Mother Nature is Breaking Evance Golden’s Heart

Home in Chibade Village destroyed by Tropical Cyclone Bansi in Malawi last week

“Annie, it is very painful and difficult to to explain what has happened here. All but ten of my 350 poles and timbers are gone. Everything I had in my tent is gone: 1 chainsaw, 2 bags of maize for my workers, 5 blankets, 20 knives. The foundation of my 2015 plan is completely gone. And Chibade, my birth village, has lost 50 houses, 140 toilets, 200 farms, 32 goats, and so much more. I am crying and don’t have enough energy in my body to explain how bad it is.” Text message from Evance Golden, January 14, 2015

Mother Nature is having its way with the people and land of southern Malawi in Southeast Africa. Weeks of heavy rain, then Tropical Storm Bansi hitting last week and Tropical Storm Chedza, has led to at least 173 lost lives and over 200,000 people displaced in southern Malawi. Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika has declared a state of emergency in the area and relief organizations are mobilizing to bring in food, tents, and other supplies.

Damn you Mother Nature! Evance is my mentee and we have been making great progress. Until now. You are breaking our hearts.

Another home destroyed in Chibade Village, Malawi

I became acquainted with Evance, the 33 year old proprietor of Ntcheu, Malawi-based Golden Furniture and Timber Sales through Grow Movement, an organization that pairs African entrepreneurs with volunteer business consultants.

For the last six months I’ve been regularly meeting with Evance via Skype to discuss not just his business challenges, goals, and solutions, but also, and more importantly, to share insights into our lives, families, and communities.

I am truly humbled and inspired by this young man. He is a talented businessman, providing much needed services and jobs for his community. Yet no matter what life, Mother Nature, or the government, has thrown at him, he continues to serve—even though it often seems that for every step forward, he is forced to take two or three steps back.

Golden Furniture’s vocational trainees—orphaned youths participating in Malawi’s TEVETA program

Take Tropical Storm Chedza. Up until it hit last week, things were looking pretty good for Evance.

Following a significant business setback in 2010, Golden Furniture and Timber Sales had seen a steady rise in sales, with the timber business generating enough cash in 2014 to fund a new showroom on the main highway through Ntecheu and purchase a new, much-needed piece of carpentry equipment.

Evance Golden & the new carpentry machinery, Ntecheu, Malawi, December 2014

Evance was also able to continue to pay the orphaned youths he employed through a government vocational training program, despite the fact that co-op funding for the program had ended.

Evance had also stockpiled 200 poles and 150 timbers near the Mulanje Forest. He planned to sell these after the new year to free up working capital and fuel the furniture and vocational training side of his business. His long-term goal: establish a vocational training center to teach carpentry to youths orphaned through AIDS and other causes.

Stockpiling poles near the Mulanje Forest, Malawi

And then came the rains.

Farm flooding in Chibade Village, Malawi, January 1

There went Evance’s nest egg: 340 poles and timbers, and so much more, washed away. A dream of of helping orphaned and homeless youths shattered.

Unfortunately, in an impoverished country like Malawi, there is no one for Evance to turn to for help. No one. Not for his business or for Chibade Village — his devastated birth home. No social security, no insurance, his investment is just gone. All he has is me, his volunteer mentor, and you.

You see, Malawi is a one of the poorest countries in the world with very few resources available for social services. The average annual income is below $1000 (US) a year (context: the average US family spends about $1000 on groceries every 6 weeks) and over half of the country’s population live below the national poverty line. In 2013 UNICEF reported that of the 1.3 million youth orphaned through all causes in Malawi, half of these are due to AIDS.

Mother Nature may have broken Evance Golden’s heart, but we can help mend it. Let’s get Evance Golden, the youths he helps employ, and his community back on track. If you can spare $10 to replace 5 knives or 1 pole, $15 to replace a bag of maize or a blanket, or more, please make a donation to the campaign I am running on Fundly. I hope to continue volunteering to help Evance develop his business. But for now, let’s just help him get back on his feet.

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