Until the past week or so, few people had even heard of Malawi. With the devastating floods in SE Africa, along with Mozambique, Malawi has been on the front page of newspapers around the world
Having organized seven sweat equity trips to Malawi in partnership with Rotary, Emmanuel International and Dignitas International, I am more than a little concerned about the people we met, the schools we helped build, and the fate of the students.
In Malawi, under normal conditions, only 35% of the children finish primary school. While I have wondered about the fate of the children in these schools, I have thought more about some wonderful women we called the “Women of Kachere.” When we first went to Malawi there were about 25 of them, all without partners, and all with AIDS. They lived in huts and on average probably made about $2.00/day
These women would
not call themselves volunteers, but they were. They worked together carrying
the water, looked after the orphaned children, worked in the fields and called
on the sick living in remote places, some many kilometers away.
Every day when we
arrived they gave us a big hug to start the day.
We worked hand-in-hand with them, building the day care centre.
In spite of their burdens, they were always
up-beat and loving.
Periodically as we
worked, a shrill call would come from the mouth of one of these women, often
from a wonderful woman called Florence. She would then start to sing and then dance,
and before we knew it, we were all doing the same thing. It was amazingly
We brought toys, clothes and school supplies for the children, and toques for the women. We also bought them some bicycles so they could ride to the far away huts to comfort and give medicine to the AIDS patients.
On one of our
trips we taught them how to sew so they could make their own clothes and
generate some income.
It has been several years since I have been to Malawi. Many of the women have since died, but as I reflect on these trips during VOLUNTEER WEEK this was a time all of the volunteers – Malawians and Canadians – really lived, shared and learned from each other.
For me, it was
confirmation of the good in the world and it reinforced my belief that in spite
of all off the negative news about human imperfections, there is much more good
in the world than bad, with much of the good coming from volunteering!!