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Women of Grace Widows

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Mission Statement

The Mission of Women Of Grace Widows’ Fund is to alleviate the extreme poverty faced by widows in Malawi by providing funding to meet basic food, shelter, and safety needs, while creating opportunities and resources that enable and empower widows to establish their own self-sufficiency and independence, regardless of religious affiliation.

The Women Of Grace Widows' Fund is an ecumenical mission in Northern New York, supported by donors of all faiths. Past and current board members represent a variety of churches in the North Country. We welcome your participation!

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About WOG

Since 2008, the Women of Grace Widows' Fund has been assisting and empowering women of Malawi, Africa. Malawi is one of the world's poorest countries with an average per capita income of $331.00. Life expectancy is age 63 with malaria, AIDS and malnutrition as the leading causes of death.

To become a widow in Malawi means to fall into extreme poverty. As in other areas of Africa, the family of the deceased husband forcibly, and sometimes violently, takes all possessions from the widow. Laws have been put in place to protect women from this ancient behavior but to date it is very difficult to enforce this in the rural areas.

The Widows' Fund works in three villages in the Northern Region:

  • Mbowe - Sixteen WOG widows live in this community about 10 miles from Mzuzu. The Community Center houses the PantiPlus sewing project. The widows work together on the sewing project, and decide as a group, when and how to share the income they make. Some widows walk from as far as 3 kilometers over the rolling hills to participate.
  • Michenguatuwa - Nine WOG widows live in this community on the edge of Mzuzu city. Four of these widows are elderly and unable to work productively so their critical needs are met by the widows fund. Three widows work in small businesses (selling chickens and charcoal) and 2 widows earn a reliable income sewing purses for the PantiPlus sewing project.
  • Mzenga - Twenty WOG widows live in this very rural village where Grace Chiumia grew up. Mzenga is a long, bumpy, 2.5 hour drive from the market town of Mzuzu. Public transportation to Mzuzu is sporadic, crowded, and expensive so widows are rarely able to travel. They rely on small local shops for purchases and local subsistence agriculture for food.

Our founder, Grace Chiumia, experienced as a young mother, the devastation and perils of widowhood in Malawi. In this patriarchal culture, her dead husband’s family took back “his possessions”, including everything in the house, even furniture. Unlike many widows, she had a nursing education and found work as a malaria bednet coordinator. In 2008, partnering with church missionaries from NNY, Grace formed the WOMEN OF GRACE WIDOWS’ FUND (WOGWF) to assist less fortunate widows. Recognizing her intense dedication to her community, local leaders asked her to run for Parliament in 2009, where she has now served for 10 years. She is currently the federal Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports & Manpower Development and remains an inspiration to us all!

Grace Chiumia Malawi Parliament

And do not neglect doing good and sharing; for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

- Hebrews 13:16 -

Grace, Sam & the WOG Board Members

We could not do what we do without Grace and Sam, our team in Malawi.

  • Board Members
  • Renee Waterbury (co-Chair)
  • Margot McGorman (co-Chair)
  • Kathy Curtis
  • Angela Elmer
  • Cindy Hall Swan
  • Andrea Swan

How beautiful a day can be when kindness touches it.

- George Elliston -

How You Can Help


Here are some ways you can help the widows of Northern Malawi:

Outreach Opportunities

Contact Us to have a speaker attend your event and share her experiences, and raise funds for the Women Of Grace Widows’ Fund.


Ask your church to hold a yearly special offering for the Widows’ Fund. Recurrent funds help us provide crucial services.

Spread the word

Tell a friend, family member, or co-worker about the widows in Malawi. Share our website on your social media profiles.

Connect with us

Like our page on Facebook. Like and share our posts to help us get the word out.


Make a donation to fund the work of the Women Of Grace Widows’ Fund.

Volunteer Your Time

Contact Us to get involved. Your donation of time is as valuable as monetary donations.

Women of Grace In Action

We will continue to upgrade grass roofs to iron sheet roofs as funding allows. A new iron sheet roof costs $1,200 including iron sheets, nails, lumber for rafters, wire, cement, and labor.

