NEW TRIPOLI, Pennsylvania — The Sparkle Foundation, or Sparkle, works to create brighter futures and alleviate poverty in Malawi, Africa. The national poverty rate in Malawi was 50.7% of its 18.6 million residents in 2019. Its workforce relies on agriculture but is susceptible to economic dips with “weather shocks” that lead to food insecurity. The Sparkle Foundation was founded by Sarah Brook in 2015 at the age of 21 with Malawi local Matron Aida. Now, on a daily basis, The Sparkle Foundation works with around 300 children in need.
Sparkle focuses on education to bring residents out of poverty. The Borgen Project spoke with Becca Morrison, Marketing Officer at The Sparkle Foundation and she stated “Education is not one-dimensional and therefore our feeding, medical and community programs are all required to ensure our children stay well, safe, healthy and attend school so our end goal can be achieved and our community is lifted out of poverty.”
The Sparkle Foundation
Sparkle is a grassroots organization in Malawi focused on improving residents’ “community, education, nutrition and healthcare.” Morrison says, “We support over 14,000 people in 17 villages and aim to allow communities to live sustainably in the future.”
She added that the foundation also has programs to help residents create their own income. This includes Early Childhood Development, Primary, Youth, Adult Literacy and Women’s groups. Its goal is not only to alleviate poverty but to ensure that the people they help won’t need support from charities in the future.
The pandemic reduced tourism in Malawi, leading to increased food prices and poverty. The Sparkle Foundation found that they had to be careful at their outpatient clinic, where staff cases of COVID-19 increased, along with those in the community. With lockdowns and school closings, The Sparkle Foundation worked with families to home-school children to make sure children still received the education they needed. Along with education, The Sparkle Foundation continued to make an impact on the community.
“From delivering care packages to our children’s homes to using our ambulance service to distribute vaccinations with the Ministry of Health, Sparkle was determined to ensure those impacted the worst by the pandemic were supported,” said Morrison.
As of 2018, 42% of girls in Malawi married before the age of 18. The girls who marry before this time are less likely to stay in school and face worse economic standings as they age. During the pandemic, teen pregnancies and marriages increased for children ages 10-19.
These marriages and pregnancies are seen by families as a way to get their children out of poverty but often lead to abuse once they are married. To combat this narrative, The Sparkle Foundation holds tailoring workshops and literacy sessions for older women to help them gain skills to obtain income on their own.
The foundation believes that education is multi-dimensional. To get children to attend and stay in school, they must also have programs for feeding children, providing medical care and helping the community.
The Sparkle Foundation works with children in Malawi who are disregarded by society and aren’t given a chance at school. Crispin, a young boy, came to The Sparkle Foundation hoping to be in their nursery program. After an assessment, they found that he was unable to use his legs due to inactivity at home. To get more mobility, he visited their on-site matron to get leg massages daily to improve circulation. During this time, The Sparkle Foundation’s teachers worked with Crispin to catch him up with the rest of his class. After two years, he was able to go to primary school thanks to The Sparkle Foundation Morrison explained in the interview.
In January 2022, The Sparkle Foundation provided 206 uniforms to students in Malawi. In poor communities, shoes are the hardest item for families to find, according to the Buckner Charity.
Sparkle partnered with European Business Center in December 2021 to give 206 pairs of shoes to the Sogoja Village as well. After donating the uniforms, absenteeism dropped from 20% to 13%.
Children ages 2 to 6 can attend the Sparkle Early Childhood Development Programme where they begin to teach children in English. For children older than 6, Sparkle has afternoon programs where children can learn about entrepreneurship, government, English, trade skills and more.
The Sparkle Foundation works with adults in Malawi as well. Education was not free in the past as it is now, so many residents over 20 are illiterate. Their adult literacy programs work with adults so they in turn can be a part of their children’s education.
The Sparkle Foundation plans to open a new education center in 2022 with their partner Passion Center for Children. Partnerships play an essential role in The Sparkle Foundation’s mission. According to Morrison, The Sparkle Foundation believes that the world doesn’t need more charities and that current organizations should come together to share resources and skills along with working together for a common goal. Together, these organizations can make a difference to those in need.
The new school will enroll 100 new students who currently walk over an hour to meet with The Sparkle Foundation. With a shorter walking distance, it believes attendance will increase and help more students.
Sparkle operates to help the residents of Malawi provide for themselves. Whether the residents want to pursue education or start their own businesses. With the assistance of its volunteers, The Sparkle Foundation creates sustainable lifestyles. In 2023, Sparkle hopes to work with Gulf for Good and start a Sparkle Farm where it can grow food and “generate funds to feed others.”
– Sara Sweitzer
Photo: Courtesy of The Sparkle Foundation