SVA Update: Issue 2
Humanity to Others
‘Humanity to others’ is at the heart of every organization that works in the charity and voluntary sector. Indeed it is the ethic that motivates individuals to give, to volunteer and to help people in countries they may never visit, and to help overcome problems that they will never encounter directly. But rarely is ‘Humanity to others’ the express slogan of an international development organization, even rarer is it the name of one. The Umunthu Foundation is the exception to this. Its founder David Odali explains: ‘The word "Umunthu" comes from Chichewa, a vernacular Malawian language, meaning “humanity to others” and it focuses on people’s allegiances and relations with each other. It also means “I am what I am because of who we all are”’. David founded Umunthu in Bangwe, Malawi as a personal response to the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic that has blighted his community, giving up his work in neighbouring Mozambique in the process. David is acutely aware of the many challenges that HIV/AIDS poses to individuals, families and entire communities in developing countries such as Malawi, he explains that HIV/AIDS takes the greatest number of victims from the most potentially productive members of the family and of society, those between the ages of 18 and 35. The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Bangwe is so serious because its victims are more often than not those that can contribute most to their communities.
Having decided to take the ethic of ‘Humanity to others’ seriously, David used his personal contacts to build links with local NGOs in Malawi and formally established the Umunthu Foundation in December 2005. The fight against HIV/AIDS began when David implemented a VCT (Voluntary Counselling and Testing) initiative aimed at behavioural change and minimizing the reinfection rate amongst those who had tested HIV positive and preventing infection among those who tested HIV negative. But helping to deal with the HIV/AIDS epidemic was not the only objective of Umunthu, which were as David explains ‘to promote human rights, democracy and good governance, to promote food security among the rural households and to economically empower the vulnerable groups of the youth and women’. Umunthu ultimately wishes not only to combat HIV/AIDS, but to transform the daily reality of rural Malawians.
Obstacles to this transformation have often confronted David and Umunthu. A lack of resources meant that a permanent VCT clinic could not be established until 2007, a rented property which was then sold in July 2012. This setback however was only temporary as the SVA Malawi Bangwe project donated money for the purchase of land and laboured on the construction of a new VCT clinic and community library on the new site the following month.
Not surprisingly David was full in his praise of the SVA Malawi Bangwe volunteers and stressed the importance of the close links being formed between Umunthu and SVA. He claims the role of SVA in Bangwe is both broad and highly significant through its support of health care initiatives, gender-based education and the support of indigenous community organizations which help in the development of a local civil society, prioritized by Umunthu and David Odali. The 2013 Malawi Bangwe Project Coordinators will help develop stronger links with Umunthu, making David’s work central to their development efforts in the area.
So in the knowledge that he has a committed partner in SVA, David Odali goes about the normal day to day of as Chief Executive of Umunthu - visiting the VCT clinic, providing information of HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, promoting a basic awareness of human rights, and organizing legal and psychological support for the victims of gender-based violence - and never forgets the ethic captured in the word Umunthu: ‘humanity to others’.
If you would like to contact Umunthu to hear more about their work, or would like to know more about SVA Malawi Bangwe’s work feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org OR email@example.com.
SVA is a Scottish Registered Charity: No. SC 030081 c/o. University of Glasgow SRC, The John MacIntyre Building, University of Glasgow, GLASGOW, G12 8QQ