Rodrick Nalikungwi, 58, might have played a good samaritan’s role, but he could easily mirror his own youth in Andrew Phiri, the 19-year-old beneficiary of his recent act of charity.
Both stay in Lilongwe; but are worlds apart in terms of social status.
Nalikungwi begs to differ on conclusions that generosity emanates from bountifulness. He argues that poverty still abounds amidst numerous millionaires.
He says his spirit of giving started many years ago: “But on this particular case, it’s the similarities Andrew’s story drew to my story. And like someone else once sung, who feels it knows it. Trust me, I understand.”
True to his sentiments, there really seems to run a common thread in the garments of the stories of their lives; with courage and determination in the face of adversity being the common denominator to both.
Nalikungwi comes from a family of 10 children—six males and four females—where he is the second born. His father used to work for Kandodo Stores while his mother, uneducated, was a house wife.
“When I was in Standard 8, my father lost his job. Consequently, we went home. Keeping us in school became a problem for him,” recalls Nalikungwi, who comes from Nambera Village in Dowa.
“In 1976, I was selected to Robert Blake Secondary School. For several terms, my father would delay me from going to school. He would prioritise my brother, who was two years ahead of me, a tendency I now appreciate.
“What he did not tell me was that he wanted me to help him to quickly finish some garden work whose produce he would sell and raise some tuition fees for us. By and by, I went through secondary school with challenges.”
Today, Nalikungwi is country director for Project Hope.
As for Andrew, he was selected to study at Mwimba College of Agriculture in Kasungu recently.
Until a fortnight ago, he was still combing through the city in search of tuition fees. His family could not afford the K280 000 tuition fees; let alone provide for his basic needs.
“His father died when we were expecting him back in 1998. I have since been raising him alone to this day,” Andrew’s mother, Ida Maingo, says.
Andrew has three siblings; they all get support from the gains of piece works their 52-year-old mother does. The family sometimes goes to bed on empty stomachs.
Most times, she defies the general logic by joining men in off-loading bags of grain produce at a near-by Blessings Hospital which is run by philanthropist Napoleon Dzombe.
Says Maingo: “Of course I now have a side job; working as a cleaner with Malawi Catering Services at the Kamuzu International Airport (KIA).
“But my salary did not qualify me for an education loan for Andrew; hence he [Andrew] decided to take his begging bowl elsewhere. We both see his education as the only hope.”
Understanding the situation, Andrew embarked on a drive to secure the fees at all cost. But time was running out for him. He dreaded losing his place at the college.
For days, he walked from his base in Lumbadzi, bombarding offices at Capital Hill and other places pleading for fees. Even shops were not spared, but to no avail.
Hope began to fade as days passed by. Battered by the scorching sun, the distance walked, the hunger and disappointment over the days, Andrew’s sore feet led him to the media; his last hope.
Had he known, he could have made Nation Publications Limited (NPL) offices in Lilongwe his maiden destination. His sorry story was carried out in The Nation newspaper the following day, with his picture.
His desired answer would arrive 24 hours later. A meeting for the two parties was quickly arranged. Nalikungwi and his wife met Andrew and his mother.
The family initially planned to cater for Andrew’s first semester hoping other well-wishers would meet them half-way. Learning the other details to Andrew’s story and meeting the other family quickly changed their resolve. They committed a fully fledged scholarship.
“There are lots of people who are going through the same situation but they rarely take this route so we just had to respond.
“I think what he has just done speaks volumes of his desire to further his education, irrespective of his situation. At his age, that was very brave to ignore his pride and ask for help. Others choose to suffer in silence,” Nalikungwi says.
He also brought some similarities between the two families. He claimed to have drawn inspiration from his own family, growing up, witnessing how his parents reached out to others when their family’s fortune had taken a positive turn.
“We would like to instill the same spirit in the five children God has entrusted us with. Of course, we are also deeply rooted in the Word of God, so I guess that explains it,” he adds.
Lost for words, Andrew and his mother only shed tears of joy.
“I did not know that some people will be deeply concerned after hearing my story. I can only promise to work and hard in class in appreciation to what this family has done to my family; me personally,” says Andrew.
But Nalikungwi would not leave the rendezvous without sharing his story to the young Andrew. And it came with a serious warning, too.
“I would regret this once I hear that you have started to disrespect your mother. Mothers are a special breed.
“Like mine, she might not have gone to school but I say they are the most educated. Her passion and commitment to send us all to school was second to none. Go and do likewise.” he says. n