By Duncan Mlanjira
In a bid to remove young beggars from the streets of Blantyre by offering them alternative means of survival, NGO Yohane Banda Foundation has organised a fundraising Big Walk from Blantyre to Zomba on November 7, which Blantyre City Mayor Councillor Wild Ndipo and other dignitaries are expected to participate in solidarity.
The participants are preparing for the tough challenge by exercising such as walking some long distances and doing sporting activities and aerobics amongst others to get the body physically ready.
Trustee Yohane Banda, who is also the Foundation’s public relations officer, said the country’s cities are awash with street kids who indulge in begging and efforts to remove them have been done but without offering them alternative means of survival.
“Since the general public keeps giving them the cash they beg for, the street kids become more interested to remain on the streets benefiting from begging,” he said.
“The sad part is that some of them are not orphans per se but are used by their parents and guardians to raise money for their families’ upkeep.
“The Big Walk is also another way to alert the public not to give cash handouts to street kids as that is what motivates them to remain on the streets.”
He said the Foundation has made several initiatives and successfully managed to engage six kids away from the streets by affording them a home and integrated then into a private school.
“They were rehabilitated and still are under rehabilitation,” he said. “It’s now a year as four of them were taken in July 2019 and two in October 2019.
“We managed to keep four students in colleges and three students in secondary schools.
“We had 30 Limbe street kids who were coming for drawing, literacy classes and other skills training but unfortunately the program was cancelled after we were evicted from the location because the owners perceived the street kids as a threat.”
From the experiences the Foundation had through the interactions, the street kids perceive themselves as the most neglected and disliked members of the community.
“Like any other group of people, some of the street children kids would love to be treated with equal consideration and from our interaction with them, some have the desire to be helped to get off the streets.
“This is where the public can come in because if they grow into adults and become streetwise they can become a menace to society by committing crimes such as theft, mugging, rape and other violence related issues.
“In fact, even at tender ages, they are most times used by adult streetwise criminals to commit some crimes. Thus they are perceived as a nuisance and a menace by those who were victimized by street kids.”
Banda says they target to raise a minimum of MK3 million through the Blantyre to Zomba Big Walk and already have sponsors such as Kips, Frost Premium Water, FG Investments, Paulendo and Blantyre City Council itself.
The plan is to empower the kids’ homes by involving their parents in business and to offer startup capital while those that are 17 years and above shall be imparted with income generating skills.
“The fund will be sustained in that after we have economically empowered the first 10 families, we will move to help an extra 10 and so on.
“Through the authorities, we shall hold the parents accountable for their children if they shall return to the streets and we shall also work tirelessly with the police to take accountable on anyone who gives them alms because this is against the law.”
He said those who can be interested to take part in the Big Walk can register at a fee of K10,000 and get a fundraising form.
He said donations can be deposited to National Bank account name Yohane Banda Foundation; Mandala Service Centre; account number 1005624122.
Yohane Banda Foundation was registered as an NGO in 2015 with a mission to empower vulnerable groups through economic activities.
It’s executive director is Kondwani Mzumara with Lumbani Manda as the financial director while trustees are Banda, Sydney Zgambo, Bennie Manze and Kondwani Mzumara with Bennie Mande as general secretary.
Banda said 90% of the funding comes from the founders incomes and the remaining 10% from wellwishers and fundraisers such as the challenge to Zomba.