Following two months of admission at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) in Lilongwe after a road accident, Swanzie Success Mawerenga’s eyes opened to the struggles of those in long hospital stays.
She was involved in an accident in 2004 and sustained a broken pelvis.
Success had her family and employer for support, unlike some people she was hospitalised with.
“I was lucky to have family and my employer supporting me during my stay in hospital. But I observed heart wrenching experiences as people sold land and property to maintain their loved ones’ stay in hospital. I know from experience how a family’s income can be depleted by a long hospital stay,” she explains.
This is what motivated her to identify people in need of support in hospitals, leading to the birth of Big Hands Foundation, which started with hospital visitations.
She was initially drawn to the surgical female wards at KCH by providing maize flour, relish, soap, firewood and other necessities.
“While I support the whole ward, I particularly identify those who have stayed for a long time and adopt them as family,” she says.
That was just one of the interventions of Big Hands Foundation which are summed up in WEEE — an acronym that stands for Welfare, Empowerment, Education and Evangelism.
Once Success identifies those in need of support in the hospitals, she also finds out if their children are affected academically and steps in to support them too.
Their visits have now extended to Bwaila Hospital and Dowa District Hospital where they also teach guardians how to make nutritious meals and fruit salads from available local fruits.
The foundation also supports 30 elderly citizens in Mtandire Township in Lilongwe, providing warm clothing, house renovations, nutritious foods and sanitary products.
It also supports vulnerable communities at Topaizi in Dowa East, in partnership with Chideza Community-Based Organisation (CBO).
“We provide breakfast for school going children and basic human necessities to over 100 poor households. We also support 21 aged people, two of whom are 105 years old,” says the mother of three.
In as far as education is concerned, the foundation supports two primary schools in Dowa — Mkanga and Mweziukawala primary schools — complementing government’s efforts by supplying stationery and textbooks.
Every winter, they buy second-hand sweaters, socks and other warm clothes for all pupils at Mkanga Primary School.
“Winter in Dowa gets really harsh in the Kongwe Hills resulting in school absenteeism and eventual drop-outs. With this intervention, there has been a drastic improvement in school attendance by 55 percent, especially for girls. We also provide sanitary products to the mature girls at Mkanga Primary School,” she explains.
Big Hands Foundation has also established a library at the school, which is also accessible to the community, to help improve literacy levels and access to information in rural settings.
As a way of empowerment, the initiative established two adult literacy schools in Dowa, guided by the social welfare department at the district council.
“I believe that a society where many cannot read and write is a recipe for future higher levels of illiteracy. We are proud to showcase more than 80 adults who now know how to read, write and count. We also train rural women in financial literacy with emphasis on savings, loans and small investments,” says Success.
Notwithstanding the above programmes, her desire is to see people turn to God and through the evangelism aspect of the organisation, they are supporting rural pastors.
“There are some servants of God in rural areas who are working tirelessly for God. We support them in form of cash, groceries, gospel materials and supporting their gospel programmes,” she explains.
In implementing all these initiatives, the 49-year-old works with her three daughters and other volunteers using personal funds.
However, over the years they have had support from friends, family and some organisations such as Evangelical Association of Malawi, Feed the Children and 25:35 Missions.
Advising younger girls, the philathropist says they should always remember that they can achieve anything.
Says Success: “The world is a stage available for you. Equip yourself as much as you can to prepare for and walk into your destiny. Pursue God because He has the blueprint for your life. Get education, cultivate the necessary life skills and enflame your talents.
“Start today to define the kind of wife, mother, adult citizen, leader and grandmother you will be. That way, you will write an unforgettable letter to the generations after you.”
The daughter of the late Eden and Margaret Munthali was born at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre on 27 April in 1971 as the only child. Her father was an insurer and her mother a banker who worked for National Bank of Malawi.
Growing up, like most girls of her time, she enjoyed going to watch football and tennis; and loved teen time discos which would take place at Kudya Entertainment Centre.
At the end of almost every month, she would be at Apollos in Blantyre for cinemas.
“I was fun loving and I must confess, a little bit rebellious. All this came to a stop when at the age of 14 in 1985, I became a born-again Christian. That was the turning point of my life. The experience of receiving Jesus as my personal Lord and Saviour gave me rest in my spirit. Everything, especially my character and outlook to life changed for the better,” says the fierce prayer warrior and lover of God.
The kind-hearted woman holds a Higher National Diploma in Computer Studies from National Computing Centre (UK); Diploma in Community Studies from Association of Business Managers (ABMA) and a Degree in Development Studies from Pentecostal Life University (PLU).
She is also a Global Women Leadership Network pioneer.
Although she was the only child, she grew up in a home that was always full of children.
This also entrenched in her mind the need to support others; such that her family started living with many children early on in their married life.
“Many of those we lived with and supported are now respected citizens and some of them are married and holding high positions in organisations. I strongly believe that it is a seed that was planted in my life — the heart to serve others. I owe it to my God and my mother,” she says.
In 1992, she got married to James Mawerenga and they are parents of three girls — Hope, Rejoice and Gift-Jamie who have supported her ministry since they were young.