Lilongwe Youth Organisation (LYO) is a locally run, non-government organisation that provides support to vulnerable people in Kauma area, which covers 17 villages outside of Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital city. LYO is not affiliated to any religious group and is politically non-partisan . LYO is currently operating without any donor support, solely through income generating activities.
LYO provides education and support to the community, in relation to issues which we have identified as important for development and sustainability, in Kauma specifically, but also in Malawi. Our primary focus is education and support for youths, particularly those that we have recognised as vulnerable, either as a result of being orphaned or disadvantaged in other ways such as extreme poverty or social exclusion. We have also opened the door to students who are not not orphans, vulnerable or disabled but they on the condition that they have to pay school fees which is used to carter for local unqualified teachers` salarie, purchasing of teaching and learning materials, communication, transport and process for the regstration certificate of the school.
We have started a local secondary school which provides scholarships to children who would not otherwise be in a position to attend. In addition, we run a youth leadership course to encourage the participation of young people in decision making to benefit the community, the village, the district and the nation. We hope to make the children of today, the future leaders of the community, instilled with the values and skills to promote the development of Malawi.
In addition, LYO provides programs designed to promote the health, well being and sustainability of the community, including food security initiatives, adult literacy classes, HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns, human rights and gender training and acute care for those in need.
LYO works hand in hand with the village chiefs to ensure that the activities which are provided are supported by the traditional authorities of the villages.
By 2020 our impact area will have a developed community with sufficient food, self reliant people, reduced cases of gender based violence and child labour, and healthy people free from HIV/AIDS.
Background – how we started
In 1995, James Gama started an organisation which he called the Kauma anti-HIV/AIDS club after seeing how young people were devastated by the effects of HIV/AIDS in the community. His aim was to mobilize young people to start sensitizing them early on about HIV/AIDS through traditional dances, dramas and poems appropriate to their age.
The organisation was registered on 31 May 1996 under the National Youth Act. As it was the first organisation to register in the Lilongwe district, it was given the name ‘Lilongwe Youth Organisation’ (LYO).
Initially, LYO focused only on issues directly related to HIV/AIDS, but as time progressed the organisation identified additional problems in the community which it sought to address, including food security and nutrition, human rights, gender, youth empowerment and the environment.
While LYO has received funding for specific projects from UNICEF, Save the Children UK, National Youth Council of Malawi, Feed the Children and EU- Micro projects, it has not received any ongoing donor support and all of its activities, including the secondary school, are run by local volunteers who are foregoing earning a steady income for the good of their community.
The current director, Yamikani Mike Chunga, is a former participant in the youth leadership program run by LYO. The program inspired Mike to take on a leadership role in the community and he is a testament to the positive impact of the programs run by LYO.
Where is Kauma?
Kauma is a formal settlement of around 30,000 people, located just outside Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi. Many of the residents have moved from their home villages to Kauma, in an attempt to find work in Lilongwe. Most of the people living here work as laborers, housemaids, security guards, garden boys and low wage civil servants. Their incomes are among the lowest in Malawi, many as low as US$50 per month.
HIV drains the few resources available to those of lower-income, as a result of chronic illness and death in households affected by HIV. In addition, Malawi has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Africa, with a staggering rate of approximately 1800 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. This frequently leaves old women taking care of many grandchildren with little resources or ability to generate sufficient income to care for them, or alternatively children heading the household and being forced to provide for their siblings. In Kauma, therefore, nearly half the population are children under the age of 15 years and about 7000 are orphans.
Kauma is a peri-rural area, which is outside of the services provided by the government in Lilongwe. As such, Kauma has many of the problems of urban life, without the services usually provided in a city. However, Kauma also faces many of the problems of rural existence, without the traditional structures usually in place in rural areas.