Board members of the Women of Grace Widows Fund want you to know not only where your donation to the fund goes, but what its impact is on Malawian women.
For the past five years, group members from Watertown and Canton have maintained a $14,000 annual budget to help 60 Malawian widows in three villages of the African country have a more stable life. Through business and individual donations within Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties, the Women of Grace Widows Fund provides grants or micro-loans to those Malawian widows.
All I can think of is hands stretched around the globe, board member Heather F. White said. We couldnt have done any of this without the community.
Fellow board member Renee G. Waterbury said the widows have learned to trust the American women, especially since they keep coming back to offer support and teach them tools to become self-sufficient. Because of the continued support, the widows fund needs to replenish money toward its operational costs, and will hold a Cabin Fever Coffee and Dessert Night fundraiser from 7 to 9 p.m. Feb. 27 at Ives Hill Retirement Community, 1200 Jewell Drive.
Ticia K. Marra will provide live entertainment, and desserts and gift baskets will be auctioned off. Coffee and desserts will be available.
A $5 admission fee is requested, but further donations are welcome.
Canton board members will sponsor a second Cabin Fever Night fundraiser from 7 to 9 p.m. March 1 at First Presbyterian Church, 17 Park St., Canton. Matt Bullwinkel will provide live entertainment during that night.
While nearly half of the groups budget comes from the direct mail campaign, Mrs. White encourages people to attend the fundraisers to see pictures and hear stories of the funds impact. Most recently, the fund has provided widows with basic wooden-frame beds with a single mattress and bedding, fabric and zippers to make purses to be sold at market, and pigs. Half of the pigs were to be used for food for the women and their families, and the other half were to be sold. The funds loan program provided money to the women so they could afford to feed the pigs.
The fund started after a Malawian woman named Grace Chiumia told north country residents who went to Malawi on mission trips that once a husband dies in Malawi, his family often comes into the home that the husband and wife shared and takes what it can. That is what happened to Ms. Chiumia, who overcame her struggles to become a member of Parliament.
Each month, the group here wires $1,050 to a bank in Malawi, and Samuel Chirwa, who runs that countrys side of the organization, decides with the group of Malawian widows who will benefit next.
While grants vary in size, loans typically are 70 to 10,000 kwacha, the Malawian currency.
At its next board meeting,the Women of Grace Widows Fund will decide how it will raise funds for a new vehicle it uses in Malawi. Mrs. White said she didnt know how many miles were on the vehicle, or even whether the odometer worked.
Its hard travel, she said. Theres only one paved road, then its all out in the bush. Its literally dirt or tall grass, potholes, bumps and rocks.
The vehicle also is used for food deliveries, funerals and medical or other emergencies.
The group has raised $8,000 toward a new vehicle thus far, and has about $10,000 more to go.
For more information about the fund, or to donate, visit www.womenofgracewidowsfund.org.