Malawi mother: “Coming to Derby-UK has saved our lives”. Hunger, disease and Poverty0 Comments

By admin
Posted on 15 May 2014 at 1:31pm

A MOTHER-OF-TWO who fled the poverty of Malawi believes coming to Derby saved her family’s lives.

malawi mother

Joyce Kantchowa said her “life was not worth living” in the nation which is considered to be among the world’s least developed.

She fled with her daughter, Chimwemwe, now 14, and her son, Edigar, nine, and then spent seven years as an asylum seeker before the family was granted permission to stay in the UK permanently this year.

Her husband, Edward, was already living in the UK, and the trip was paid for by her sister-in-law who had worked in the area as a nurse for ten years.

Joyce, of St Alban’s Road, had to make the heartbreaking decision to leave her parents behind in the country, where she constantly feared for their health.

The creche worker said: “There was widespread poverty and a real lack of medication that was putting our lives under threat.

“Getting clean, fresh drinking water was a huge problem. Sometimes we would go a week without it.

“We had to walk miles to get food and, when we arrived, it would be really expensive. The cost of different things was a huge issue.”

Malawi has a life expectancy of just 50 and half of the children under five suffer from chronic malnourishment, according to the humanitarian organisation World Vision.

Joyce said the chance to escape was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

She said: “Me and the children would have died because, if we had got ill, there was little chance of survival.

“There was disease and little access to a proper hospital.

“The children were even more at threat because of their ages when we lived there. Edigar was only little.

“I have not seen my mum or dad or relatives since I left.

“It has been incredibly hard without them, but we had to do it to save our lives.

“We might not be here now if we had not made the decision to leave.”

Joyce said that when she left Malawi she knew her life would never be the same again as soon as the aeroplane took off.

She said: “Walking up to the steps of the plane knowing I would not come back was very worrying.

“When I arrived, I stayed with my husband who was already over here but we were worried sick because you hear stories about detention centres.

“We had no peace of mind, thinking when would there be a knock at the door.

“That was something we really feared.”

Despite her standard of life dramatically improving, she said her thoughts were still with her family she left behind.

She said: “They are always on my mind and I think about what they are doing all of the time.

“I think ‘am I going to see them again?’ – I pray that I will.”

When Joyce moved to Derby, she said it took a lot of getting used to and was very different from life back home.

After finding her feet with the help of the Red Cross drop-in service for asylum seekers and refugees, at St Peter’s Church, she enrolled at Derby College and found friends and got used to life in the city.

She also volunteered for the Red Cross and has helped out working with other asylum seekers to provide help and support.

Joyce said: “The people in the city have been very kind and friendly in welcoming me to the area.

“I’ve had great opportunities in Derby and I’d like to say a big thank-you to everybody who has welcomed me in the city.

“There is no doubt moving here has saved our lives,” she added.

Joyce received the news that she had been granted official citizenship in January. She fondly remembers the celebrations when it was officially confirmed.

She said: “Everybody in the house was dancing and celebrating. It was one big party.

“It was really exciting to finally have freedom and to be allowed to stay without any fear on our minds.”

Joyce said it meant a great deal for the future of her children. She said: “It’s great they have a fantastic education and a wonderful future. Everything has become perfect.”

Derby North MP Chris Williamson said he was proud to hear her story of success. He said: “Derby has a tradition in welcoming people who have come from troubled circumstances that goes back over 100 years.

“I’m delighted Joyce has managed to start a new life and settle in – as many people do – and is happy.

“Over the years as a councillor and MP, I have heard many heart-rending stories from asylum seekers.

“It’s great she said Derby has saved her life, and we are good at welcoming and accepting fellow humans who have had difficulty.”

The Bishop of Derby, the Rt Rev Dr Alastair Redfern, visited the Red Cross drop-in centre at St Peter’s Church last month.

He said: “We are here for them because we are fellow human beings and it’s about being good neighbours.”

The Bishop said the work with the immigration centre was part of a journey of taking people from low points in their life and transforming them into a positive.


The Red Cross runs a weekly drop-in service at St Peter’s Church in Derby for asylum-seekers and refugees living in the city.

At the sessions, people can get support and basic food, toiletries and clothing.

The project is part-funded by the Big Lottery Fund with a grant of £491,000 and was developed in response to high levels of unmet demand.

It provides short-term material support to those who need it.

It also offers advice and orientation support to new arrivals, so that they can become self-sufficient as quickly as possible.

People get the opportunity to volunteer and learn English and other opportunities that give them a better prospect of getting work.

This is what happened in Joyce’s case.