By Margaret Gambatu, resident of Nlapa village, Malawi
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Editor’s note: In the southern African country of Malawi, AIDS has orphaned more than 500,000 children, including 12-year-old Margaret Gambatu. After the death of her parents, Margaret became a caretaker for her 10-year-old brother, 8-year-old sister and 90-year-old grandmother. Last year, Margaret’s family received a safe, new house through Habitat Malawi’s Orphans and Vulnerable Children program – another Habitat home among 52 so far in the village of Nlapa.
My friends and family call me Maggie. I lost both my parents to AIDS, so I live with my grandmother. And I live with my brother, Sankho, and my sister, Grace. We don’t have much at all. One dress is all the clothes I have. It was given to me a year ago for school.
Before we got the Habitat house, we lived in the house nearby that had big holes in the roof and mud floors. Some of the walls had fallen. We had no mats, so we slept on the dirt. When it would rain, the house leaked. Everything would get wet. All our clothes. My schoolbooks. And we would have to go outside under the veranda to try and stay dry.
We were not safe. One night when Grace and I were sleeping, a thief came toward the house. But Sankho was awake and outside, saw him, and shouted for help. I was so scared and glad that the man went away.
I like the new Habitat house because of the cement floor, the paint and the iron-sheet roof. We are safe, and we don’t get wet when it rains. The first night in the new house, I slept so well. It made me so happy.
Volunteers came from Canada to help build this house. I was so excited! They were passing bricks, and we would play games with them. We taught them words in our language, Chichewa.
Our friends and others in the community ask us why people helped build this house for us because it is one of the most beautiful houses in the village. So I tell them, “It was by the grace of God.”