Wednesday, October 28, 2015

"This is the beginning of a beautiful day!" - Carole's Post

One of the real delights for us when working with the Blantyre members is getting to know the Young Single Adults (YSA). After being here for a few months, we realized that there was no formal organization and no scheduled YSA activities, at least on the district level.  When we brought it up with our young friends in Zingwangwa, there was a real enthusiasm (and a real hope) that we could get something going.  Some recalled that there had been some activities a few years ago, but as frequently happens with a change in leadership or a change in senior couples, something got lost in the shuffle, in this case YSA.  So we put it on our list!
However, just about the time we were going to jump in, we moved to the Reynold's house and began to divide our time between the Zingwangwa and Blantyre 2nd branches.  There was too much to do.  
In about July, we requested a YSA committee and a budget. We were on our way!  As it turns out, we had to be out of town for the first announced activity and they went ahead without us.  This was a powerful group!

The committee was selected by having a representative from each branch and Jonathan Banda was called to be the chairman.  The members were:

  • Nancy Masoo from Zingwangwa
  • Future Chinomwe from Blantyre 1st
  • Fiskani Ngulube from Blantyre 2nd
  • Weekly Msase from Ndirande (We teased him that his name should be "Monthly" since that was how often the activities would be!)

Jonathan, Future, and Weekly at one of our planning meetings.

We met together on a Saturday for organizing and brainstorming, coming up with a long list of ideas of things we could do.  It isn't easy for the committee to meet together because of distances and transport, but these YSA are committed!

It was decided that at each activity, we would offer some nourishment when people first arrived.  Many were coming from seminary and institute meetings at their own buildings and would be hot, tired, and hungry when they arrived for the early afternoon activity at the Blantyre building.  So (with a limited budget), the committee decided to have bread, margarine, and water for the arrivals.  
Now, this might seem relatively easy, but there is not good drinking water at the church and no one has a car for picking up the goods.  We were happy to assist.

For the first activity, we filled the car with drinking water, tablecloths, cups, and napkins along with the bread and margarine.

We also had to bring trash cans, serving trays, soap and towels, and inside those storage containers, chocolate chip cookies!
Unloading the car at the church.  The IndeBank building is in the background so you can see why the church is always described as being behind IndeBank.

At the first meeting (where we were in attendance), we started with a game of scripture charades.  Some really got in the mood!
Then there was a panel discussion on "How to maintain standards".  Sister Chinyumba started by sharing some thoughts on this.  She was the first missionary to be sent from Malawi and is now the wife of our district president.  She recounted their courtship and how she never compromised on what she wanted in a marriage partner.
Following the talk, there was a panel made up of some married adults and some YSA representatives.  Following the theme, everyone was encouraged to write a question and put it in a box.  Then the individual questions were read out loud and the panel responded.  The activity ended with cookies and Sobo.

For October, the activity was a bit lighter.
Weekly had been concerned that we didn't have a theme, but we called it "Just for Fun" and that theme was good enough for him.

Our attendance jumped to 60 YSA and we had a very successful activity.  While some of us set up the Relief Society room for the movie (soft seats!) by hanging a sheet for the screen and hanging blankets at the windows to darken the room, George and Jonathan went off to pick up the "popcorn lady" (with her popper) who was going to provide the treats.  However, they had their own adventure. She was ill and not able to come, but in the process of driving out of the market, George ran over a basket of tomatoes (in the road) and it took awhile to negotiate a fair compensation. George thinks he made her day!

So what were we going to do without the popcorns (as Malawians call it).  I panicked but I needn't have!  Malawians never panic, as least not at a simple problem like that.  We had the "popcorns" and we had the oil and we had the small bags to distribute it.  Jonathan recruited some of the sisters to pop it in the kitchen in the big pots on top of the stove.  Not a problem at all!  

The movie was a hit - action, beautiful scenery, adventure, romance - something for everyone.  And after the movie, came the part everyone was waiting for - the dance!

Definitely, this was what everyone was waiting for!

