March 10, 2005
On Tuesday the Rev. Kay Day and I went to Balaka. Kay is the co-chair of the Partnership Committee in Pittsburgh, and the Blantyre Synod Projects Office wanted her to see some of its work in person. She graciously invited me to join her. Neither of us could have predicted what the day would hold. In fact, we saw and did so much, that I am going to break it into several journal entries.
We drove an hour and a half north with two women from the Projects office, Gertrude and Saiwa. The countryside was green and dotted with grass roofed huts and shrubbery. Mountains, with boulders protruding, rose in the distance. People walked along the road carrying bundles of firewood, vegetables and water on their heads.
We arrived at the Projects Office and were formally introduced to everyone in the office. Formal introductions are a way of life in Malawi. When you enter a room, whether there are 3 people or 50, you are introduced to and shake the hand of each and every person and exchange the “Muli Bwanje” greeting. We were shown the stacks of food ready to be distributed and the motorcycles that the workers use to visit villages. Then we got back in the truck and headed off to our first stop of the day, a community based child care project.
When we arrived in Kainga village, we were greeted by the village elders and by the women that volunteer their time at the center. Then we were ushered into the grass building. There were about 48 children sitting on bamboo mats eating lukini phala porridge. This is corn meal that has been fortified with soy flour, for protein, and vitamins. It was invented by doctors at Mulanje Mission Hospital and is milled there and at Domasi. It is working wonders to stave off malnutrition, and these children were a wonderful example of that.
They were bright eyed and healthy looking. They smiled as we were introduced and stared at us. Most of them had never seen “Azungus” before. One boy had to be removed from the building, however, because he was terrified of the women with white faces. The village pre-school children are brought to the center from 7:00 to 10:30 a.m. every day. Their parents use the time to tend their gardens, take care of household chores or work elsewhere. However, more than a third of the children are orphans. This program gives their caregivers, mostly aged grandparents, a break from the constant care that young children require. The children are also taught games and learn skills that will help them in school when they start Standard 1 at age 6. Everyone waved and smiled as we left the village.
It was really wonderful to see such a successful project.