In the village of Nkhafi, in the Dowa District of Malawi, a small, empty hut sits in a place of honor.
The women of the village built the hut for their "sister," Mercy Chikhosi, because she has changed their lives. It is only occupied when she visits.
The four chiefs from the Dowa District come to greet her and sing her praises for her work with the village.
"Every time I come they greet me in this hut," she said, pointing out the traditional thatch roof supported by poles.
"The mud plastering was all done by hand," she said, rubbing her hand along the interior's smooth surface. "You can feel the warmth of the village through this house."
Chikhosi has made these women and others in the Dowa District her personal mission, arranging for United Methodist donations to provide the women with small business loans.
Chikhosi believes in empowering, not charity.
She graduated from United Methodist Africa University in Zimbabwe with a degree in nursing. She first came to this district in 2011 as a community health coordinator with Malawi United Methodist Church.
The women pull her into their circle and insist she dance with them. Her smile gets broader and she laughs while dancing.
|Violet Chandawira bathes her son Demphero Muaza in Mzira, Malawi. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS.
She loves these women and they love her.
"I developed a strong bond and a relationship so I continue visiting, influencing and motivating them to identify their needs and find solutions with local resources," she said.
Mercy Chikhosi's organization, Wandikweza, supports best practices in health care, developing sustainable communities and empowering girls and women.
"I work with these communities in my free time, like weekends and holidays," she added.
In Mzira, little Demphero Muaza does not like the early morning bath his mother Violet Chandawira is forcing on him. She pours water over his head as he sits in a tin pan, his little body covered in white, soapy foam. She smiles and goes about her chore of washing him before he gets dressed and sent off to school.
Chikhosi credits The United Methodist Church for the work she has been able to accomplish.
"I graduated from Africa University and my life dream to be a nurse came true," she said. "The United Methodist Church has invested a lot in me."
Kathy Gilbert, multimedia reporter for UMNS
One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the Africa University Fund transforms Africa by educating and empowering students from across the continent through Africa University, the first fully accredited, United Methodist-related educational institution on the continent. The Africa University Fund supports the general operating expenses of Africa University including faculty and staff salaries and vital infrastructure. Please encourage your leaders and congregations to support the Africa University Fund at 100 percent.