One Great Hour of Sharing

Leading with a purpose

March 12, 2024 by by Emily Enders Odom

Gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing help set Malawians on the path to food security through unique women-owned business

Although the women of Malawi are accustomed to doing anything and everything — from farming to running small-scale businesses — to support their families, Tropical Cyclone Freddy sorely tested Tinenenji [tee-nan-an-gee] Kalamba’s resilience.

Yet Kalamba was undeterred.

She was already proving to be an exemplary leader in the Kasupe [kuh-soo-pay] Women’s Bakery and Value Addition Centre — a project of Kasupe Ministries, [a registered nongovernmental organization in Malawi — when the devastating March 2023 storm washed away the lives and livelihoods of countless thousands across the southeast African country.

This certainly wasn’t the hopeful future that the twice-widowed 42-year-old had pictured for herself when the bakery was first started in 2022 with funding support from the Presbyterian Hunger Program.

Originally designed to address the local shortage of nutritious and healthy foods in the Kasupe region by having women produce and sell a variety of baked goods and farm products, the bakery has not only employed local women as bakers, but — before the cyclone struck — also bolstered the production of local farmers and strengthened the local economy.

Although Kalamba had dropped out of school at the age of 12, she is widely acknowledged as the business-savvy woman behind the bakery’s success.

“I desperately wanted to lead,” she said. “I had noticed that this project had potential and I wanted to be at the forefront. I can’t lie, I also wanted to benefit a lot since I thought I needed more of the money than the rest.”

Kalamba knows whereof she speaks.

Not only is she HIV-positive, requiring a regimen of antiretrovirals, which are not always available to her at no cost, but she also has nine mouths to feed — herself, her four children, their two children as well as two grandchildren from her late sister. She works to give them a better life.

“I want to make sure that my children go farther with school,” she said. “I dream of them going to college and I tell them never to be like me when it comes to the issues of school. I teach them to work hard, fear God, and always face challenges head-on.”

It is thanks to Kalamba’s faithful leadership that the bakery operation survived the cyclone.

And it is thanks to a grant from the Presbyterian Hunger Program (PHP), made possible by Presbyterians’ generous gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing, that the humanitarian outreach of Kasupe Ministries can continue uninterrupted.

For 75 years, the Offering’s purpose of helping neighbors in need around the world remains constant, giving the PC(USA) and other Christian denominations a tangible way to share God’s love. In addition to the PHP, One Great Hour of Sharing also benefits the ministries of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People

Although the Offering may be taken anytime, most congregations receive it on Palm Sunday or Easter Sunday, which this year fall on March 24 and March 31 respectively.

“Tinenenji is the first to arrive and the last to leave the bakery,” said Dr. Fletcher Padoko, executive director of Kasupe Ministries, whose long-term goal is to reverse generational poverty and eradicate preventable diseases, namely HIV/AIDS, through programs and projects developed in partnership with Malawian nongovernmental Christian organizations.

“Although she doesn’t make more money than the others, the evidence is all over the bakery operations that this woman leads with a purpose,” he added. “Most of the people who come to the bakery and the Kasupe market are also her customers in her other smaller businesses. In the rural villages where everything is tough to come by, her moves are indeed shrewd.”

PHP’s partnership efforts with Kasupe Ministries serve primarily to address the nutritional needs of widowed households and other vulnerable groups through livestock farming. Many households, like Kalamba’s, have also been severely impacted by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

“In our villages, about 70% are women and children,” Padoko explained. “Because we have a lot of widows due to HIV, we try to focus on the women who are the leaders in the rural areas. They are so influential even though they are poor and vulnerable. We find if we work with them, it will be possible for us to uplift them; and, for us as a Christian organization, we try to make sure that we are not at the front but rather behind them, helping them in the areas where we feel they cannot help themselves.”

Valéry Nodem, PHP’s associate for International Hunger Concerns, said that in the few years that he has worked with Kasupe, he is “always amazed at how much they can do with so little.”

“What’s unique about Kasupe is their approach, especially the way that they relate to the community,” Nodem said. “They are grassroots, not top down. They don’t just start programs, but rather they go out into the communities and find out what they need. Then, even if they don’t have the money right away, they start the programs. I can only imagine what it would look like if Kasupe had all the resources they needed because they’re already making a big impact with what they have.”

In its mission to eradicate poverty, Kasupe’s work is also closely aligned with the Matthew 25 vision.

“I have been following what has been going on with the Matthew 25 movement, and what we do is what Matthew 25 is calling us to do,” said Padoko. “The rebuilding process has been really hard for the people in the villages, especially the women and children.”

But Padoko added that women like Kalamba are still able not only to survive, but to actually thrive in hostile environments like this.

“She stands tall to be counted not just as a participant in community life, but as a leader,” he said.

Nodem said that he especially appreciates the ability of One Great Hour of Sharing to allow “more people in the church to hear about the good work that we’re all doing together.” He added that PHP’s ministry partner, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, was also instrumental in bringing post-cyclone humanitarian aid to the people of Malawi.

Padoko similarly expresses his gratitude.

“I encourage people to give to One Great Hour of Sharing as a way to give directly to the people,” he said. “We are so thankful to the givers because we, the Malawian people, are the beneficiaries of your generous giving.”

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Each gift to One Great Hour of Sharing helps to improve the lives of people in  challenging situations. The Offering provides us a way to share God’s love with our neighbors in need. In fact, OGHS is the single, largest way that Presbyterians come together every year to work for a better world. Join us!