A Good Home, Community Building, Kamala-Jean Gopie, Malawi School

Now It’s The Women’s Turn

Remember Kamala-Jean?

She’s the Toronto woman who — exactly two years ago — met a young vendor in a  South African market, and proceeded to help transform not only Happy’s life, but the life of his community back home in Malosa, Malawi.

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean and Happy and Family

Between Happy’s leadership in his community in Malosa, and Kamala-Jean’s guidance, personal philanthropy and fundraising back in Toronto, the first school was built last year. Three times the number of children they expected were enrolled.

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean Women smile in schoolyard

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean -- Schoolbuilding from side

And now there’s more great news! 

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean -- Two girls in uniforms

It starts with this photo. Kamala-Jean explains:

“After Happy sent me the photos with two little girls in blue uniform dresses, I thought: maybe the women could learn to sew and make uniforms and earn funds sewing for others in the community.  So I suggested it to Happy and immediately he responded.

“The women were interested — 40 signed up for sewing and literacy classes and agreed to pay a fee. The classes would be held on Saturdays in the school.

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean -- Children in schoolyard2

“I asked my friends to contribute funds to purchase sewing machines. A number responded with support.

“Then I realized that there would not be sufficient room because the current classroom was filled with furniture and 130 children (divided into 2 half-day classes). 

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean kneels with kids

“So I suggested to Happy that we  should build a sewing classroom. This separate room means that the machines will be safe from damage (from the little children) and the women will have access to the room during the week – not just on Saturdays. 

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean -- Children in schoolyard

“I told him to use some of the funds sent to purchase sewing machines to buy building materials, and I would  try to raise some additional funds for the construction (roughly $4,000 Canadian).

“Happy was off to work in no time! 

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean -- new building nearly complete

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean -- Happy demonstrating how the sewing machine works

“Classes began today (Monday March 26)! 

“The fee of 15,000MK is about $30.00 Canadian which is a fair amount since the majority of the population, who are subsistence farmers, live on about $1.00 per day. We still need help financially but so far I have managed.

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean -- Woman sews and others watch2

“As usual, Happy has shown insight and vision as he seeks to improve the life of his  community.  He understands and tells me that education is the way to uplift his community out of poverty.

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean -- New Building complete

“I see this sewing room becoming a kind of centre for the community.

“Now today Happy emailed to tell me that the men want to know what can be done to help them because the young children have a  school and the women have sewing classes!!!  I told him to have the men provide suggestions and we will discuss to see what is feasible.

“It is now exactly two years since I  met Happy in Cape Town. If anyone had said that so much would happen in these two years I would have said impossible.   

“This project has brought me a great deal of joy, satisfaction  and fulfilment as I see the difference that has been made in the lives of the people in the small community of Malosa (and without costing  tens of thousands of dollars!!!)”

Bravo, Happy and Kamala-Jean and community!

Photos by Chimwemwe (Happy) Musa 

A Good Home, Building a School in Malawi, Inspiration, Kamala-Jean Gopie, Serendipity

Kamala-Jean’s Amazing Story – Pt. 2

When Kamala-Jean saw the school in Malosa for the first time, she sat in the car and started to cry.

“I said to the driver: ‘Just give me a moment, please.’ “

~~

Kamala-Jean had “no notion” that a simple conversation in a Cape Town market would cause so many things to change.

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean Gopie wins Hubbard award

When she met Happy, he was a market vendor whose chances in life seemed very limited. Now, he’d not only returned to school at age 23; he was suddenly in charge of building one! 

While Kamala-Jean and People Bridge continued raising funds in Canada, Happy bought the building materials – bricks and sand for walls, cement for the floor, zinc for the roof, glass for the windows.  Next, he hired the workers.

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean School being built bricks in front

The school, they expected, would attract about 40 children. Then one day Kamala-Jean got an email.

“Happy emailed me and said, ‘Mum, I registered 70 students in two days. Should I continue the registration or not?’

“Seventy! I wrote back and said ‘No more!’ Then, after I got there, he said, ‘Mum, we have 90 registrations.’ “

~~

Kamala-Jean wiped her tears and stepped from the car. It was September 18 – opening day.

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean new school building

“Not only did I hear the children’s voices, but I saw about forty mothers with babies sitting under a mango tree; then there was a table with the head chief and two others. All were there waiting for me.”

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean Women smile in schoolyard

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean Happy Chiefs and Children outside school

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean and Happy in front of children outside schoolhouse

Inside the building, all fifty chairs were filled; the other children sat on a tarpaulin on the floor. Some were barefooted.

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean and teacher at front of class

Happy and two young women are the teachers. Everyone sang together.

Afterwards, Kamala-Jean and the teachers planned lessons and went through the teaching supplies she’d brought.

“I told Happy, ‘Let’s close the school while we plan.’

“But the next day the kids were all there. Happy explained what the parents said: ‘If there’s a school, we are going to send our children to it.’ “

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean kneels with kids

~~

The families in the area live on subsistence farming – they grow maize and beans;  some also grow bananas, avocado and mangoes.

“People don’t starve – they grow their own food. But they have no cash.”