Lyford Ngwira generously took the afternoon to help with the projector, and then the sound system for the dance.
His wife Faith came along to keep him company.  Lyford said they used to be young and single once!  The "young" part is still true and boy, can they dance!

At first, I think there were more guys than girls.

It was always interesting to see who would walk in the door!

More and more girls trickled in and
gravitated to the opposite side of the room as the guys.  

I was standing with the young men and when an attractive group of girls walked in the door, I head one say,  "Ooooh, this is the beginning of a beautiful day!"


The Tchongwe sisters, Lilian and Faith.

There were some very lively moments.  At one point, we had entertainment on the stage - a surprise.

Some people were really prepared for the dancing - completely choreographed!

And some people weren't prepared at all - and really need to work on their dance moves before the next scheduled dance!
(Yes, we did dance...)

And this is just a warm-up for the all-night New Year's Eve party!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Thousands upon Thousands of Acts of Kindness--George's Post

A.   Thousands Upon Thousands of Acts of Kindness

1.    General Comments

Thus far, the primary focus has been upon our efforts to do “good” in Malawi—what we have tried to do, how the Malawians have responded, and whether we are making any progress.    The focus has been upon us, and not upon the Malawians, as the ones giving aid, and as a consequence, our remarks may have created the misleading impression that Malawi should be viewed as this enormous sponge, constantly soaking up from others outside of Malawi[1] whatever aid, charity, assistance, and help it can get to address Malawi’s difficult social problems.   No doubt Malawi does look for external aid, recognizing it cannot solve its problems alone.   But this misses the fundamental truth that far and away the greatest source of the daily help and aid comes from the Malawians themselves.  In our experience Malawians, both great and small, have enormous hearts and are constantly helping one another, often in ways almost incomprehensible to us.  They give service and, if they have it, share of their material goods to help others.    They do this through thousands upon thousands of acts of kindness, shown every day, benefitting not only close family members but also others, sometimes people they barely know.   These acts of generosity, kindness, and patience are a constant inspiration to us, and rekindle our desire to do good and to follow their examples.   The paradigm at stake is not that of the well-intended Westerner coming to Malawi to help poor, misguided, woebegone Malawians, who are incapable of helping themselves.   Indeed, the opposite is the case—Malawians show great examples of generosity, and we hope the lessons learned from them we can take back with us when returning home.   Before talking about some of the specific ways in which Malawians are especially generous, let me point out a few random acts of kindness witnessed just this past week or so, and you can judge for yourself the quality of their spirit.    
Yesterday Davey, our security guard/gardener approached us about getting an advance against the modest amount we pay him for helping out--washing the truck, occasionally polishing shoes, disposing of trash, watering Carole’s herbs, and tending to the ornamental plants on the enclosed patio off the kitchen.[2]   Davey is unbelievably good natured and couldn’t be a better handyman.   He is well-known for his huge grin—he has as big a smile as I have ever seen—it is as though his face is transformed into all teeth;  one has to be very “grumpy” indeed not to be gladden by Davey’s greetings.  Davey has been taking care of senior missionaries for over eight years, the longevity itself evidence of the esteem with which he is held.   Davey’s mother lives in a small village in the Thyolo District, roughly an hour and a half mini-bus drive out of Blantyre.   She, like others in the village, is close to running out of food, and somehow has to make ends meet until late March and early April of 2016 (about five months from now), when the next maize harvest will occur.   The oldest son in the family, Davey wanted to buy some bags of maize for his mother, to tide her over until the upcoming harvest, and to purchase for her some dried fish, which she could then peddle to her neighbors to earn a little spare money.   On top of this, two weeks ago, Davey took in his 12 year old nephew, so that he could attend the Catholic secondary school located at the CI (“Catholic Institute”) corner.   Davey lives in tight “boy quarters,” behind one of the flats where the Sunnyside elders live, so there is not much space for squeezing in another border.
Enita, a single mother with two children, joined the Church about nine months ago.   Angellah, her 12-year ago daughter, is a tuberculosis victim, who was treated, and ostensibly cured, a year ago, but who has been in and out of the hospital several times over the last four months—first with shortness of breath but later with diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, and now an extreme case of malnutrition.   Angellah’s hospital stays have ranged from several days to several weeks, long enough to get several nasty bed sores, serious enough to require separate surgical treatment.   Each time Enita remains in the hospital with Angellah, acting as her designated guardian (meaning “caregiver”) providing food when Angellah is not on a special prescribed diet, wishing her clothes, taking her to the bathroom, and generally doubling as a nurse.   She sleeps over in the ward, either on the concrete floor next to Angellah’s bed or sometimes next to Angellah in the narrow hospital bed.   Rarely does she get much of a break, though Angellah’s paternal grandmother is also often at the hospital.  Of course, Enita is Angellah’s mother and mothers have an enormous capacity for nurturing and protecting their children.   Patients rarely get the medication they need.   Ibuprofen and Tylenol are the most commonly prescribed medicines, just something to helped patients cope with pain and inflammation.   Many nursing functions are relegated to the patients’ untrained guardians, so the needed care is erratic at best.     
