Cold Feet and Spooks actress Hermione Norris travels to rural Malawi to make an emotional appeal on behalf of EveryChild, an international development charity.
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This is Malawi,
a country known to its people as "the warm heart of Africa".
And it's easy to see why.
But their faces hide the fact that Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world.
Health services are limited and there is widespread malnutrition.
This, together with the prevalence of HIV and AIDS,
means that the average life expectancy here is 54 years old.
And because so many parents die young,
or are forced to leave their families in search of work,
1 in 5 children here grow up without parental care.
I've come to visit 17-year-old Eletina.
So this is your home, Eletina?
'She shares this hut with her three younger brothers and sisters,
'who she has cared for since their parents abandoned them several years ago.'
All responsibilities now fall on Eletina's shoulders.
Her sole source of income comes from gathering water
for her neighbours and working on their land.
TRANSLATION: It's very hard for me to afford food and clothes
for my brothers and sisters.
I feel lonely, because having parents around
makes children feel protected,
but I get on with it because I have nowhere else to go.
All four of them live out of this single room.
I find it hard to comprehend, but what you see here
is everything this family owns.
My children are very lucky.
You know you see things on TV in England all the time.
We've grown up with images of poverty in Africa
and I think we're desensitised to it.
When you see these children have absolutely nothing,
and it's shocking and overwhelming.
Overwhelmed by the responsibility
of looking after three young children, Eletina dropped out of school to become a full-time carer.
She is one of 300 children in her community
living without a mother or a father.
As the mother of two very small children,
I find it excruciating seeing so many young children here
being brought up without parental care.
That's why I am appealing on behalf of EveryChild,
a charity that works with communities around the world
to protect the most vulnerable children
and enable them to grow up in a safe and loving environment.
This is 13-year-old Alefa.
By the age of three she had lost both her parents to AIDS.
Her uncle and aunt took her in,
but they already had six children of their own.
TRANSLATION: I feel at home with my aunt and uncle. They treat me well
and look after me as if I were one of their own children.
Four years ago, the harvest was so poor
there wasn't enough food to go around.
TRANSLATION: At mealtimes, we would be scrambling for food.
We were always hungry.
This is five-year-old Salome and her older sister Mwalimbitsa.
Their mother died giving birth to Salome
and their father left soon after. The only relative who could
take care of them was their 70-year-old grandmother, Malita.
TRANSLATION: I'm worried
because I'm an elderly lady and looking after my granddaughters
single-handedly is very hard.
I have nothing to give them.
Having struggled all of her life,
Malita wants her grandchildren to have a different future.
Education is vital to break the cycle of poverty
but for many families here, schooling is an unaffordable luxury.
The charity believes that every child has the right to go to school.
It runs over 100 childcare community centres across Malawi,
providing vulnerable children under the age of five
with the basic education that they so desperately need.
EveryChild supports villagers to set up community centres,
where volunteers teach children music, maths and reading.
Salome has been attending her local centre for over a year.
Today she is learning to count.
SALOME REPEATS AFTER HER TEACHER
TRANSLATION: I hope Salome will be ready
to start primary school next year.
This will give her the best possible chance of a future.
More than 80% of the population in Malawi is rural
so most people rely on the land for both food and income.
But the climate is so harsh crops often fail.
Families with orphaned children to care for
have more mouths to feed,
and the charity provides grants of farming equipment and livestock
when help is most needed.
When Alefa's family was hit by poor harvests four years ago
the charity was there to help, providing seed and fertilisers.
TRANSLATION: The fertilisers enabled us to grow more crops
and have enough food to feed the whole family.
The charity also loans goats to vulnerable families
because the offspring can provide both income and food.
The goat lent to Alefa's family produced four more.
TRANSLATION: When times were really hard we sold some goats.
With the money from one, we bought school uniforms for Alefa
and our children which meant they were able to go to school.
Last year, 17-year-old Eletina dropped out of school
because she was struggling
to take care of her three younger brothers and sisters.
The charity had set up a community centre in Eletina's village
and its volunteers enrolled her in some parenting workshops.
Along with other young carers,
she was taught practical skills which helped her juggle
her own priorities with those of her family.
She is now back at school.
TRANSLATION: My life has changed.
I used to just sit here alone.
Being with other young carers has given me a purpose in life.
It's overwhelming how hard life is for orphaned and vulnerable children growing up here
and I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like without the presence of the charity here.
The support and opportunities that EveryChild gives
enables these children to be safe, to live
and to have the best chance of a future surrounded by people who really care for them.
Please donate by going to the website:
And if you don't have access to the internet please call:
And if the lines are busy, please, please keep trying.
Calls are free from most landlines.
Some networks and mobile operators will charge for these calls.
If you'd like to post a donation,
please make your cheque payable to EveryChild
and send it to Freepost, BBC Lifeline Appeal.
Remember, if you're a UK taxpayer,
the charity can collect gift aid on your donation, worth another 25%.
Send in a note to say you want your donation to be subject to Gift Aid,
and include the date and your full name and address.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Cold Feet and Spooks actress Hermione Norris travels to rural Malawi to make an emotional appeal on behalf of EveryChild, an international development charity committed to protecting the rights of the world's most vulnerable and marginalised children. It is a charity close to her heart, as she is the mother of two young children. Hermione meets 17-year-old Eletina, who acts as the sole carer for her three younger brothers and sisters.