Malawi is known as the heart of Africa, and while many tourists flock to the country to enjoy the adventure, wildlife and scenery, The Salvation Army is busy combating something that many people may not be aware of: human trafficking.
It is estimated that 30 million people are being trafficked worldwide, many under the deception of receiving something better. The United Nations defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of people through force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them for profit.” While on average 20 percent of victims are children, in many parts of Africa, children make up the majority.
Many families in Malawi live in poverty, which is the main factor for trafficking in the country. Located on the west side of the country on the border with Zambia, Mchinji is one of the major receiving districts of trafficked children. That is where The Salvation Army established the Mchinji Anti-Child Trafficking Centre. The purpose of Mchinji is to rescue children from trafficking and improve their physical, economic and socio-economic well-being.
The centre can accommodate up to 40 children and not only provides a physical space to stay but also access to counselling, education, medical care and spiritual support. Another important component of the program is teaching various life skills, such as carpentry, tailoring and farming, which will help provide a sustainable income.
Once the children are rescued, there is an intentional effort to try to reunite them with their families or communities. The staff from Mchinji will continue to follow up and provide support to the children and their families.
Prevention is another priority of the centre. Knowing that child trafficking is so prevalent in the area, a lot of time and resources are devoted to education and awareness-raising activities with communities and schools, as well as specific individuals, including taxi drivers, truck drivers and bicycle operators.
Kandaya is 14, from Malawi and one of six siblings. He dropped out of school at a young age to help provide an income for his family by doing casual labour. One day, Kandaya’s family was approached by a man named Banda who presented an opportunity for one of the boys to travel with him to work on a farm. The boy would be given a place to live, an opportunity to attend school and an income for his family. An advance payment was made and Kandaya’s family released him to Banda.
Banda travelled with Kandaya to Zambia but then left him in the care of a taxi driver to be brought to the farm. Upon arrival, things looked good. The farm was big and there were lots of cattle. Kandaya believed this would be a good opportunity for him and his family. However, the promise of a better life was never realized.
Kandaya only received one meal a day, would have to bathe himself in the same river where he brought the cows to drink, was not allowed to attend school and had no time to play. He often thought of leaving but, at the age of 14, did not know how he would get home. Finally, one day while herding cattle, a child protection worker approached Kandaya and brought him to the labour office where the police became involved.
After being rescued, he was blessed to be placed in the care of The Salvation Army at Mchinji. While there he learned to write his name, received counselling, learned new life skills and started attending church. He now has a much more positive outlook on life and would like to become a teacher one day, but he would also like to farm so that he can help his family and local community. He truly believes he now has the opportunity of a better life.
July 30 has been designated as World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. This year’s theme is Victims’ Voices Lead the Way, which highlights the importance of listening to and learning from survivors of human trafficking. Kandaya’s story matters.
The Canada and Bermuda Territory’s Brighter Futures Children’s Sponsorship Program is working to support children like Kandaya by partnering with the United Kingdom and Ireland Territory to provide funding to the centre at Mchinji. Working together to support The Salvation Army in Malawi and its efforts in combating human trafficking helps us do the best we can to ensure all children are safeguarded from the dangers of human trafficking and given the opportunity of a bright future.
Major Heather Matondo is the sponsorship co-ordinator in the international development department.
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