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Ashland student helps her homeland

An Ashland High School sophomore wants to help bring education to an African village.

Khalidwe (pronounced Ka-lid-way) Tahuna and her family are originally from Malawi, Africa. Her mother was born in Chombo, a small Malawin village, where her grandparents currently live. It is the Tahuna family’s goal to raise enough money to build a small community center in the village where villagers can have access to free educational classes and a library.

Tahuna, her family and Southern Oregon University professor of education Megan Farnsworth will prepare authentic plates for the “Taste of Malawi,” an African cuisine fundraiser from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 1, on the first floor of SOU student union.

A presentation about “Educate Chombo,” a fundraising campaign for educational facilities in the village of Chombo, will follow. All proceeds from the dinner will go to “Educate Chombo.”

“They learn outside on the ground,” said Tahuna of current conditions in Chombo. “They usually have class under a tree for shade.”

Tahuna explained that a small chalkboard is shared by everyone and all ages are taught in a single class, learning basic math and language.

It is Tahuna’s hopes that the resource center would benefit women in the village specifically, although everyone will have access to the resources.

“Women are the main ones that suffer, and usually the first to die,” said Tahuna. “They stay at home. They don’t know anything about the world. They don’t even know basic English.”

In the village, it is common for men to leave for work and women to stay behind. The women usually receive little or no education, according to Tahuna.

“My great-grandparents died of HIV and didn’t even know. They just fell ill,” said Tahuna. “I just want to help people learn. Education is the key to everything.”

Tahuna said her family lived in the city, where education was better than the smaller villages. There is a choice between public and private schools, like in America, only some public schools require payment, as do the private schools.

“In Malawi, it was very hard to be in school,” said Tahuna. “It was very expensive.”

Tahuna, her mother, brother and sister came to the United States in 2013. Before moving to Ashland last year, they lived in Washington, D.C. The family moved to the U.S. so Tahuna’s mother could receive a college education.

According to Tahuna, her mother received enough scholarships to make the move to Oregon. Tahuna’s mother is currently working on her master’s degree in education at SOU and is expected to graduate in the summer.

“I feel very privileged, like I won the lottery,” said Tahuna. “I’m so lucky to be in America and get an education here.”

Donations of toiletries, books and educational resources are greatly appreciated and can be dropped off at SOU room EP128, according to Tahuna.

The goal is $10,000. As soon as enough money is raised, the Tahuna family will return to Chombo to begin construction and operation of the community center.

Tickets to the “Taste of Malawi” can be bought at SOU room EP128 or at the event for $20. Tickets for students and children are $15. T-shirts will also be sold at the event for $25.

Contributions can be made online to the GoFundMe account at bit.ly/1sgP8Al.

Email Tidings intern Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@dailytidings.com.

Ashland High School sophomore Khalidwe Tahuna, 16, is raising funds to buy educational materials for a school back home in Malawi. Mail Tribune / Denise Baratta