Two weeks ago, Brother Tchongwe was called to be the new branch president in the Blantyre 2nd Branch.   He is a wonderful Church member—committed, hardworking, studious, well-intended.  He is a student of the scriptures, blessed with keen insights into bible passages.  But complicating his calling is the fact that he recently started working for a Japanese-owned company, selling some kind of equipment, which has stationed him in Zomba, the former capital, almost an hour and a half out of Blantyre by mini-bus.   To do the job, Brother Tchongwe needs to leave Blantyre late Sunday afternoon, returning home either Thursday or Friday night.   Hard to get the branch up and running with that schedule, especially given that he has yet to get two counselors.   Yet immediately after being called, Brother Tchongwe was thrown into the proverbial fire.  The second Sunday, after the three hour block, and a couple of additional hours in the office, he accompanied Davey to his wife’s home village, Chunga, off the Blantyre-Chikwawa Road, about an hour by car out of Blantyre.  For almost two hours, he mediated between husband and wife, looking for common ground.   At the end, both Davey and Chrissy appeared very relieved, with Davey saying the next day that he was extremely happy and Brother Tchongwe was a “very good man.”   Too late to catch a late Sunday evening mini-bus to Zomba, Brother Tchongwe stayed over until Monday.   But, even before he could get out of town the next day, he was swept up, this time working with President Matale, a counselor in the District Presidency, to help coordinate with some families from the District, participating  in Nu Skin’s special 9-month agricultural training program, called the “SAFI” or the School of Agriculture for Family Independence, administered in a small village an hour north of Lilongwe.   On Wednesday, Brother Tchongwe caught an early bus from Blantyre for the 5-hour trip to Lilongwe, where he was scheduled to meet up with one of the program's participants.   He did not return to Blantyre, until close to midnight on Wednesday night, after over 17 hours in transit.   Too late to call someone for a ride, and too late to be comfortable walking home alone in the dark, he slept (or tried to sleep) on the bus until 6:00 when he finally hiked home.     So the week ended up being shot, Brother Tchongwe never getting to Zomba for his day job.  
Lucy Tembo was confirmed a member of the Church the first Sunday we attended the Blantyre 2nd Branch, which was sometime in middle March 2015.   She and her good friend, Ruth Juma, were baptized the week before and confirmed on the same Sunday.   Lucy lives in a nice small home in Kampala, just off the main market street running through the township’s center.   Her husband, whom we have only met once, is a plumber, and has his own business, by all appearances he stays very busy and provides a good living for the family.   On our first visit with Lucy we discovered that her parents lived in Chilobwe, not far from the center of that township.   Lucy is one of 11 children and has a twin sister, many of the siblings also living in Chilobwe close to the family home.   A week or so after visiting with Lucy we picked her up so that we could meet the family—Chilobwe is one of the main townships in the Zingwangwa Branch, so we already knew it well.   It is home to the Makawas, the Ambalis, Louis Likusa, Brother Chimaliro, the Nkhomas, the Magombos, and the Chikapas (before they moved into them new home in Chimwankhunda).   We had a nice visit with the family, meeting lots of siblings, spouses, and grandchildren, taking pictures.
Several of the last Sundays Lucy was not at Church.     We were concerned about her, knowing how faithful she had been in coming every week, since becoming a member.   Each Sunday she would arrive about the same time, a few minutes after the service had begun, quietly sliding into one of the pews at the back of the chapel.   The reason for her absence, we found, was because she was serving as the guardian[3] for her older brother, Jacob, the father of three children, who had been hospitalized for a tumor at Queen’s Hospital in Blantyre.   Three weeks ago after visiting with Enita and Angellah in Queens, we found the ward where Jacob was being treated and went by in the hopes of seeing Lucy, Jacob and some of the family.   Lucy was not present, but we did visit briefly with Jacob, his father, and a few family members.   Jacob, sitting upright on his bed, was in obvious discomfort, his father next to him rubbing his back.   A week or so later, Carole and I, together with Sister Kandiano and her daughter, Alfonsina, attend Jacob’s funeral in the family home in Chilobwe to show our support for Lucy and the family.  
Most of the week after the funeral Lucy stays in Chilobwe, as the family tries to sort out Jacob’s affairs, including the custody of his three children.   Different tribes have different customs, but it appears quite common for children to be parceled out to other family members, frequently grandparents, aunts, and uncles, to raise after the death of a parent, even if the other parent is alive.[4]   So we were not shocked to find, when visiting with Lucy two weeks after the funeral, that she had taken in Kevin, Jacob’s 11 year old son.  Kevin will be attending Standard 3 at the CI Catholic School, only a 15 to 20 minute walk from Lucy’s home.   Lucy and his husband do not have children of their own in the home.