We will continue the PantiPlus sewing project to ensure a reliable income for our widows and to help local girls to stay in school.

Several widows at Mbowe received pig husbandry training and now keep pigs behind their homes. The training pen at Mbowe continues to operate with a locally hired swineherd. Over the coming year, we will determine if the sale of pigs at market is a viable way to meet part of our critical needs budget.

Our Programs & Field Director

Iron Sheet Roofs   The WOGWF continues to upgrade widows’ roofs one by one. Twenty-eight of 45 widows now have iron sheet roofs, which are a godsend during the rainy season. The cost of each roof is about $1200 ($900 for iron sheets and $300 for the builder, cement, wood, and nails). The widows decide among themselves who will be next in line to have a grass roof replaced. The current budget allows for 2 new roofs each year.

Changu Changu Moto StovesMeans “fast, fast fire” in Chitumbuka, the local dialect.

  • • Uses less firewood
  • • Has 2 burners
  • • Compact design reduces likelihood of burns and scalds
  • • Reduces smoke inhalation
  • • Easy to construct and repair using local bricks and mud mortar mix

WOGWF provided each widow with a Changu Changu Moto stove through a partnership with Ripple Africa. The widows learned how to construct the stove in their outdoor kitchens to replace the traditional 3 stone fire. The outdoor kitchen is a family gathering space, much like a family room would be for us at home.

Coliness, an Mbowe widow, reported that she is very happy to have a stove with an extra burner that uses less firewood. In addition, she and her family enjoy extra warmth in the kitchen area because, unlike the traditional 3 stone fire, the bricks of the stove continue to radiate heat for some time after the fire has died. Coliness’ young grandchildren can now move more freely around the kitchen without the danger of tripping and falling into an open fire.

Sam Chirwa has been the field manager of the WOGWF since its inception in 2008. He directs our programs in Malawi (critical needs, medical transportation, sewing project, housing improvements, etc) and makes all in-country arrangements for our annual mission trip.

Sam is our constant companion during mission trips, explaining Malawian culture, and smoothing our path in every way. Many thanks to Sam for his outstanding dedication to WOG!

Sam Chirwa WOG Field Manager

The PantiPlus Project   In July 2017, 21 widows learned how to work as a team to produce PantiPlus, a washable menstrual hygiene kit that is badly needed in rural Malawi. Over the past 12 months, the widows have been producing purses, panties, and pads for the PantiPacks. The widows are paid for each item they make, and the kits are donated to rural village school girls to reduce this hidden barrier to high school attendance.

In July 2018 Margot McGorman and Karen Ivings provided an additional 8 days of sewing training in Malawi. Five more women learned how to sew pads and panties. The workshop was reorganized for better flow of sewing-in-progress items and easier quality control. The solar batteries were upgraded so that sewing on electric machines can continue uninterrupted during the rainy season.

Over the past year, the 21 widows, who had no income prior, have earned an average of $37 USD each, in a country with a GDP of $301. For a poor widow, this is an amazing income, allowing them to buy food, medicine when needed, and pay school fees for their children.

There were enough completed PantiPacks for all the girls in 5th, 6th and 7th grades at 3 local village schools. Several widows volunteered to provide training to the school girls at the PantiPack distribution. They spoke in the local language of Chitumbuka, ensuring that the girls fully understood how to use and care for the kits they received. The widows were truly inspired to see the end result of their hard work!

The “Pioneers”, a group of Mbowe school girls who received PantiPacks last year, provided feedback about how the year had gone. They were all very satisfied with the kits and delighted to own them. The Pioneers toured the sewing workshop, and the widows at each stage, (tracing, cutting, ironing, and sewing) explained the process to them. So empowering for the widows, and inspiring for the girls!!

Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness.

- Euripides -

We would love to hear your questions, concerns, and comments. Get in touch with us below.Contact Us

Watertown, NY • Mzuzu, Malawi

Women of Grace Widows
First Presbyterian Church
403 Washington Street
Watertown, NY 13601


Want to let us know what you think about WOGWF? Want to know more about us? Give us a call, send us an email or use the contact form below and we will get back to you as soon as we can.