A radio star's humble beginnings

Editor's note: You may remember reading about Lloyd Phiri, former sponsored child, in the summer 2011 issue of World Vision Magazine. Because June marks the anniversary of the official patenting of the radio back in 1896, we're again featuring this story of a sponsored-child-turned-radio-announcer.

Turn on the radio in the city of Blantyre -- the major commercial center of the southern African country of Malawi -- and you may hear the melodious voice of Lloyd Phiri reading the news.

Lloyd is the announcer and controller of news and current affairs for MIJ Radio. MIJ (Malawi Institute of Journalism) Radio is a non-governmental station that hones the skills of the country’s best up-and-coming journalists. Lloyd joined MIJ Radio after serving as head of news and current affairs at Capital FM -- one of Malawi’s top music stations.

It’s an impressive resume for a man who has yet to turn 30.

What makes Lloyd’s rise even more stunning is the humble circumstances in which he grew up. He was born to a single mother in an impoverished village called Senzani in central Malawi. His mother supported Lloyd and his younger brother, Dalitso, through small-scale farming. But times were tough.

Lloyd remembers growing up in a tiny hut thatched with grass that would leak during the rainy season. The trio survived mainly by eating nsima -- a paste-like porridge made from maize flour. Lloyd recalls that the family could seldom afford the traditional meat or fish accompaniment for the meal.

Lloyd stands outside of MIJ Radio in Malawi, Africa. ©2011 Wezzie Banda/World Vision

“Hard memories that stand out include sleeping on an empty stomach because of lack of food,” he says. “I was determined to work extra hard so that I attained a good life in the future.”

There wasn’t a great deal of entertainment in Senzani, but Lloyd loved listening to the radio. He hoped one day to emulate some of his favorite Malawian presenters. Later, he acquired a taste for news and current affairs after long hours of listening to the BBC World Service.

Lloyd’s ambitions were helped enormously after World Vision built several schools in the Senzani area, and he became a sponsored child. Even so, he had to walk more than four miles to get to primary school.

But he refused to let this hold him back, especially as World Vision was giving further support through the provision of school supplies and a school uniform. He says that he was also sustained by his Christian faith. “Being raised in a Christian family helped me to attain faith in Christ. It is God’s grace that has enabled me to pass through all the challenges,” he says.

In addition to schooling, Lloyd recalls how sponsorship-funded programs assisted his community in many other ways, such as bridge-building and the drilling of boreholes so villagers could access clean water. He says the boreholes helped reduce the incidence of waterborne diseases in the community.

After finishing high school, Lloyd was accepted into Malawi Polytechnic -- one of the best colleges in the country. He eventually graduated with a bachelor of arts degree, majoring in journalism.

“Without sponsorship, I could not have gone to secondary school, and this enabled me to pursue a degree in journalism. It is because of this degree that I am able to acquire employment,” Lloyd says of his sponsorship with World Vision.

It’s led to more than just a promising career. About two years ago, Lloyd worked briefly at another radio station, where he met and fell in love with announcer Grace Phiri. The couple plans to marry in October. Lloyd says anybody connected with World Vision -- staff and donors -- is welcome to the ceremony.

“I would like to extend the wedding invitation to the whole World Vision family. Your presence on my wedding day will be a blessing,” he says.

This post originally appeared in the summer 2011 issue of World Vision Magazine.


    Thank you for sharing this wonderful story! Congratulations to Lloyd for his great achievements and upcoming marriage! The best of wishes to him and Grace for a happy and prosperous life together.

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