He is diminutive and as you talk to him, his eyes seem to say: I know my past, I could not control it. Yet, his heart says: here is the future, it is in my hands.
That is 12-year-old John Samson who now sings the glory of getting out of the streets to compose an essay that beat 8 500 other entries in the Commonwealth, to put Malawi on the creative map.
The Standard Six pupil at Jacaranda School for Orphans soars high in the Commonwealthâ€”an organisation comprising 54 countriesâ€”since his essay, The Day I Wore my Favourite Clothes, won the Timeline Jubilee Capsule.
To cap it all, chances are high that he will get the award from Queen Elizabeth herself in November, according to Jacaranda founder and CNN awardee Marie da Silva.
The competition was part of the queenâ€™s diamond jubilee celebrations.
â€œHe was the face of a street kid, heading his family. His story on his favourite clothes, the uniform, has touched the hearts of judges in the contest. Weâ€™re not sure of what he will get as a price for the award,â€ said da Silva.
In an interview on Friday as he attended the childrenâ€™s festival during the Blantyre Arts Festival, Samson, who by 2009 had lost both parents, attributed the success to hard work. That is the spirit he got from his mother before she died.
â€œBy 2009, I was an orphan. When I lost my grandmother, things became even harder. My uncle, who took me under his fold, deserted me. Then, I had to fend for myself and my little sister Eunice. I had to get money for food.
â€œI used to beg for food at the marketplace and at times, I did piecework so we had food in the house. Sometimes, we had no food, but all along, I considered what my mother used to tell me that the surest way to get out of the trap of poverty and destitution was to pursue education,â€ said John, whose father was Mozambican.
Hope, he said, came when he was told about the school for orphans. When he enrolled, the uniform he wore meant he was no different from any other child.
â€œThe uniform is my favourite clothing because it makes me no different from any other kid. I aspire to become a pilot some day, to open up my world further with travel,â€ said John, who came third in class last term.
John, who loves mathematics, Chichewa and English, said he wrote the story from his experiences.
According to da Silva, the success brings pride to the school, whose pupils recently performed during the 2012 Olympics Games.
Other pupils have been a feature at the Lake of Stars festival and the E-Wallet contest.