(formally Goods for Good)
Melissa Kushner understands the consequences of luck. Her life started out with a combination of both. She comes from a loving and prosperous family—that’s good luck. But three weeks before she was born, her father died. That’s really bad luck. It was a loss that helped shape her outlook on the world and her place in it.
“I don't believe children should be destined to a life of hardship because of a little bad luck. I have been so fortunate in my life, and much of that has been based on luck of circumstance. This has made me particularly compelled to use my good fortune to improve the lives of others who are less fortunate.”
Melissa committed herself to ensuring that a missing parent does not determine a child’s fate. In 2005, while working at the United Nations, she visited Malawi, home to more than one million orphans. She brought with her basic goods, such as school supplies, and saw the immediate and profound impact they had on Malawi’s children.
“In the everyday hustle and bustle of life, it can be easy to lose site of what is really important. This work grounds me in a way that I am so grateful for.”
Malawi, known as the “warm heart of Africa,” is the ninth poorest country in the world. 1 in 6 children lives below the poverty line, cared for in their impoverished communities rather than in orphanages. Nearly half of all children under five are stunted by malnutrition.
With those circumstances in mind, Yamba Malawi equips local people with the resources to pull themselves out of poverty and raise these children in their home villages, in a nurturing environment, surrounded by friends and family.
“Our work assists vulnerable children in the near term, while also empowering their communities to care for the children and for themselves in the long run.”
90% of Malawians support themselves through subsistence farming, harvesting crops to feed their families. 61% of the people live on less than $1.25 a day. Yamba Malawi works directly with Malawi’s community centers, equipping local people with with the resources and industry knowledge required to launch successful small businesses. In so doing, they become financially able to care for orphans in their communities while also creating jobs and boosting the local economy.
“Both immediate relief and sustainable development is inherent to everything we do, and I know that means these vulnerable children will get the support they desperately need, for years to come. “
Yamba Malawi is helping to make entrepreneurs out of chicken farmers and tailors, training them in skills like bookkeeping and the most effective methods of chicken rearing.
Since its founding, Yamba Malawi has expanded its reach into 9 community centers and 182 satellite centers. It has helped Malawians launch 10 small businesses, trained more than 400 adults in marketable skills and, most importantly, improved the lot of nearly 80-thousand children.
Melissa says when you make one community center financially sustainable, you help support its satellite centers, and tens of thousands of children in surrounding villages. That’s how Yamba Malawi turns each good into a greater good.
“I am so appreciative of what I have, and I work hard to use what I’ve learned and what I’ve done to give back to others, whether they are standing right next to me or halfway across the world.”
Watch: goods for good in Malawi
Help goods for good launch their beekeeping initiative.