By Tess Purcell
When you think about what a hero looks like you might think about a muscle-bound man flying around a metropolitan city, saving damsels in distress. That is often the stereotypical hero image.
But when I think of a hero, a real-life hero, the first person who comes to my mind is my mother.
She raised five children during the '80s in Ireland; not an easy task. She is the boss and heart of our family. We always had food on the table and shoes on our feet and it’s all down to her and my father’s strong resolve.
In November of 2017, I was honoured to travel to southern Malawi to meet and talk to grandmothers, mothers and daughters, who have directly benefited from Christian Aid projects.
The water reached three metres high…We had to go in mud up to the waist.’
These projects, some of which are supported by Irish Aid, have supported women in rural Malawi to thrive and become truly-inspiring, real-life, bona fide heroes. I was blown away by their strong resilience on both an emotional and physical level.
I spoke to Lucia Gosta (54) from the district of Chikwawa. Lucia demonstrated the lengths to which mothers will go through to keep their families safe.
In 2014, a huge flood wiped out her home and she lost everything. She had to drag her family through the mud and water in the dark to get her children and grandchildren to safety. The water was infested with insects and carried dangerous debris.
“I thank God that he spared our lives,” she said. “The water reached three metres high…We had to go in mud up to the waist.”
But still, she carried on until they reached dry land.
Thanks to your support, Christian Aid was there to help Lucia and her community recover.
She has since built a new home for her and her children away from the flood plains. Through a Christian Aid-led resilience programme, Lucia has also been encouraged to use a more fuel-efficient stove. The stove needs much less firewood and uses less fuel than traditional stoves, which helps to reduce deforestation and climate change.
Lucia is part of an irrigation scheme funded by Christian Aid in her area and she received two goats. “Within the same year, they had multiplied and then I had eight goats within a year. From eight goats, I sold three and kept five. They totally transformed my household. I was able to send my children to school.”
When Lucia was talking with me, she carried herself with such grace and humility that she reminded me of my own mother, doing what she had to do to keep her family fed and watered.
I also met Mafulesi Tohuzi who described to me the pain of losing her children, due to malnutrition and a lack of access to clean water. Mafulesi gave birth to 15 children. Of the under fives, she lost five children, and then a further four over five-years-old also died. She somehow remained strong for her surviving children.
In 2016, Christian Aid installed a water kiosk in her village and since then no children under five have died because of water-borne disease. Thanks to Mafulesi’s care and determination, her children can go to school and hope for a thriving future.
Stories of the remarkable strength, selflessness and courage of mothers were told to me throughout the different villages I visited.
By supporting women like these to have the freedom and means to become resilient, you are helping to build a strong community of inspiring mothers and grandmothers for future generations in Malawi and beyond.
On this Mother’s Day, a day of recognition, we say thank you to mothers everywhere.