I founded goods for good in 2006 when I was 26 years old. I traveled to Malawi while working for the United Nations and spoke to the local leaders, leaders who were determined to break the cycle of poverty and care for the one million children orphaned by HIV and AIDS.
These people inspired me to found goods for good; and I moved to Malawi as soon as I did, knowing how important it would be to work hand in hand with local people, to collaborate with them in order to develop long-lasting solutions to the challenges they face. Over the last six years, goods for good has grown tremendously, and I am convinced that listening to our local leaders has laid the foundation for our success.
As we launch an initiative to build a chicken farm and start a program that will revolutionize orphan care, I celebrate the impact we have had on Malawi's people, and reflect on the impact their words have had on me.
"Before goods for good, I had to sell firewood to make money. Now that I have supplies like pens I am able to attend school and write my exercises. In my free time, I use my pens to write short stories," said Gertrude Jimu, a 14-year-old orphan who cares for her six siblings.
The local leaders that I first met with in 2006 had already founded community centers in rural villages to provide the most culturally appropriate support to Malawi's orphans. But they were severely under-resourced. So I founded goods for good with a simple concept: Give resources to those that need them -- in a meaningful way.
Since then, we have mastered the strategic provision of material support to Malawian community centers, reaching 70,000 orphaned and vulnerable children; and by we, I mean our local leaders, Malawi staff, U.S. staff and our amazing supporters. Goods for good has always been committed to sustainability, which is why all of our programs create jobs and improve access to education. Basic goods, such as pens and shoes, increased attendance at schools near the community centers by 30 percent. We had a simple solution to a complex problem and our relationships with our community centers were strong. So we challenged ourselves to do more.
"With training from goods for good, I developed my skills even more and became a tailoring instructor. I am giving these young people skills, so they can take what they have learned and continue on with the craft even after death takes me," said Adess Chatuwa, a tailoring instructor and mother of two who is living with HIV.
In 2012, we became even more innovative and sustainable. We launched a Tailor Training Program at our community centers. We implemented donated fabric into courses and taught older, vulnerable individuals to become certified tailors. The course requirement? Sew uniforms for orphans that attended the center for support. Tailoring students graduated from the course with a certificate that helped them get jobs. They formed bonds with local children that encouraged many of them to come back and volunteer.
"Normally organizations move on donations, but we must have our own businesses and sources of income," says Christopher Goma, Executive Director of the Mchezi community center.
Our continued dedication to the self-sufficiency and entrepreneurial spirit of local leaders inspired our latest program: Community Enterprise. Community Enterprise is a program that I believe will revolutionize orphan care and help Malawi's communities care for their children in perpetuity. With your help, we are starting with a chicken farm.
This chicken farm will sustain local orphan care programs, with up to 70 percent of the farm's profits funding services at the community center, including nutrition programs, school scholarships and material support. Community Enterprise will also teach people business skills, create jobs and bring enterprise to rural communities in Malawi.