Now we are safe, it feels like home
– Sofina, Malawi
It’s almost 7 months since Cyclone Idai tore through southern Africa. ShelterBox supporters across Cornwall and the south west responded warmly to the appeal, News bulletins were dominated by footage of people sheltering in trees and rooftops, their homes made islands in the powerful floods. But what happened next?
After supporting around 10,000 people in Malawi with emergency shelter aid including tarpaulins, water filters and solar lights, disaster relief charity ShelterBox returned with renowned photographer Sian Davey to meet people in Mwalija village, and hear their stories of recovery.
In March 2019, entire homes in Mwalija were swept away in the floods. The community went through a long period of rebuilding their lives together, relocating to higher ground over the course of 3 months and starting again from scratch. Sian captures everyday activities that have been re-established, including baptisms, going to school, community meetings, the local shop, play and relaxing together.
Sisters Sofina, Linda, and Naresi are seen at home hanging out the washing and lighting the fire ready for their parents to return from the farm. Sofina said: ‘The old village is dangerous. The water can come at any time. Now we are safe, it feels like home.’
The photos are part of ShelterBox’s ‘Kunyumba’ project, which roughly translates as ‘home’. The charity worked with the community in Mwalija, recording the story of their recovery in their own words, using film and photography and a series of unstructured interviews.
A new six-minute film tells the story of the village’s motivation to rebuild. From sheltering their children in trees to returning to the fields and school, Stephano and Mary reflect on their path to recovery – the importance of creating a space to get back to everyday life, of supporting each other as a community. Of making plans for the future.
ShelterBox knows that a tarpaulin and a hammer does not build a home. But in the hands of someone with the knowledge and motivation, a home can be created. Being able to have a good night’s sleep, cook for your family and be in a private space means routines of home can be re-established.
NOTES TO EDITORS