[1] Such outsiders include churches, foreign governments, NGOs of every stripe and kind, expats, and foreign missionaries, such as ourselves.
[3] Queens is not staffed with full-time nurses to handle the daily care of its patients.   Instead, patients are required to have “guardians,” who minister to their care while hospitalized.   The guardians provide meals (purchased at family expense), wash clothes, helping them with bathing and getting to the toilet.   Since the guardian-role is full-time, guardians sleep at the hospital.   Usually, this means they sleep on the concrete floor next to the patient’s bed. 

Third Accident in Five Days--Manase Accident--George's Post

(a)             Manase Accident
While driving conditions are challenging in Malawi, Carole and I have been spared any incidents during the first 11 months of our mission, so it is hard to understand why I would be in three minor accidents over a five day stretch.     Wednesday evening, following our weekly meeting with President Chikapa, which  finished up at 6:00 p.m.,  I drove to Manase to meet with Brother Mkandawire, after first dropping off Carole to get started with dinner.  The Mkandawires live at the bottom of a ravine, accessed by a windy and steep path.   Our normal route is to leave the truck at the top of the hill, by the unfinished brick church, and then thread our way between homes and outbuildings, until we reach the Mkandawires’ home.   Their home does not have a street address (most don’t), nor is it accessed off a road (paved or unpaved), but instead is just one of a jumble of homes, clinging to the hillside or spread out as the steep slope flattens out toward the small seasonal stream at the ravine’s bottom.   Fortunately, we know how to find it, since it was the first home we ever visited, and Carole is Sister Mkandawire’s visiting teacher, so we have made many visits.  
Driving south on the Chikwawa Road, approaching the Manase Police Station, it became apparent that the entire neighborhood was in the midst of a community black out, the only lights being the car and trucks headlights on the road.   Otherwise, everything was in the dark--no lights at the Police Station, the gas station next door, or off to either side of the road.  It was pitch black, and I had to play careful attention to the foot traffic, suddenly appearing off either side of the road, to avoid a car/passenger accident.   After turning off on the paved road to Baluti, the next community beyond Manase, I finally approached the turnoff to the unpaved road heading downhill toward our customary parking spot for the final walk to the Mkandawires.   But upon reaching the juncture, I found the roadway blocked by a mini-bus, picking up or dropping off passengers.   Mini buses are largely oblivious to the rights of all other drivers—stopping, passing, blocking, whenever and wherever they wish, without the least consideration for the rights of other drivers.   They operate under the assumption that they have the right of way, all others having the obligation to defer to them. 
I stopped, waiting for the mini-bus to clear, and allowing me to turn, but quickly I found several cars and mini-buses backed up behind me, one mini-bus ripping by me at speed without the least concern for the dark or others’ safety.   One other car or truck honked, impatient with the delay, though Malawians are normally not heavy honkers.   I found the predicament stressful, and thought I could back up a few feet, though in the middle of the road and despite the dark, and then slip in front of the mini-bus, allowing the traffic behind me to free up.   While I knew there was a line of traffic behind me, I thought I had some space (I only needed a yard or so), not seeing any headlights in the rearview mirror.   Bad, bad choice—one driven more by impatience than good judgment—though going slowly, I soon heard a crunch.   Apparently, there was a young man, on an old motorbike, directly behind my truck, and I had clipped him when sliding backward.    Not wanting to further bottle up the traffic, I signaled to him that I would drive down the road until I could find space to pull off, allowing us to check his motorbike and confer.      
