Last week I travelled up north to Mzuzu for a quick stop to see the farm up there and go and visit Wakisa who runs the feeding programme up there. Disturbingly, there seemed to be more men being fed than small children but it's very difficult to tow a hard line with things like feeding programmes as it's virtually impossible to judge who is hungry and who is not, especially over a bowl of cheap and not very delicious porridge... I've been buzzing with ideas of how to improve the feeding programmes, and I am hoping that this will remain a priority on my agenda of things to do whilst here...
Firstly we want to get the porridge that is provided to be made on the farms (currently bought from a shop but much cheaper to grow the maize on site and make up into the likuni phala aka porridge). Secondly it would be good to scrap the notion of a 'feeding programme' and instead replace it with daily activities which provide a meal at the end of said activitiy. This stops the programme's from being a free handout so blatently. So for example, we will look at setting up a pilot programme on one of the farms where we provide basic schooling for children (english learning, songs and so on) each morning from 8-11 and provide a bowl of porridge at the same time. We would also be able to work with the women who come for feeding (mostly breast feeding or pregnant women) and work through issues like malaria, HIV/AIDS, nutrition and so on whilst at the same time providing a meal. at the weekends, we could just run with sports activities with the children (many more children attend the feeding program at the weekend because they're not at school).
Other developments this last week have been just as exciting. I have a friend here, called Evelyne, who is a Dutch physio. She works monday to friday at the clinic in Lilongwe and on Saturdays she travels by local bus for 3 hours to get to a remote village (near one of our farms) where she has now set up her own NGO, working with children and adults who have disabilities. She is wonderful and inspires me with her hard work and dedication... she helps encourage young mums how to encourage their children to sit up properly, to learn how to eat from a bowl with cutlery and so on. She has adapted wheelchairs for severely disabled children who are upsettingly tiny, by using a normal wheelchair and wedging in big thick chunks of foam with gaffa tape. (This is how we do things in Malawi....). We've been so interested in the work Evelyne is doing and I think we're now finally in a position to extend her work to the farm close by. Evelyne has agreed to look at setting up work based on the farm, for disabled children and adults surrounding the Mchaisi estate (which is towards the Zambian border in the west of Malawi). It will involve some site visits from myself and meetings with different folk but it sounds promising... Now that she has registered as an NGO, and has got some funding in, it's a lot more feasible to extend her work compared to the last time I visited her at Chimteka when it was just her on her own, desperate for resources and funding! it's great to see such an awesome idea succeed and start to do well. Disability is a big problem in Malawi, largely because of the social stigma it carries. If a child is seriously sick with cerebral malaria for example, they will often be discharged from hospital not because they're back to full health but because they're improving and the doctor needs the bed for someone else. There are no out patient facilities, no aftercare available and so the child will normally be left for a year before someone realises that something is wrong and by that point, people like Evelyne have to really backpedal to catch up with the damage done. It would be really awesome to get to a stage where we can have someone like Evelyne running disability clinics once a week on ALL the farms. That would really be amazing.
And in other news....
I have been lucky enough to visit good friends Keith and Christeen, a couple of times, who are missionaries up near the Mozambique border. They are such good friends to me and despite being a good 3/4 hours away (hmmm used to take 5 hours... think i've been driving a bit too fast!) they will always be my first port of call in a crisis! i'm living with a lovely family here in Lilongwe, and they're great which is a huge blessing as living so far away from home - especially on your own - can be a bit of a daunting prospect at times. But there's something in Keith and Christeen that is even more special, perhaps knowing them for several years helps in that! But it's great to have 'family' here who are totally unrelated to the work i'm doing and who are so willing to welcome me into their home. I hope to spend Easter with them, which is only a few weeks away! Time is flying fast.
I was sick yesterday, and felt like death. However I am grateful to have lasted this long without getting sick! Thankfully it was a flash bug as i'm feeling better today, and I don't have a fever, so with any luck i've held off Malaria for another day....!
Prayer needs at the moment are really for the vehicle situation to be resolved soon, so that I can actually leave the office and do field work. Major prayer is needed over all the work i'm doing here, and why i'm doing it. We're changing a lot of things, and the charity Africa Link is going to be going through some major transformations. We really need prayer for that, that we're going with this in the right direction and that we're listening to what people are telling us rather than doing what we think is right.