In London, England in the spring of 2010, at the first Dialogue of Canadian and African Bishops, Bishop Michael Ingham was paired with Bishop James Tengatenga of the diocese of Southern Malawi. Unfortunately Bishop Tengatenga was unable to attend due to his responsibilities as then-Chair of the Anglican Consultative Council and a young priest named Steven Sikoti attended as his designate. After a brief period of awkwardness, the ice was broken and Bishop Ingham had many discussions with the shy young cleric.
Bishop Ingham and Rev. Sikoti stayed in contact. Bishop Ingahm received an email communication during Easter 2011, wherein Steven asked him if he might consider sending a request out to the diocese of New Westminster for vestments, linens and “holy hardware” that could be donated for his church as they had very few of these items and very little hope of acquiring the resources to purchase the items.
Bishop Ingham liked the idea, and with the generous support of the Revered Christine Rowe, then-rector of St. Catherine’s, Capilano and the staff support of communications officer and Topic editor, Randy Murray, calls went out around the diocese for donations.
For six weeks the items poured in and were stored in an office at St. Catherine’s and with the generous help of Christ Church Cathedral parishioner, Terry Love and others the items made their way to Holy Cross Church, Chilomoni Parish, Malawi.
Over the last five years Rev. Steven Sikoti has stayed in touch with Randy Murray and it was the diocesan staff’s privilege to arrange for the purchase and shipment of a good quality point and shoot digital camera to Steven’s parish, Christmas of 2012.
2017 finds Rev. Sikoti at another parish and he has written an article about the compassionate service ministry, located on the site, The All Saint’s Feeding Centre and the continuing need for funding for the vital programs found at the Centre.
Thyolo Anglican Parish is one of the 30 parishes that comprise The Anglican Diocese of Southern Malawi. The parish is situated in the southern part of Malawi in a district called Thyolo, located almost 30 kilometres from Blantyre. Except for one other large city, Thyolo District falls under Thyolo Parish. All Saints Church is where the Parish Headquarters is located. The rest of the adjunct worship stations that make up Thyolo Parish are: St. Mary, Thekerani, St. Barnabas, Msenga, St. Thomas, Luchenza, St. Matthew, Chisinkha, St. Phillip, Kalintulo and Bishop Mackenzie, Mchenga. The latest parish census puts the number of Christians in Thyolo Parish at 1350. The current Parish Priest for Thyolo is The Reverend. Fr. Steven Sikoti.
In the year 2009, an idea was hatched by Fr. Willard Kamandani and his Church Executive to look into the possibility of establishing a Community Feeding Centre at All Saints Church to try and address the issue of people frequenting the priest's house asking for alms. This idea became a reality in the year 2011, when the All Saints Feeding Centre was established. The local church had full responsibility over this program until some members of the English congregation at All Saints came on the scene. This is the genesis of the present day All Saints Feeding Centre.
THE ALL SAINTS FEEDING CENTRE
In its infancy, The All Saints Feeding Centre had a Board of Trustees made up of three members of the English Congregation and the Parish Priest. This Board of Trustees basically took care of most of the financial responsibilities of running the program with 75% of the program in the hands of the English Congregation and 25% the responsibility of the local Malawian Church Members. The Board of Trustees was therefore entrusted with the major responsibility of sourcing for donors both locally and internationally.
Currently, the Feeding Centre has a Working Committee that looks into the day to day running of the program. The Parish Priest is the Chair of the Working Committee. Another member of the Working Committee from the local Malawian Church is the Parish Warden.
Membership in the feeding program is unattached to membership to the Anglican Church. It is an ecumenical, interfaith initiative. We have beneficiaries who are: Anglican, Presbyterian, Catholic, Muslim, Lutheran, Evangelical Church of Malawi, Seventh Day Adventist, Living Waters, Abraham, Zambezi Evangelical, just to mention but a few.
