Tony Phiri, 14, used to steal and beg on the streets to buy food and sometimes never came home at night to his mother’s house in Mchesi township, Lilongwe, Malawi.
"I used to sleep on the streets - I caught lice and it was very cold at night,” said Tony, who has two brothers and one sister.
The money I got from begging was stolen by older boys - I kept returning to the streets because I wanted to find some money to buy something to eat.
Tony’s mother Mary was widowed in 1989 and has since struggled to raise her children on her own - she didn’t have a job and her health was failing. Her children went onto the streets to find food as they didn’t have enough to eat at home.
Chisomo Children’s Centre is a charity which works with 967 children in Lilongwe and has been funded by AA Malawi from country programme funds for several years. The Centre aims to reintegrate children into stable family environments as quickly as possible. If the child is an orphan, then they try to locate the closest relation capable of caring for the child.
Girls often end up working in the sex trade and so are often difficult to locate, so the Centre mostly works with boys as they are easier to find on the streets.
Chisomo staff met Tony and his brother and sister on the streets – the children now attend school and Tony also works as a wedding usher to make money.
Being on the streets is a bad thing – I’m very happy with what Chisomo have done for me.
They also contacted the children’s mother Mary, who was in bad health and encouraged her to attend an HIV/AIDS test and counselling – she was diagnosed as positive.
Chisomo provided her with a loan and business training, which she used to sell roasted ground nuts, cooked maize and other foods by the road side – this business was very successful and she was able to pay for piped water at her home, which she charges her neighbours to use. She can now support her children and they no longer have to beg on the streets. “Now I’ve stopped stealing and make sure that I wash properly", Tony said proudly.
I am very thankful for Chisomo for making this change in my life - I wish every child on the streets could be helped by Chisomo.