My name is Gift K Banda, I was born on 25th May 1984 in a family of six children. I have two sisters, two half-brothers and a half-sister. I come from Dowa district, T.A Chakhaza, Kabwinja village. The beginning of my life was very good since my father was a good farmer but this lasted only for three years then my father sadly passed away. My hard life started because of property-grabbing by his brothers. They took over his property and chased our family to my mum’s village. Because of problems my mum was facing, she married another guy and she left me with my grandmother. She took my sister to her help her look after the baby who was only a few months old when my father passed away.
It was difficult for my grandmother to look after me very well because she was already looking after some other children from other family members and she was one of the village elders, so she was always out and we had to do other things ourselves. Being the youngest amongst the group I could not do many things for myself and I was always home. My grandmother she was happy with me because when she came back she found me around and she asked me to do other small jobs. She was not happy that my friends were leaving me alone at home and not playing with me, while she was away, so she started shouting at them. My friends were then angry with me because I was causing them trouble with grandmother, so when she went away, my friends were beating me to pay back what my grandmother did to them. My grandmother was so sad with that behaviour.
I lived with the same situation for about four years, and I started school when I was seven. My schooling was on and off because of poverty and being unable to afford basic things. I did well in my first year and this made it even more difficult with my friendships as they didn’t do so well at school. My grandmother was pleased with me though.
One day when my grandmother went to a funeral she met with one of my dads’ old friends who was working in town and she told him how well I was doing at school and the man decided to take me to live with him in town. I was in the third class at primary level. That’s how I left my home village and moved to Lilongwe at the age of 10.
Life started very well in town and I continued doing well in class and the man was a caring father, he had his own children but he treated me the same as his. After some months he went abroad and his wife started telling me that I did not belong to their family so I should do all the house chores, I didn’t argue with her. I was just doing what she wanted me to do, and she started baking Mandasi (doughnuts), juice and other things and she told me to sell them in town, which I did.
The following day I thought that was not a good idea so I took them to school with me and sold them during break time. When her husband came back he was not happy but he couldn’t stop his wife doing that, I did that for three years. I didn’t complain because I was attending classes but my performance in class was affected.
Sadly during my fourth year the man died in a road accident, and his wife went back to her home village. Before she left for the village she found me another family to work for. I thought that was a good idea, thinking I will be in the same situation but this time was very different. I had to look after a big family, doing jobs that were not for my age and I stopped attending classes. Every day I was beaten by the wife of the man. I worked for them for about eight months but it was the hardest time I had ever experienced in my life. One day the lady gave me blankets for the whole house including clothes to wash and it was a huge pile for washing, I only managed to wash half of them. When she came back from church she saw that I didn’t finish washing clothes, “I was in big trouble” then I found my chance to run away, I didn’t go back to that house.
Because I had nothing, I could not go to my village; I slept in town where I met street kids. They tried to fight me but God was on my side and I defeated them, and they asked me to join their group. I joined because they had a place to sleep and blankets.
It was a difficult life but I managed to stay with the group since we had to find food everyday, and I did everything what a street kid does to survive but still school was in my mind and I told my friends about that. Three of us had the same idea, and we agreed to attend school, because we were good footballers the head teacher enrolled us and told us to behave well at school.
I was doing well in class I was in the top five, and after standard eight exams I was selected to National secondary school which is close to my home village. I managed to pay for the first term only because I was saving some money when I was working in the holiday, but it was difficult for the second term because we had a short holiday. I decided to go to my village to ask for help but nobody wanted to help me because they thought I was a thief. My grandmother was very keen to pay for me but she had nothing, so she sold some of her farm produce and gave me half for my school fees. She told the school about my situation and they paid half as well.
So my secondary level was going on like that, sometimes I had to do piece-work in town to pay school fees, My uncles and other family members were not allowing me to stay at the village thinking that I am a thief but it was totally different with my goals, I wanted to achieve.
I didn’t complete my secondary school due to poverty. I started a business in town to earn a living and when my business was going well, and decided to go back to school again but I found that my place had been taken; so I went to another school in Lilongwe. After a year a thief came into my house and took everything I had, my business went down again.
I didn’t stop because my aim was to be an educated person. I joined a security company as a night guard, this meant I was working at night and going to school in the morning and at the same time I was doing my driving school to learn how to drive. After two years I finished driving school and passed my Malawi Certificate of Education while I was working for that security company. It was very hard, but I was determined to be educated.
One day there was an incident in the area where our group were patrolling and we didn’t report it, I was suspended at work for a week and this is when I started looking for another job for living.
Then I found the job at Landirani as a guard. I worked as a guard for three months, by the time I was joining Landirani I had my driving licence already, and I was interviewed to be a driver. I started working with people in the same situation as me, orphan and in poverty, which makes me to feel sad for them because I know such a life is difficult. I don’t think many people can manage because they quit one thing, mainly school. I know how important it is to go to school and I want to encourage them.
During my studies and work at Landirani Trust I was promoted from Driver to Project officer and after my studies in 2015 I was promoted to my current position as a Monitoring and Evaluation Officer. I feel this is a great achievement. I am so grateful to the funds raised specifically for my further education to obtain a degree in Community Development. Many thanks to Judith and Paul Mackie and David Bowen.
I enjoy my current role because I am always on the ground to see people who are starting out as I once did and also looking at the changes that the project has brought into their life.
I worked hard because the man who took me from my village looked after me so well. He was my role model, he was a manager of a travel agent, so sometimes he was telling me stories and I was listening to all his advice. He had many difficult situations as well, but still ended with a good life until he died.
Me too, I am working hard to be somebody in the future because I know you cannot just be the manager of an organisation without going to school!
Gift is not just responsible for M&E! He makes deliveries to all our support areas, assists with training, helps maintain the vehicles, keeps our log books updated, supports Secondary students by taking them to school when needed, buys loads of cabbages and food required for training amongst many other things!! We are happy to make his dreams come true, as he helps those who are in the same position as he once was.