Rising cost of food is pushing communities to the edge of starvation.

Rising cost of food is pushing communities to the edge of starvation.

Mike, age 11, Malawi

When you’re 11, it’s hard, even at the best of times, to keep your head in the game at primary school. In Mpama, Malawi, it can be such an almost impossible challenge that many learners give up altogether.

But not Mike.

“I love school,” he says. “If everything was burning down, I would save the school, because I believe it will transform my life for the future.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean school is easy. In Mike’s class, there are 147 kids between the ages of nine and 16. They sit together on the concrete floor, sharing one textbook between three or more kids.

School starts at 7:30am. Normally, children would eat before they arrive and go home for lunch – ravenous – at 2pm. But not anymore.

Mike’s teacher, Nelson Njaweta, says most students now arrive hungry. They don’t have enough food at home to eat regular meals and have to learn as best they can on an empty stomach.

But it’s really hard to concentrate when you’re hungry.

Nelson grew up in the area and has been teaching at the local school for eight years.

“This is the hardest time I have ever experienced in all my life living here,” he says.

“Prices have risen more than 200%. Fuel prices went up 40% just last week. In a short time, things have gotten much harder.”

Global grain shortages triggered by the Ukraine crisis and the fallout of crop-destroying cyclones in early 2022 have combined to push everyday essentials out of reach for many people in this part of Malawi, and communities all over the world.

For some, the rising cost of food means not eating at all.

Where Mike lives, more and more young children are being forced to leave school in a desperate bid to find work, so they can help their families buy food.

“There are some people here who literally have nothing. They sleep on empty stomachs,” says Mike.

“It’s hard to get food for the whole family because the prices have gone up,” says Mike’s dad.

But thankfully, Mike and his community aren’t facing this crisis alone. Child sponsors are empowering them with skills and tools to survive and build a hunger-free future.

To help struggling families feed their children and find a stable source of income, they received goats and training on how to care for and breed them.

By breeding the goats, families have a source of nutritious milk to drink, fertiliser to help them grow crops, and capital. They can even sell one to pay for school fees or house repairs.

And the love and care of sponsors like you haven’t stopped there. The goats are part of a livestock ‘pass on’ project. The first kids born to Mike’s goats were passed on to another family in the community so they could breed goats too. They’ll pass their kid goats to the next neighbour, and so on.

At the same time, child sponsors like you are helping Mike’s whole community to reforest the area, stripped of trees by generations of people selling firewood to get through the dry periods – which have become more frequent as a result of deforestation and climate change.

Today, lush pockets of green break up the community’s arid landscape.

The trees are helping to improve water retention, soil quality and rainfall, and they’re also providing new income opportunities.

Mike’s mum is part of a new beekeeping committee, which cares for three hives. She is hoping they’ll be able to expand in the coming years because honey has proved such a stable way to earn income.

But among all the changes child sponsors like you have helped their community achieve, Mike’s mum says the most important has been in people’s attitudes.

“The biggest difference in our community since sponsorship came here has been the change in people’s mindsets. There’s a slogan we talk about in the programme that says a change in how we think changes our mindsets, and if our mindsets improve, our pockets will also improve. So even though we still have hard times, our life is better now than before sponsorship came here.”

Mike knows that his family has come a long way, and he’s determined to help continue their path out of poverty.

“When I’m an adult, I hope that people no longer lack basic things in their life. If I achieve my dreams, I will be able to fix the challenges my family faces.”

Right now, you can make a life-changing difference for a hungry child like Mike. Sponsor a Child today, and help them grow healthy, go to school and reach for their dreams. You can help their whole community build a hunger-free future. Together, we can achieve amazing things.