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  • Writer's pictureVanessa Mwangala


Earlier in the year a friend sent me the song, "something inside so strong" as a dedication to the girls. Listening to the song recently and hearing the girls sing, has just been meaningful, especially with the year we have been having.

The higher you build your barriers The taller I become The farther you take my rights away The faster I will run You can deny me You can decide to turn your face away No matter, cos there's...

Something inside so strong

I know that I can make it...

When schools were shut down, we sent some of the girls who live at Voices Awake back home. The plan was to visit them fortnightly, bringing them food and helping them with their studies. As that week ended, they had started asking to come back. They were excited to visit their homes, but Voices Awake is the home they prefer to stay at. It’s amazing what a week away from comfort can do to a person. It's also interesting that we were celebrating one year of the existence of the Voices Awake Chimwemwe house on June 22.

Enelesi stayed at home for roughly two months April and May, she wanted to share with you her home experience and why she asked to come back before schools were opened.

Soon after the schools were closed, I went home to be with my family. I was so excited to see my siblings, mom and dad. I was there for two months, but I only had peace of mind for one week. Everyone in the community was excited to see me because they had missed me, and I looked good, and different even my dad was loving me. I am the only girl in my community who has gotten the opportunity that I have, so I am a star. This didn’t last long, my father started being mean to me. At Voices Awake when they visit us, they would bring foodstuff and upkeep money. I would give this money to my mother because she would use it to feed my siblings and I. My father was angry with this, he started beating her and chasing me from home. He said I only love my mother and that if I ever get educated I would be selfish and wouldn’t help him. The truth is, I wouldn't give him the money because all he does with money is buy alcohol. He also told me to get married because I am old enough and that education does not mean anything to girls.

One day, my older sister got sick and my mother had to attend to her at the hospital, leaving my younger siblings and I with my dad. He went and got drunk, upon his return, he started burning my mom’s clothes and breaking kitchen utensils including basins we use to draw water from the well. He sold the bags of maize we had harvested and were keeping for food, and spent all the money on alcohol. He even took away the mat I was sleeping on and told me to sleep on the mosquito net instead. When people in my community saw this, they started telling me that the best way to be solve my problems, was to get married. They told me that when a girl reaches the age of 17 like I had, I was ripe for marriage. They encouraged me to marry some man who had two goats and had harvested two ox-carts full of maize, they said I would be lucky to get married to him. They told me that if I go past my age without being married, I will lose my fertility as a woman, I will be over aged. The few girls who were my friends had all gotten pregnant during this corona break and people said I had to take that example.

I realized that, to be safe from my family, my community, I had to go back to Voices Awake Chimwemwe house. There was no where else I could ask for help. This made me realize something, Voices Awake home is the place I find peace, joy, love, guidance and proper counsel, I get all my needs met, including shelter. Despite all the things I have shared on my experience, I know that I have the ability to transform my life. I am back home at Voices Awake and happy right now and I want to thank our sponsors for still standing with us during these hard times.

This is a video we took on one of our home visits at Enelesi's, she was thanking her sponsors.

Even though schools are still closed, the girls who stay in our home are back. We have also been having the ones from our day mentorship and feeding programs coming over too. Without school, girls in the community are not having much to do and a lot are getting pregnant. We were trying to keep our girls occupied until two weeks ago when the covid cases and deaths here started rising exponentially forcing us to close our doors.

However, we still have girls who depend on us for food and support with school, so we are still doing food drives and providing them with educational packages. We have been able to donate radio’s but also to the few who can access the internet, we are having online whatsapp conversations.$3300 helps us provide food to 100 girls per month.

With your support, we have been able to do this since May and now that our situation is getting worse, I need your support to help feed these girls for the months of August and September. Each relief food pack consists of (Maize flour, rice, sugar, beans, salt, cooking oil, soya pieces, sanitary pads, and soap) and it costs $33. Any extra money will go towards supporting our members of staff, whose families are also struggling to make ends meet.

As organizations are crumbling down, we are grateful to still be relevant in this season. We are still able to provide a safe space to our girls. We are able to respond to our community’s cry on how to be safe when poor by also sharing food and hygiene products with them. Recently one of our girls Ethel, has been sewing masks and distributing them to the elderly people in our community, she even teaches them how to use them. It has been an exceptionally beautiful picture of grace as we see goodness being passed on. As you bless us, we also bless others.

Our lives have completely changed but we have not lost faith. We understand that something inside us is so strong, and we will make it. I get reminded of Phillipians 4:13, " I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." That's what we are standing on, and that's why and how we are surviving in this turmoil. We believe we can only go forward even when forward seems like backwards somedays. We also want to encourage you to move forward in faith because life is probably not going the way we envisioned it, but it is happening.

May the good Lord strengthen you and give you hope,

Vanessa Mwangala.


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