On one of my frequent trips to the Kondanani Preschool in southern Malawi, I was confronted with the stark reality of child-headed households. It is estimated that about 500,000 orphans live in child-headed households in Malawi. After visiting with the volunteers and playing with the children, Pastor Makawa, the preschoold director, called three children over to me. The oldest was a girl about 8 years old, and she was holding hands with her two younger siblings. Makawa asked me for help for these children. When I asked about their family, Makawa informed me that the parents had died, there were no known living relatives left, and the children had been sent home to their home village. Only problem, there was no one to take care of them.
So now these three children live alone. The 8 year old begs for food and scrounges through the garbage heaps trying to find food to feed her brother and sister. She desperately needs a bath. Her younger siblings, looking lost and confused, follow her so that their family can keep together. They wear their only set of clothes. Other villagers, when they have extras, try to provide some extra food for them. However, there is no one to keep them safe at night — safe from intruders or hyenas.
How would you respond when meeting these children? I cried for their lost innocence, for their family all having died, and for their desperate situation. I cried for all the other African families devastated by the AIDS pandemic leaving millions of orphans in child-headed households in sub-Saharan Africa. I prayed that someone would step forward and take these children in to their home. And I vowed to God to do whatever I could to make a lasting impact in the lives of these children and others like them. Lasting impressions do change lives.