Kingstone Zolowere

Programme Director Lilongwe SOS Children's Villages in Malawi

Now or never

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I told myself, “It is now or never, I have to rescue this boy from these gang members.” Now or never, I took the second step towards the gang. It was a matter of life or death, I had to rescue this boy.

This is my personal story of courage to save an SOS young person from the hands of gang members who were terrorising the neighbourhood of one of our SOS Children’s Villages in Malawi.
I had just arrived at one of the SOS Children’s Villages. Stain[1], an SOS young person had just come back from his home village where he had been sent because his behaviour was unbearable and was putting the lives of the other SOS children and young people at risk.

Stain joined the notorious gang in the neighbourhood and vowed to attack his SOS mother wherever they met in town. Many children who went outside the village came back crying, saying Stain beat them up and vowed to attack his SOS mother once they meet. Other co-workers also feared for their lives. The matter was reported to police and Stain’s photographs were posted on the “wanted” criminal list - a total shame to SOS work. Stain grew up in the SOS Children’s Village for the past 20 years. I told myself that I have to do something. The time is now or never. I have to meet this boy and resolve this, not to hand him over to police. We promised Stain a new home in the SOS Children’s Village, not a police cell. I thought of how to meet him. But every effort to invite Stain to the village proved futile.

Then one day, one of the young people met Stain and alerted me. I asked if Stain would accept to talk to me on that boy’s mobile phone. I asked Stain where he thought it was convenient for him to meet me. Being suspicious that I would bring policemen, Stain proposed that we meet behind an old building some 50 metres from the main road at 17:30 hours. It was a dark and dangerous place. But I told myself, it is now or never. I parked my vehicle along the roadside. I told myself it is now or never, I must rescue Stain from this gang. Now or never, I struggled to lift my foot for the next step towards these gang members in the dark. When I reached them, Stain was not there. They asked me “what do you want here?”  “I want Stain,” I answered. “Who told you Stain lives here?” I answered that I had just talked to Stain and he is the one who lead me to that place. One of them who was a giant and appeared to be wearing a mask asked, “Why are you looking for Stain? I thought you removed him from the SOS Children’s Village?” I looked at him and he looked away. “Yes, Stain was removed from the SOS Children’s Village but I have not removed him from my heart.” I answered. He dialled on his mobile phone. Then I heard him saying, “Stain, come here and meet your dad.” I then realised that they had hidden Stain suspicious that I would come with policemen. I once again told myself, 20 years ago when Stain was a baby, one week old, we promised him a loving home in the SOS Children’s Village, not a police cell.

When Stain arrived I asked the gang members if they could allow me to take Stain aside. They accepted. We moved to the roadside where I had parked my car. I said to Stain, “You do not belong here. You have to get out of this gang.” Stain looked at me and tears flowed from our eyes. I then asked him “What can I do for you?” He said he wanted to go for a driving course. I told him that I will arrange for that. Towards the end of that week Stain left the gang to pursue his driving course. I deliberately booked him at a training school 300 kilometres away from our city in order to keep him away from these gang members. Today we are proud that Stain is a driver and able to earn a happy living!

[1] Original name has been changed to maintain confidentiality

Kingstone Zolowere

is Programme  Director in Lilongwe at SOS Children's Villages in Malawi.

I am a qualified secondary school teacher with academic degree in education. Prior to SOS Children’s Villages, I taught at various secondary schools in my country from 1988 to 2003. This is when I developed a strong passion for SOS work. I resigned from government service and joined SOS as Village Director for Mzuzu SOS Children’s Village. Mzuzu is about 400 kilometres north of the city of Lilongwe. In 2012, I obtained a Master of Science Degree in Strategic Management at the University of Derby (UK). In 2014 I was promoted to the position of Programme Director. Moving back to Lilongwe, I lead the SOS Children’s Village programme consisting of seven units: kindergarten, primary & secondary school, medical centre, family-based care, family strengthening and vocational training centre. I am also trained in child protection as a national focal person for the member association.

I am married and my wife is a teacher by profession. We are blessed with two daughters and a boy. While our first daughter, a nurse by profession is married, our second daughter is a qualified teacher. Our son is currently a medical student still in university. Respect for diversity is a value we so much cherish and respect in our family doings.

I am a member of the SOS ESAF (Eastern and Southern Africa) regional child protection network, representing my country in that forum for experience sharing on child rights promotion. At our community church, I enjoy my role as leader of the communications department.

I like watching soccer, African movies, especially Nigerian, reading newspapers to follow up political developments in and around the world. I take a walk around the neighbourhood with my wife. All the children are out of home either at college or at work. So it is like another honeymoon for us. This is life at 50!