FOCHTA Is Now 15 years Old

A message from co-founder Dr Leopold Buhendwa, a FOCHTA co-founder & its Technical Advisor

My name is Dr Leopold Buhendwa. I am one of the three co-founders of FOCHTA. The other two are Steven Labana, the current Chairman of the Board of Trustees for FOCHTA, and Claude Ho, our Patron. Both Steven and myself have worked for MSF Belgium for 20 years. But I myself have moved on, now working for GOAL Malawi, another non-government organization. Steven is now the Logistics & Knowledge Manager of MSF Belgium’s Mission in Malawi. 

Fifteen amazing years of incredible challenges and accomplishments, fifteen years of hope to make this earth a better place to live for those vulnerable and abandoned children and youth in Malawi. This has all come about when the three of us crossed paths and became good friends in 2000 when Claude came to Malawi to do an assignment for MSF, with his brief to make a series of photographs to highlight the plight of orphans in the Thyolo District.

And so it began when FOCHTA started in 2003 as a way to answer to a common dream of three people from different horizons (I was born in Congo, Steven is a local Malawian and Claude is an Australian from HK) who were moved by the magnitude of the suffering of a whole community devastated by the scourge of HIV/AIDS epidemic. At that moment, the three friends had only their goodwill to do something to alleviate the misery of those they could see and they couldn’t imagine that their commitment could transform positively to the life of thousands of people and create a long term resilience mostly amongst the youth. The reality at the time was that whilst MSF Belgium was doing incredible medical work to address to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, people kept telling us that for all the good coming from MSF’s intervention, they were so impoverished they could not live, nor could their children have money to go to school.

Therefore I think it fitting to celebrate FOCHTA as an achievement and a milestone in the life of you all to make this dream possible, you are all friends of Claude, wherever you might be.

On this occasion, I think it is good to reflect on what made FOCHTA survive all the uncertainties and challenges year after year. 

One question could be: “what do we credit the success of FOCHTA to?”. Here then are several factors I believe to credit FOCHTA’s success:

  Any successful organization must have a clear vision and know its mission. From the beginning, FOCHTA was created out of the passion of all stakeholders to try alleviating the suffering of the crying humanity and build a better future to people, mostly to the vulnerable youth. The focus was always clearly oriented towards the promotion of education.

2.  You can have good vision but you need good people to realize it, and good leadership. Claude and Steven have been the leitmotiv for FOCHTA leadership and survival for all the 15 passed years while I was out of Malawi for a number of years. And they have been like magnet to attract wonderful and committed people worldwide who have adhered to the FOCHTA vision.

3.   Although one could think that people working for FOCHTA are volunteers and their commitment is a superficial kind of commitment, the reality is that with FOCHTA there is no place for complacency. With time FOCHTA kept improving its strategies towards more efficiency.  It will be difficult to count the number of lives benefitted by FOCHTA within the communities where it intervened ,being the hundreds of gogoz or grandparent beneficiaries, those very old and abandoned  people to whom FOCHTA has been offering acceptable living conditions. More than 2,500 young and vulnerable people have succeeded to graduate thanks to direct support of FOCHTA in the way that for the moment, wherever you go in Malawi, you have good chances to meet with a FOCHTA product working like teachers, policeman, nurses, midwife, statistician,  community development officers, agriculture expert, IT expert, clinical officers, journalist, university lecturer in physiotherapy, social worker, carpenters, electricians, tailors, welders, office administrators, livestock management officer, agronomist, irrigation engineer, even a soldier, and so on. But for one who is familiar with the reality of utter hardships as faced by these very vulnerable young people, who now are working as productive citizens and active members of their communities, it’s when you realize that  FOCHTA  has been a real milestone in many ways. That FOCHTA has transformed lives of many for the better.

4.  FOCHTA activities are planned for a very long term following its vision. That’s why finally a vocational training center (it is now re-named as FOCHTA Vocational Technical College)  was built to absorb and empower many of the graduates from the secondary schools who couldn’t make it to the university.

5. FOCHTA has had through the years, good and reliable partners and donors who funded all the activities. The list of FOCHTA donors is mostly composed of normal individuals who support one, two or three children, or one or two activities, but totally out from the goodness of their hearts. They are people of vision, integrity, great character, good heart and ideals regardless of where they live, be they in Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, USA, Malawi or DRC.

6.  Although the financial support of FOCHTA comes essentially from overseas, the importance of the involvement of the local community is always its strong point. All the FOCHTA activities are embedded in what is called “grassroots”’, under the supervision of the board of trustees. The various communities participate in the selection of the beneficiaries, keeping an eye on them, and their follow-up and evaluation. This way of working creates a strong link between the different bodies of FOCHTA and their beneficiaries.

What should we do going forward? How do we ensure that FOCHTA will continue a normal growth and a successful adulthood ? I think we have to continue doing all the things mentioned above in addition to strive to keep a very high standard in the administration of education to the youth from its Vocational training Centre.

I would like to take this opportunity to express a special note of thanks to all those who have contributed significantly to FOCHTA’s success during the last 15 years. The list is long and goes from the local communities to the donors, passing by the FOCHTA Patron Claude and Steven. I’m eternally grateful for what you have done for humanity via FOCHTA.

I believe that with the opportunities and the great people we have worldwide as friends of Claude Ho, FOCHTA will have an even better tomorrow, and the thousands of potential beneficiaries of FOCHTA could continue dreaming and hoping for better life. I hope most of us will be still around in the next 15 years to celebrate FOCHTA’s 30th anniversary and that many of us will continue this journey with FOCHTA.



Posted on: Friday, 9 February 2018 at: 10:20 am
Filed under: Malawi news