All Saints Feeding Centre has three wings of its operations. These are: The Elderly, HIV Positive members, and the Pre-School Group. In terms of figures, there are 120 Elderly Citizens, 40 HIV Positive members and 75 Nursery School Children. This brings the total number of All Saints Feeding Centre Members to 235.
What is available at the Centre could be loosely considered, “breakfast”, 1 cup Likuni Phala (fortified enriched soya flour made into porridge with milk and sugar) and a cup of tea.
This group consists of senior citizens. Their age is mostly above 65 years. In certain instances some of these elderly citizens are regarded as rejects in their respective communities and the Feeding Centre provides solace to them to some extent. It also so happens that most of these elderly citizens are frail with illnesses. In a bid to address this sickness component of the elderly cohort, the Working Committee sought the services of two nurses from within All Saints’ who run a clinic at the church every Friday. These two are employees of the Malawi Government working with Thyolo District Hospital. During these clinic days it is common to see the elderly having their blood pressure checked and those in need of pain medications provided with them during these Friday gatherings. As a token of appreciation for their services these two nurses are provided with a small monthly allowance.
The Feeding Centre has also put in place 10 volunteers who follow up on those who are clients of the Centre that from time to time need medical attention. These volunteers were trained a long time ago on the basics of Home Based Care. Upon receiving instructions from the nurses, these volunteers visit Centre participants in their homes with the required prescribed medication. Travel for the volunteers is a problem as they try to execute their noble responsibility of home visitations. We hope and pray that one day a Good Samaritan will come forward and provide us with bicycles for our volunteers.
THE HIV POSITIVE
This is another group of people that the feeding program has targeted with the intention of at least providing the group with some nutritious porridge, in this instance, the nutritious Likuni Phala. The Centre has helped these members form a strong support group that focuses on their day to day well-being. There are success stories of those who have regained their body immunity following participation in the Centre’s program. For many, the porridge that they receive in the morning is the only food that they have in a whole day.
CHALLENGES FACING THE FEEDING CENTRE
In the preceding paragraphs we have communicated the positive impact of the Feeding Centre, however, even with all the positives and success stories, the program is currently facing a lot of challenges, mostly in the area of finances and human resources. Finances are problematic because prices of commodities for daily consumption are increasing at an alarming rate and we have suffered a reduction in support from both local and international donors. This unstable financial base is limiting potential personnel from coming forward and helping in various capacities at the Centre. Some have left the Centre due to our inability to pay even a modest honorarium.
For the feeding program to run smoothly there is a monthly running cost that runs well above half a million Malawian Kwachas. As of January 10, 2017 $1 CAD = 550 Malawian Kwachas, so the estimated cost of operation is approximately $1,000 CAD per month.
In trying to sustain the running of the program at a later stage, two years ago All Saints’ came up with the idea of starting a poultry farming project. This idea culminated in the construction of a building currently located on the All Saints’ property. The structure was constructed up to the level of roofing, plastering and flooring. The idea is to raise chickens for their meat. The project has currently stalled because of lack of finances to establish basic utilities like, electricity and water. There are also the costs of a minimum of 600 chicks at K400 each (about 80 cents), feeding troughs and the cost of three different grades of chicken feed . The time frame for harvesting the chicks will be approximately ten weeks. The cost to get the poultry project running will be in the vicinity of $1,600 CAD.
If this project is implemented it will help All Saints’ Church and the community that we serve to improve their welfare at the same time improving the financial base of the Parish for the purposes of the sustainability of the community feeding program.
It is the Parish’s prayer that the chicken farming project will finally take off and see the light of day one of these days. When this happens, I am sure the good work that All Saints Feeding Centre is currently doing for the community will be sustained and thereby be able to reach out to other probable needy people, currently unable to participate due to the various financial constraints currently dogging the Parish.
In this article Rev. Steven Sikoti has presented detailed information about the ministry with the hope of attracting some financial support. If you would like to connect with Father Steven about this ministry please contact him directly through his email address: email@example.com