What is the Malawi Project?
Malawi Project, Inc. is a 501(c)(3), Christian, nonprofit, humanitarian organization that focuses primarily on improving the physical and spiritual health of men, women and children in Malawi. Founded in 1999 and headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, the Malawi Project has provided aid to Malawi in areas as diverse as education, medicine, famine relief, agriculture and community development. The Borgen Project had the opportunity to speak with Richard Stephens, co-founder of the organization about the Malawi Project’s impact to date.
The Borgen Project: Is the Malawi Project the biggest provider of humanitarian aid to Malawi?
Richard Stephens: First, allow me to give some background about the nation and people of Malawi. According to USAID, More than one-half of the country’s 17 million people live below the poverty line, and more than one-third consume less than the required daily calories, contributing to the stunting of nearly one-half of children under 5 years of age.
The agency notes, “Malawi continues to score poorly on major health indicators for maternal, infant and under-5 mortality. Eighty-five percent of households engage in agricultural activities and most rely almost exclusively on rain-fed subsistence farming that is particularly vulnerable to cyclical droughts.
These challenges are compounded by threats from the highest rates of deforestation and population growth in the region.” Only 50 percent of children complete primary school, and of those, only 60 percent successfully pass the exam to access public secondary school; only 15 percent of girls are enrolled in secondary school.” However, the Malawi Project would not be the largest provider of humanitarian aid to Malawi.
TBP: What is the organization’s biggest accomplishment?
RS: According to Dambisa Moyo, a recognized Zambian economist, in her book “Dead Aid,” developed nations delivered over $1 trillion in aid to Africa over the past 50 years. The result? Moyo notes that from 1970 to 1998 when that aid was at its peak, the unemployment picture went from a low of 11 percent in 1970 to a high of 66 percent in 1998.
Obviously, something was wrong in the way aid was administered. The Malawi Project is proud of its stance of supplying its aid packages in such a way as to inspire creative thinking among the recipients, development of oversight and management by in-country local management, and the creation of an infrastructure to carry out their own work with little or no outside oversight or management.
The Project supports grassroots development of businesses, churches and community groups that will build up and develop the nation from within. Action for Progress is an example. Made up of business, church and community leaders from all three regions of Malawi, this not-for-project organization is taking the lead in the identification of specific need areas and the successful distribution and follow up reporting on nearly all of the aid currently being delivered to Malawi by the Malawi Project.
In the past 26 years, more than 375 forty-foot shipping containers have delivered over $300 million in aid from the Malawi Project. This aid has been delivered to every region, every religion and every walk of life. Additionally, more than 800 people have traveled to Malawi with Project teams to assist the citizens.
More than $3 million in cash infusion has been delivered in the form of locally purchased food, and through a food processing plant constructed under the sponsorship of [our organization] employing more than 100 people, purchasing raw food materials from over 1,000 Malawi farmers, and feeding over 60,000 people a day — as well as an agricultural village, inspired by the Malawi Project, is training 50 farm families a year in current agricultural practices. Additionally, a five-building, 110-bed medical complex serves the needs of people north of the capital and a 27-building childcare center takes care of more than 160 parentless children. These programs are now working independently of support from the Malawi Project and many others are in the development stage of creating this same independent approach to their future.
TBP: Does the Malawi Project ever collaborate with other humanitarian organizations? If so, could you provide some examples?
RS: Yes, the Malawi Project has teamed up with Feed the Children, Nourish the Children, USAID and the governments of Canada, Sweden, Israel, Holland and Germany to supply food and medical assistance to Malawi. Organizations such as Universal Aid and Compassionate Resources in Canada, World Emergency Relief, Amigo International, Breedlove Foods in the U.S. have supplied food, medical assistance and agricultural assistance through the Malawi Project. Hoffnung fur kinder in Germany, Children’s Hope Fund in Hong Kong and Aid to Africa in Washington D.C. have all given financial assistance. Healing Hands International has supplied technical expertise in areas of food processing and agricultural development. Proctor and Gamble, Adidas and Nike are but a sampling of corporations that have extended assistance through the donations of various products.
TBP: How many Malawians have been helped by the Malawi Project?
RS: “The number would be impossible to estimate, but one can note that medical supplies have gone into every district of the nation, to some 600 medical facilities, and school supplies and textbooks have been delivered to well over 1,000 schools and colleges throughout the nation.”
The scope of the Malawi Project work and the impact it has made in Malawi make it an excellent humanitarian organization. In fact, GreatNonprofits recognized the organization as a top-rated nonprofit in both 2017 and 2018. Yet, Stephens’ answers reveal that there is still great need throughout Malawi. Thus, he and the rest of the Malawi Project have no desire to end their work in this country any time soon.
– Jacob Stubbs