Daniel’s Story

Feb 9, 2023 | Global Projects, student sponsorship

Daniel Kalumbi was just starting Grade 10, but he already had his future mapped out.  As a precocious lover of math, physics, and chemistry, Daniel was eager to finish high school and pursue a career in engineering.  His older brother had dropped out of high school before completing Grade 12, but Daniel was determined to follow a different path.

Veronica Zulu, center with sweater, listens in one of her classes.

Daniel Kalumbi inside one of his schools classrooms.

Daniel lives in the village of Kasikidzi in the Kasungu district of Malawi, where the vast majority of the population relies on subsistence and ‘piece works’ farming, contract farming on someone else’s land.  Daniel was able to get by with the support of his parents until his father suddenly left.  Daniel’s mother, Matilda, was left to support her 4 sons, caring for their health, and paying for their schooling, but she just couldn’t manage it on her own.  Doing ‘piece works’ would earn between $2 – $4 per day, but it was inconsistent.  Meanwhile, Daniel’s high school cost around $90 per term, or $270 per year.  It was simply not possible for Daniel to continue school until he and his mother were able to save enough money to afford tuition.  Eventually, Daniel was chased away from school, and was forced to drop out of Grade 10 in his first term due to a lack of school fees.  He was trapped in poverty.


Veronica Zulu sits on her hostel bed she sleeps on while at school.

Daniel Kalumbi (2nd from left) with another Sonder sponsored student, Francis Mwale (left), the school principal, Mr. Rogers Banda (3rd from left), and Sonder Project CEO, Chad Zibelman (cut-off on right). 

One year passed before Daniel was able to resume his schooling and complete Grade 10.  But, it was deja vu for Daniel as he started Grade 11, and again Matilda didn’t have the funds to afford school fees.  Daniel knew the time would soon come when he would be told to leave the school again.  He felt defeated and ready to give up.  Maybe he wasn’t meant to finish school, just like his older brother.
Veronica with her hand raised, ready to ask one of her teacher's questions.

Daniel (left) outside of his home with one of his younger brothers.

Around the same time, The Sonder Project began recruiting applicants for a student sponsorship program in Daniel’s home community.  When Matilda heard about The Sonder Project planning to sponsor students in Kasikidzi, she immediately went to the school to visit with the chairman to request her son be considered for the program.  Within weeks, Daniel and his mother were interviewed by The Sonder Project staff to assess Daniel’s academic engagement and their financial need.  It was Daniel’s last hope.
Veronica Zulu sits with a group of friends along with two of The Sonder Project staff members in Malawi during a break period.
In addition to The Sonder Project’s sponsorship program covering Daniel’s school, boarding and exam fees, the program also distributes supplies, including: notebooks, a school bag, a school uniform, a calculator, a solar light, and more!  In this photo Daniel has just received supplies for the upcoming term.
Daniel still remembers literally jumping for joy when he received the news that he would be sponsored by The Sonder Project.  He was immediately able to start Grade 11, and now he had the security to finish high school and pursue his dream as long as he passed.  The power was in his hands.. In September of 2022, Daniel completed grade 11 finishing in the top 10% of his class.  He is now being sponsored by The Sonder Project for his final year of high school, fully confident that he will complete it.

Through his sponsorship, Daniel is afforded the opportunity to stay at the school hostel, which provides meals, electricity to study, and the space to fully focus on his education.  He also gets to enjoy his community of friends in the hostel, chatting, joking, and watching Manchester United matches on the weekends.  Daniel is also an ardent fan of hip-hop music, both local and American, with Jay-Z being his favorite rapper.  When we asked him if he also raps, Daniel laughed and told us that, for now, he’s just focusing on being a student.  “I can do anything once I have an education.”

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