Self-help is the word for Norwich's Everjoice
Widows, widowers and orphans across Africa are benefiting from a self-help development charity run by Norwich
Christian Everjoice Makuve
. Gail Halley
Everjoice came to Britain in 2001 just for a holiday, but while here she was offered a job by Norfolk County Council and started work in March 2002.
A few weeks later she received the shocking news that her husband had died unexpectedly in Zimbabwe while she was flying back to see him in hospital. After burying him, Everjoice returned to England and continued with the house purchase she'd begun earlier.
"Most people thought I was mad to buy a house," she said. But then most people don't have Everjoice's faith. "Keep going forward towards the Red Sea, and you will find it parts before you," she says.
Everjoice duly got a mortgage, bought the house and on in October 2002 the three youngest of her four boys – Nyasha, Charles and Tinaye (twins) – joined her here. Her oldest son, Blessing, is still in Zimbabwe, and in October 2007 she became a grandmother for the first time.
One of Everjoice's passions is working with disadvantaged people. Her father died when she was young and her mother struggled to bring up her seven daughters. When Everjoice was not selected to train as a social worker, she said to the university authorities: "If you don't accept me next year, I'll be back – and the year after …" They accepted her.
She joined the leadership programme at New Hope Christian Fellowship in Norwich – who have supported her since she arrived – and was challenged to plant a ministry. And so WORD (Widows and Orphans Relief and Development) International was born in August 2003.
WORD has a huge vision: it aims to provide education and training throughout the developing world. Besides a variety of training courses, there is a strong element of encouraging widows to be self-supporting: they are developing businesses making peanut butter, candles and soap, as well as producing eggs, vegetables and fruit.
"The widows and widowers have the skills," says Everjoice, "but we need the equipment. My job is to preach the gospel and remind church leaders of their duty to care for the poor."
It seems to be working – there are local leaders running WORD projects in Botswana, England, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, with at least five new projects in the pipeline.
A container of clothes sponsored by the Norwich City Council-Dedza Partnership recently arrived in Malawi. "I prefer churches to run projects," says Everjoice, "and several pastors have already caught the vision."
One of the most interesting things that Everjoice (and WORD) are currently involved in is a pilot project recently launched by the Department for International Development, VSO and the Diaspora Alliance, of which WORD is a member.
The WORD Diaspora volunteer programme aims to send Zimbabwean professionals back to their home country for a short spell of voluntary work.
"The country has been starved of its professionals," says Everjoice. "They are to be found all over the world but they are needed in Zimbabwe."
She doesn't dismiss the work of the aid agencies, but she says that she and her compatriots living in the West can often go directly to where the problem is. "We don't need lots of reports and fact-finding tours," she says. "We need people on the ground who are passionate about the work and it is cheaper that way."
The work is growing so rapidly that Everjoice recognises the need to train people to take responsibility for the projects in each of the countries concerned. "We have just done a development training course for 24 people, in partnership with Connections for Development, Outreach Management Services, and Children's Services Specialist Social Work Service/Diverse Communities Department," she says. "These people will be able to reach out and make a difference in their own countries and local areas." Click here to read more about WORD on this website.
Contacts: email at email@example.com
phone 07969 810239, or visit www.wordtrustinternational.com