Eme gives the best hugs. As we greet each other every morning and throughout the day, we embrace. Her long sinewy arms enfold you in a gentle squeeze, heart to heart.
Eme is a widow and cares for her 3 children on her own. She also cared for her 95 year old mother who would often lose her faculties, but sadly, her mother died shortly before our arrival. Eme is not originally from this village. After her husband died, she lost all but the clothes on her back when other community members laid claim to her home and possessions – “property grabbing” as it’s called here in Malawi is a common practice in villages where people do not have wills and don’t know their rights. Habitat trains all homeowners on how to obtain a will and how to help yourself in the event of a death.
When Eme came to Nnima village, she was at the mercy of the community, who helped her build a small two room house. The house, which has already begun to collapse, sings the same song as so many others – weak unfired brick, leaky roof, mud floor, poor ventilation, no toilet. The family often suffers from malaria. Habitat homeowners are also furnished with mosquito nets, further improving the health and welfare of the homeowners.
Eme is a hard worker. Her days begin early, before sunrise, working in the garden. She cooks outside as many do, fetches water and cleans. She supports her family by doing piecework, earning on average 200 Malawian Kwatcha a day. Approximately $.36. Thirty-six cents. She uses the money to buy food items to supplement what she grows herself.
Wednesday this week Eme’s cousin, who also lives in the village, died. She had gone to the hospital a few days earlier complaining of a headache and she never came home. We could hear the wailing from the women when they learned the news. They were in mourning for the next couple days, but said it would be okay for us to continue. In their sadness, they were concerned that we were comfortable.
Eme’s cousin, who was a widow herself, had several children, now orphans. Eme now is expected to help care for 3 of them, while the family takes the time to decide where the children will permanently reside. The extra burden seems excessive, but with her new Habitat home nearly completed, it will be a safe haven when the rains come. Into every life a little rain must fall.
One more thing you should know about Eme. She’s also an amazing dancer.