• SIA Team

Making Dreams Come True: Economic Migrants Return Home

Elias Mkhayi and Lyness Gausi both went to secondary school in rural Malawi. They married young and had dreams of continuing their education to learn a trade. But even though they passed their classes, they were not able to get access to the training courses. They didn’t have basic household items like soap and salt, and sometimes didn’t have enough to eat.

Many people they knew had traveled to South Africa for work. According to M’mbelwa District Council near Manyamula, over 25 people a day request travel documents to make the 15+ hour bus ride to South Africa. Most of them are between the ages of 15-25 and can’t find jobs in the area. They see South Africa, with its mines, construction, and industry as a place of potential.

However, South Africa doesn’t always live up to its reputation for these migrants. Elias and Lyness were in South Africa for seven months and still could not find any work. They got deported back to Manyamula for “loitering.”


Nations Ngulube is another returnee from South Africa. He is a carpenter and with the grant from Spirit in Action he bought carpentry supplies. In South Africa, he had learned some carpentry skills and he now make doors, beds, carts, and tables for the local community. Nations has participated in Sharing the Gift by training one person and giving them a small start-up grant of their own.


How do you get them to stay?

A central goal of the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative – the savings and loans cooperative that SIA has partnered with over the last seven years – is to create reasons for people to stay in the community, rather than leave for another country. The community suffers when the young people leave, so the cooperative works hard to encourage local entrepreneurial activities and successful farming.

The Spirit in Action Small Business Fund (SBF) also contributes to the effort to build up the local economy and community. After Elias and Lyness landed back in Manyamula, Canaan Gondwe, Director of Manyamula COMSIP and local SIA Small Business Fund Coordinator, went to visit them. “We discussed at length about their situation and probed on how they could turn around their life,” Canaan told me.

The couple agreed that they were ready to use their secondary education to start a business together. They attended a SBF business training seminar and received their first grant of $100 in early 2017. Then they opened a grocery shop in town, with basic supplies like sugar, margarine, and salt.


At the end of the business training seminar, five new businesses receive $100 investment grants. This is Elias and Lyness’s cohort in February 2017.


Finally, Success

They worked hard, putting in many hours at the shop. Canaan highlighted them as a success story. “A lot of positive life has been registered since the first grant! With the success of the business they support ten family members with basic needs. The business group has become the bread winner of the family.” It is common in Malawi for extended families to live together and share resources. In addition to providing for their family, Elias and Lyness are saving to buy land to be able to grow food and crops for sale.

They still have big dreams and this time they are making them come true!

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