren. Three of the grandchildren are in universities while the rest are in elementary and high school.
How did you come to know about the people of Malemia?
In 2006, we visited five African countries: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and South Africa. This visit was very rewarding as it was my privilege to witness the beauty of God’s creation. I was very moved to see thousands of orphans and prayed to God as to what I could do as one person. During our flight from Nairobi to London, I met Jean Kalinga. We became the answer to each others’ prayers.
Who is Jean Kalinga?
Jean Kalinga is running Mtogolo Community-Based Organisation (CBO) in her village located in the Domasi, Zomba. Through correspondence, we were determined to assist Jean and the villagers from her area. Funds were provided for the construction of a medical clinic with much labour and brick moulding provided by the villagers.
How often do you visit the area?
Since our first visit five years ago, we come every year. In our second visit, we requested the chiefs to identify their priorities.
Their response was fresh water. The next priority identified was foot-bridges and the third area was schools for children aged two to six. This was in recognition of the importance of these early years for learning called early childhood development.
What is the objective of your organisation Hope For Malawi Foundation Inc?
Our objective is to assist villages to become self-sustaining communities. Through a partnership with Mtogolo CBO, leaders and villagers assist each other to become a vibrant community. With the help of many donors and friends in North America, we provide financial resources to make their dreams come true. This is necessary as it is their children and their children’s future that they work for.
As an example of this partnership, for the construction of the school, the chief donated the land and the villagers made 84 000 bricks. Hope For Malawi Foundation Inc provided the financial resources to cover costs of cement, trusses, iron sheet roofs, windows, doors and met other construction costs.
How many people are benefitting from your projects?
Through a survey by the chiefs, we estimate there are 25 000 villagers within this area. They are divided into five zones with each zone having their own leadership to further their quest to become a self-sustaining community.
How do you source funding for these projects?
Initially, funds were provided from personal donations by my husband and I through the Rotary Club of Saskatoon. Several years ago, we were able to broaden our base of donors with the help of many friends and through the above foundation, which can issue tax receipts to donors.
We are very proud that every dollar that has been donated goes directly to the grassroots level in Mtogolo CBO. The foundation incurs no administrative, marketing or public relation expenses. Any costs to provide these administrative services are borne by my husband and I.
What measures have you put in place to ensure sustainability of the projects?
As Hope For Malawi Foundation Inc., we don’t identify needs for the people; rather people are identifying the needs themselves. This means people are owners of the projects being implemented in the area. It is very easy, therefore, for the villagers to sustain them projects for own their benefit.
Which recreational places do you like to visit in Malawi?
I like visiting Lake Malawi in Mangochi and Mulanje Mountain. The scenery is beautiful and relaxing.