A hundred yards up the road, I was able to pull to the left into another of the unpaved side streets.   I don’t think I was really at fault with either of the two prior incidences.   But this time around, I was certainly the one culpable.   I had no business backing up.   It quickly became apparent that the motor biker, though in his late teens or early twenties, spoke little to no English, though he could follow some of what I was saying.   True to form, a crowd quickly gathered, this time ranging between 10 and 15.   Some of them may have witnessed the accident, others just happened to be around.  It was pitch black, so I left my truck headlights on, so that I could see both the young man and inspect the damage to his bike.  His headlamp was busted and, at the time, he didn’t complain about any other damage, but he won’t have had much of an opportunity to see if the steering or other bike equipment were damaged.   Fortunately, one woman in the crowd spoke English well and offered to translate so that we could communicate with one another.  Not surprisingly, there was no damage to our truck, since I was going very slowly when the accident occurred.
Soon it became apparent that the young man didn’t know what to do—he was frustrated, unhappy, and worried about being left with the short end of the stick.   He couldn’t make his case directly to me, so most of his remarks seemed more directed to the crowd, people lingering, in typical Malawian fashion, to gawk at the temporary entertainment and to see what would happen.  He may well have doubted getting fair treatment at the hands of an azungu stranger, but I have no direct evidence of that.   I asked if he had any idea what it would cost to replace the headlamp, and of course he didn’t know.  One bystander thought it would cost 15,000 kwacha, likely a number he pulled out of the air.   Since we weren’t make any progress, I proposed a temporary solution—I would advance him 10,000 kwacha (roughly $20 USD) against the costs (before leaving I did give him the money).  If the repairs were more expensive, he could track me down for the difference, giving him my card with home address and phone and email numbers.  
Just as I thought things were solved, he started complaining about a leg injury, pulling up his pant leg, pointing to the front part of his lower right shin.   The leg did not appear fractured (he didn’t seem to be in too much pain and could walk), and the skin was not broken.   If there were bruising, it was either too early to see the discoloration or the lightening was inadequate.   He demanded a trip to Queen Elizabeth, the large public hospital, so, after arranging for someone to secure his bike, I took him and some other fellow (who turned out to be a total stranger, but one who spoke a bit more English than the biker) to the hospital.   Though it wasn’t late (now close to eight in the evening), it was apparent that he was not going to get the attention of a doctor.   The three nurses sitting at the reception desk were less than helpful, hardly paying attention to us, saying there was only one doctor present to handle all ER cases, and only serious cases would get his attention.[1]   Since his case was not urgent, the young man should return in the morning, when more doctors were around to see patients.   After this less than fruitful hospital trip, I returned the motor biker to where we have pulled off the road to talk, telling him to contact me if the10,000 MKW was not sufficient to cover his out-of-pocket expenses for either bike repairs or pain medications.
The following day the injured motorcyclist, and a friend, came back the Blantyre Chapel.   Carole and I were there cleaning up the library, and meeting with President Matale about pending items.   We spoke briefly and I suggested that they go get quotes on the bike repairs.   They returned the following day, again finding us at the Church, as we continued organizing the building’s library.  We were also meeting and met with Gabriel Chinomwe to inventory the available cleaning supplies, organize the cleaning closet, and assemble cleaners, mops, brooms, gloves,  and dusters.   On the second visit, the motorcyclist returned with three companions, one obviously selected to serve as the designated interpreter, and presented both a list of requested bike repairs, together with quotes.   The demands now went beyond the broken headlamp.   Knowing they were coming, I had asked Gabriel if he would stay around to interpret and, if necessary, help to mediate a resolution.      
