I have just returned from Malawi where I spent a week with Jane seeing where the funds raised by Positive Steps are spent and life in Malawi.
The country is in a difficult state right now with limited fuel imports, electricity and water cuts. Changing £1800 in sterling to Malawi Kwacha involved Jane and I stuffing 2 (largish) handbags with wads of cash! The people of Malawi are very friendly and welcoming, with a lot of help from Jane I learnt how to greet people in the proper manner – -Muli bwanji? -Ndilli bwino, muli bwanji? -Ndilli bwino, zikhomo..since you ask!
One day Jane’s friend and handy man – Wilfred took us to his village so we could meet his family. His three little girls were a bit shy to start with but knew Jane well and so were vying for her attention and to sit on her lap! (Although the white ladies still made the baby cry!). We met all the children from the village too as, being kids, were being nosy. We made them laugh and scream with a couple of bottles of bubbles and showing them their photos and a video of themselves on our camaras.
Early one morning Jane, Jessie (lovely girl from USA working with Youth Development also sharing the house with Jane) and I climbed Nkhoma mountain. We were on top of the world by 8.30am! Spectacular views of scrubland interspersed with massive outcrops of granite and tiny dusty dirt roads leading off into the distance.
I spent a little time with Jane in and around the hospital, the first time round I cried a bit as all the little babies especially the sick ones and premature ones really tugged at my maternal heartstrings. They were so tiny. I found it hard that the mothers have to be so matter of fact about the distinct possibility of losing a baby. The next time I accompanied Jane I was much braver and went to see two little boys who bad burns and met more of the hardworking staff who were also matter of fact about life and death but also so cheerful with it. The hospital was bigger and cleaner and, although I’m sure Jane will disagree, had the appearance of being fairly well organised! It was good to see the place where many people who have been helped through Positive Steps donations have been treated. The new Burns Unit was almost ready for its grand unveiling (unfortunately due on the day that I left). Jane will be managing the unit for the next few months. The patients will have the best care but the staff? Well, theres no messing about with Nurse Cherry! She will no doubt train them to her very high standards.
Opening Ceremony of Nguluwe School
On Monday was the official laying of the foundation stone ceremony of the Nguluwe School just outside Nkhoma. Many people had been invited including the Village Head – Chief Nguluwe, the local Abussa (area vicar), school children, officals from the Orphan Care programme (who will also use the schoobuilding), the builders and us – Positive Steps (on behalf of the children at Portesham) plus Mark and Luce, the Dutch donors and Maralise Potgeiter (known as ‘go-go Pots’ (which means granny Pots to the locals) who lives in Nkhoma and is helping to oversee the building work. There was a lot of blessings, giving thanks, singing and dancing.
This all took place as the sun was setting on top of a hill next to the school foundations. We then lay some foundation stones (bricks) to commemorate the start of the building work. I’m sure if any builders see the photos of the brickwork they would shudder in horror but they seemed to know what they were doing! The building work has been a long time in starting and is still suffering from some hiccups but hopefully these will be resolved very soon. I have some great pics to show the children at Portesham when I see them next week.
Lilongwe and the Lake
Jane and I spent some time in Lilongwe (the capital) shopping for curios to bring home and sell (all profits to Positive Steps) and helping Ellen (who has two prosthetic legs) choose some new shoes. Mark the Physio told her she could choose any shoes she wanted, of course we all laughed as she went straight to the high heel strappy sandals! What a thing to say to a girl! In the end she ended up with some very nice brown and pink trainers which she was very proud of.
We visited Joanna at 500 Miles to discuss more about the work they are doing at the moment in making prosthetics for people. It was great to see how prosthetics are made and know that Positive Steps money is helping to transport people to this clinic to receive such excellent treatment. We identified another area in which Positive Steps may be able to help through funding travel costs of phsyiotherapists to visit outlying villages to find more patients who could benefit from the services 500 Miles has to offer. More on this soon.
We drove on another couple of hours to Lake Malawi to spend the night a guest house called Cool Runnings run by a lady called Sam who runs her own charitable projects from the Salima area. There is a possibility that Positive Steps can help her fund some of the health care projects that she identifies. After a delicious dinner of butter fish we retired with a couple of G&Ts and had to listen to the disco next door! At 6.30 am we were sitting on the beach in our PJs watching the sunrise and the locals buying their fish for the day. Later on we had a swim in the clearest blue warm water and decided we had better head back. We had to fill up with fuel little and often in case we couldn’t get any further on but we were lucky. We take it for granted that we can pay with plastic for practically anything in the western world but this is certainly not the case in Malawi, even in the city so we had to make sure we had enough cash on us to buy fuel, food, accommodation etc. ATMs are also very scarce outside of the city so we couldn’t just pop to the hole in the wall! It can make life a bit stressful!
All too soon it was time to come home. I had a wonderful time and saw a great many fantastic sights. All the local people and the ‘helpers’ in Nkhoma ensured my stay was entertaining and well fed, thank you to all of them and I hope to see them again sometime. I have come home with lots of knowledge of how Positive Steps is helping people and inspired as to how much more we can achieve.