~~

Building the school boosted the local economy. It provided an income for many people, including local stores, builders, teachers, furniture-makers and even Happy’s mother and grandmother. Each woman is paid two dollars a week to cook maize for the children’s lunch.

blog-photo-kamala-jean-women-overseeing-lunch-in-schoolyard.jpg

The benefits don’t end there. The community has no water supply, but Kamala-Jean felt the school needed its own water, for hygiene reasons. 

Maybe they should dig a bore-hole for water? She asked Happy to investigate.

blog-photo-kamala-jean-story-latrines-outside-schoolhouse.jpg

Happy did. He told her it was cost-efficient to make water available to the community, not just the school. So the region’s main water pipes, which currently stop outside their area, are now being extended. Happy is supervising this project too.

As his mentor Kamala-Jean says, “His commitment to the community is unbelievably strong.” 

~~

As for Happy?

Chimwemwe (Happy) Musa — his full name — finally got the other results he’d been waiting for. Weeks ago, he learned he passed his exams, thereby completing high school at last. He hopes to start teachers’ college a year from now.

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean and Happy and Family

~~

Kamala-Jean still marvels at everything that’s happened since her random meeting with Happy in that Cape Town market.

“Some people would say the stars aligned. If you believe in God, you have to think there was a purpose for my being there. This young man, by the way, has a deep belief in God. He genuinely thinks that if he does the wrong thing, God will not be happy.  He’s always trying to do the right thing.”

As Happy “does the right thing” in Malosa, Kamala-Jean continues to guide and mentor him from Toronto.  And she and People Bridge are continuing to raise funds to support the school till it can stand on its own.

Want to contribute to the Malosa School Project in Malawi?   https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/the-people-bridge-charitable-foundation/

A Good Home, Achieving A Dream, Inspiration, Kamala-Jean Gopie, Schooling

Kamala-Jean’s Amazing Story

Imagine you’re visiting an open-air market in Cape Town, South Africa, talking to a bright, impoverished young vendor, not knowing your life is about to change.

The young man has the improbable name of ‘Happy’. 

Your actions will also change his life and that of his whole community, but as you return to your comfortable home in Toronto, Canada, no-one has any idea of what’s about to unfold.

~~

Meet my dear friend Kamala-Jean Gopie.

We first met when she was a teacher and community leader.  As a television journalist with Canada’s public broadcaster, CBC, I interviewed her. Later, we worked together as community volunteers and became friends.

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean CU

I know this woman’s heart. She gives without expecting recognition.  And that’s partly why I’m recognizing her here.

I’ve known Kamala-Jean’s kindness firsthand. In one of my worst summers since the car accident, this elegant, dignified woman drove a long distance to my home, repeatedly, to visit, comfort me — and weed my garden. 

Blog Photo - Garden Tall flowers in front

But her works go far beyond one person.  She’s not rich, yet she has provided scholarships to needy students, contributed to Canadian arts, educational and community organizations — big and small — and helped many.

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean Gopie with award

But nothing she’s done has surprised me – and perhaps even her – as much as this one.

~~

Kamala-Jean lingered to chat with the young vendor. She’d won her auction bid for a trip to South Africa and was now visiting Cape Town.

She asked him questions. He described his role as family breadwinner, and his dream of becoming a teacher. But he hadn’t completed high school. He was here selling goods to support his family back home in Malawi – a four-day bus ride away.

“When he said he had 6 siblings at home and his father was dead, and if he only had his Grade 12, he could help his family out of poverty, it just moved me.”

Kamala-Jean gave him her email address and asked him to contact her.

She asked her cousin, director-general for the Centre for Disease Control in South Africa, to find out more. He confirmed Happy’s story about the school. Kamala-Jean decided to fund Happy’s return to Malawi and his schooling.

Then, last June, she visited Happy and his family at their rural home in Malosa, bringing books and other supplies and singing with the children.

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean and Happy and Family

“The family lives in three small houses with no real furniture, electricity or plumbing.  There is no kitchen or bathroom.  They sleep on straw mats on the ground.”

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean and Kids first trip

She learned there was no school for young children nearby.

~~

Back home in Toronto, she spoke with Diana Burke, head of Canadian charity People Bridge. Diana encouraged her.

“I wrote to Happy and asked: ‘What would it cost to build a school?’ Happy said, ‘I’ll talk to the chief.’

“The chief was very supportive. Then Happy told me: ‘My family will donate one hectare of land.’ “

Happy’s family was giving what it could. 

~~

Things moved quickly in both Canada and Malawi. People Bridge started a fund for the school, with Kamala-Jean and friends donating. Within days, trees were felled and building started.

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean school being built walls going up

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean schoolhouse almost ready2

“It took 5 weeks. The school was completed by the first week of September and I travelled there and opened the school on September 18th.”

“What on earth made you do this wonderful, crazy thing?” I asked her.

“I didn’t know it was going to be wonderful and crazy. I had no notion. I just spoke to this young man who seemed honest and wholesome. His honesty was palpable. 

“When I was leaving the market, I gave him $10. He put his hands together in prayer and said ‘Oh, Ma’am. God bless you.’ I had to turn away. I was so moved. But I never knew things would end up where they did.”

COMING SOON: Pt 2. A WHOLE COMMUNITY IS CHANGED