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While in Malawi I was struck by how young everyone was. The impact of HIV and AIDS is all around you. The average life expectancy in Malawi is just 54 years old and one in five children are left to grow up without the love and care of their parents. So many children I saw had been forced to take on the responsibilities of an adult at far too young an age.
I was overcome by how hard life is for orphaned and vulnerable children in Malawi, and really made me think about how lucky my own children are.
I support the work that EveryChild does with communities across the world because I know how vital is it for children to grow up in a safe, caring environment surrounded by those that love them most. I can’t begin to imagine how much harder it would be if EveryChild wasn’t there for them.
Millions of children around the world have to cope not just with growing up in poverty, but growing up alone, at risk of violence and exploitation.
EveryChild is the only UK-based international charity focused solely on children living, or at risk of living, without parental care. We protect and support children living on the streets, those in residential care and juvenile detention, children living with employers and children heading households or being cared for by relatives. These situations are alarmingly common and evidence suggests that the number of children growing up alone is rising due the ongoing HIV and AIDS pandemic, the global recession and climate change.
Today 24 million children worldwide live without parental care. EveryChild and our partners are working to change that.
Our BBC Lifeline appeal highlights how we keep vulnerable children around the world safe from poverty, violence and exploitation. Without your support EveryChild’s vital work simply couldn’t continue – thank you for finding out about how you can help today.
Salome is five years old and lives with her older sister Mwalimitsa. Their mother died giving birth to Salome and their father left soon after, so the only relative who could take care of them was their seventy year old grandmother, Malita. Having struggled all of her life, Malita wants her grandchildren to have a different future.
EveryChild runs over 100 community childcare centres across Malawi, where volunteers give children under the age of five a basic education. Salome has been attending her local centre for over a year. Salome’s grandmother Malita hopes that she will be ready to start primary school next year. This, she says, “will give her the best possible chance of a future.”
Alefa is 13 years old. By the age of three she had lost both her parents to AIDS. Her aunt and uncle took her in, but they already had 6 children of their own. Four years ago the harvest was so poor there wasn’t enough food to go around. Alefa tells how at mealtimes they would be scrambling for food and were always hungry.
EveryChild provides grants of farming equipment and livestock when help is most needed. They gave Alefa’s family seed and fertilisers which her aunt says, “enabled us to grow more crops and have enough food to feed the whole family.”
The charity also loans goats to vulnerable families because the offspring can provide both income and food. The goat lent to Alefa’s family produced four more. Her aunt says, “When times were really hard we sold some goats. With the money from one we bought school uniforms for our children and Alefa, which meant they were able to go to school.”
17 yr Eletina has cared for her three younger brothers and sister since their parents abandoned them several years ago. All responsibilities now fall on Eletina’s shoulders. Her sole source of income comes from gathering water for her neighbours and working on their land. She is one of 300 children in her community living without a mother or a father.
Overwhelmed by the responsibility of looking after three young children, Eletina had dropped out of school to become a full time carer. However, the charity had set up a community centre in Eletina’s village and its volunteers enrolled her in some parenting workshops. Along with other young carers she was taught practical skills which helped her juggle her own priorities with those of her family. She is now back at school.
Eletina says “My life has changed. I used to just sit here alone. Spending time with other young carers has given me a purpose in life.”
- Hermione Norris
- Executive Producer
- Gary Hunter