We met outside the church on the frontyard.  As we began reviewing the quotes, and hearing the motorcyclist’s additional demands, a small tribal council had, in effect, convened—the motorcyclist and his three companions, to represent the interests of the injured party, and Gabriel and myself, to represent our interests.   Within a few minutes, our little circle expanded, with the addition of the two security guards/gardeners, working the grounds at the Blantyre Chapel—one being Brother Munyowa of the Blantyre 2nd branch--both wanting to watch and hear what was going on.   It looked like some excitement and they didn’t want to miss out.  For the next 30 minutes there was an animated discussion by each side—mostly in Chichewa, but occasionally in English.   The combined quotes for repairs and parts came to 14,500 MKW, not a staggering number, and fortuitously close to the 15,000 MKW that had been estimated the night of the accident.   Since I had already advanced 10,000 MKW against this amount, I thought we were done—willingly to pony up the small deficit, but as it often happens with negotiations, quickly we are dealing with several unexpected snags.   First, to my surprise, the motorcyclist argued that the 10,000 advance on the evening of the accident was not an advance at all, but instead had been paid to him to compensate him for the accident itself, without regard to the out-of-pocket repairs, for which I was separately responsible.    Second, he contended that I should pay him “something” for the injury to his leg, even though it seemed to be nothing more than a nasty bruise—basically a pain and suffering claim, though he didn’t use that terminology.   Lastly, somehow the evening of the accident, he had been cheated by the young man who accompanied him to the hospital, and I needed to be make him whole for that loss as well.     Over the years of practicing law, one thing you slowly learn is the danger of “overstating a position.”   I have no doubts but what our young friend did exactly that, and I think he quickly lost credibility with many of the group as his list of demands expanded.   I don’t think anyone believed his argument that the 10,000 MKW payment was not intended as an “advance” against future expenses or that I was in any way responsible for his getting cheated or hoodwinked by the stranger who helped him at the hospital on the evening of the accident.   I offered, as I had offered before, to reimburse him for any out-of-pocket expenses he might have for pain medications, but refused to make a general compensatory payment to him simply because he was involved in an accident.  In any event, it was fascinating to watching the back and forth of the negotiations—I wish I could have understood more what transpired.   Gabriel, after initially hearing what I had to say, did most of the talking for me.   But almost everyone offered a few comments, there was a spirited discussion—I assume as to what was the “right” compensation—and most of the observers were, as least as best I could tell, trying to determine what was “fair” given the facts as they were coming out.   Gabriel finally told me that the motorcyclist wanted something more than “actual damages” to call it a day.   Ultimately, we settled at an additional 10,000 MKW-- 5,500 MKW above his quotes.   From a financial perspective, the final tally was not significant—20,000 MKW or roughly $40 USD.    But for me, two things were important: first, I didn’t want the young man to be “out of pocket” because of the accident; and second, I didn’t want him to take advantage of the situation to extort from me more than was reasonably due—likely, the same considerations anyone else would have if they had been in my shoes. 

[1] The behavior of the three nurses at the reception was appalling.   They were chatting casually when we arrived, explaining that the young man had been in a minor traffic accident and wished to see a doctor.   They barely responded, and didn’t even ask to see his leg or to do the slightest triage to see if he was really hurt.   Without examining him—other than seeing him across the counter, they said the leg was not broken (which it wasn’t, but which they hardly could have known), and told him to return the next day.   It wasn’t really what they said that was so upsetting, it was the utter lack of professionalism they displayed that was a concern.   Nothing was taken seriously, they undertook no initiative, nor did they do the slightly physical examination to ascertain the extent of his actual or potential injuries. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

A Visit to Two Orphanages - Carole's Post

Certainly, Malawi has its share of orphanages as there are an estimated 1,000,000 orphans in this country.  If you google "orphanage" and "Malawi", you will see numerous sites and foundations that are trying to bring publicity and aid to this extremely large group.  Almost every family has a loved one die of AIDS, though the disease is rarely talked about.  We have met so many people who have lost both parents, usually with the deaths occuring very close to each other in time.  
A few weeks ago, I was talking with someone at a funeral. Now an adult, she told me that when she was nine, she lost her mother, and then about a year later, her father.  Then she said she was very fortunate because the very week that her father died, her oldest sibling, a brother, completed his high school schooling. That meant he could get a job, which he did, and support his six younger sisters!  She spoke with great love for her brother and later his wife because they made a loving home so that the family was able to stay together and pull through.  
Many children are not so lucky.  I have no idea how many orphanages there are in Malawi, but there are signs for them in many places in Blantyre, and when we drive out into the country, there are even many more signs.

Several months ago, during a community planning meeting for Helping Hands, one of the Blantyre district councilmen approached the Church and asked if we could help out with some of the orphanges in his district.  Since last March, we have been storing some cooking oil and bags of dehydrated soy relish in our garage, the remains of our humanitarian project to bring food to the camps of displaced Malawians after the torrential floods of last year.  Unfortunately,at that time, we were forced to leave the undistributed bags of maize and cowpeas in a warehouse in Chickwawa, never to be seen again or accounted for.  But at least we had something we could contribute to the orphanages which were located in Ndirande.

Last Friday, President Matale, our new district president, rode with us as we went and picked up a representative from the Council and the secretary (with a small baby) to show us the way and to accompany us with the distribution.

President Matale helping us load up the car.

When we reached our first stop, we had a welcoming party!

Frenaso, Friends of Ndirande AIDS Support Organization

One of the first things I learned was that this was not an orphanage in the sense that I think of an orphange.  Rather, it was a school where the children can come to learn and to get at least two meals.  
They return at the end of the day to their homes.  Each child has lost at least one parent and is living with remaining parent or with a guardian.  The district secretary who accompanied us is walking behind George.

 The lovely lady in red and yellow was so appreciative and made us feel extremely welcome.
 We had come on a national holiday (Mother's Day) so there were far fewer children in attendance.  Normally, the school has an enrollment of fifty.

The district councilman says a few words.

You can tell that President Matale is an old hand at this.  He has been in charge of Public Affairs for the Church in Malawi for several years.
The ages of the children range from 2 to 5 years old.

This was quite an exciting day for them!

Our next stop was at another orphan school:
Chifundo 1
This was a much larger school and a much nicer building.  The orphan school is one of three built and sponsored by the Blantyre Synod (CCAP - Central Church of Africa Presbyterian).
Just as families are struggling to have enough food this year due to the flooding during the maize growing season, schools and orphanages are also struggling to have enough food.
Normally, this school has 165 children come during the day. There are four classes, one for each year of ages two through five.
 Look at this sweetie on the end carrying her "baby" on her back.  It's not that common to see a toy.

Photo opp! 

The children entertained us with some music.

I, in turn, taught them "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes".

Even the youngest were having a good time.

We just love the little dresses that the small girls wear.  They are frequently oversized and consequently fall off their shoulders.

These are such beautiful children.  I'm so glad they have a place to go where people will teach them and take care of them.  What a wonderful service so many people provide.
You know - "It takes a village".