I am sadly/not sadly, returning to the UK in September. I'm done with Malawi just yet though, so there are a few more tourist visa stamps to be had in my passport from the wonderful chaps at immigration...
There is still so much need here, and it’s easy to forget that Malawi is one of the ten poorest countries in the world, with over one million orphans. AIDS, Malaria and other diseases continue to cripple many communities, despite sweeping interventions from some of the larger aid agencies. Many of the 13 million people living here still exist on less than $1 a day. NGOs come and go, leaving little motivation for people to help themselves because everything is handed out and done without consulting and involving local communities. To make matters worse, the political situation here worsens daily and the relations between the Brit and Malawi governments is growing increasingly sour. Tax is going up on almost everything, quotas have been extortionately increased for fines the police need to collect from motorists, visa restrictions grow tighter, the fuel crisis continues to cripple the country and the blackouts/power shortages are bordering on ridiculous. Who would have thought a few weeks ago, that Malawi would erupt into political turmoil for 2 days? Peaceful protests led to violent riots, looting and vicious targeted attacks.
BUT! We’ve had a lot of successes and positive progress in our community development work so far. We are improving the quality of life for a lot of people here in Malawi, living around the farm estates. That much is true. From the feeding programmes, to the disability clinic we’re setting up, to the adult literacy circles and the work we do with smallholder farmers building capacity and improving their access to markets (and many more activities); we have undoubtedly improved rural livelihoods and our 60 year leases on the farms prove that we’re in it for the long haul unlike many other aid agencies and NGOs. But the harsh realities of being a business and the need to earn money come first before the priorities of community development. There are some awesome and incredibly inspiring people/organisations who are making such a difference in people’s lives here (*cough* the Mollers *cough*!) so the picture is definitely not one of doom and gloom.
I find the future is uncertain, and it’s hard to know where God is taking us sometimes, and why. But I have had such a great time pretending that i’m not a tall blonde white-y, and that I am in fact Malawian... There have been up’s and down’s, but on the whole, I have absolutely loved every minute of my time here and I leave knowing that I have made some life long (and unfortunately, soon to be, long distance) friends. Africa is a beautiful, special, frustrating, random, awe inspiring place, and you have to live that through your own eyes to truly understand what that means and feels like. For now, here are a few final photos of the work i’ve been doing and the amazing people I get to work with every day....
These are workers at our Mchinji farm; the young boys carry fumigating packs and the women bring their children to work as they work on de-seeding the maize cobs. We want to set up creche’s on some of the farms so that the children can be looked after in a more healthy/safe environment.
for me, very special pictures, of the children who attend the Mangochi farm’s feeding programme. Florence and I have become good friends and it’s been wonderful getting to know each of the children. Mangochi is a very poor area in Malawi and as such the children are visibly more malnourished than their peers in other districts. Though not without fault, it’s great to have a feeding programme in place which is reaching out to these young kids, battling to improve their nutritional status.
Gandali Primary School, where we have set up a link school in the UK. The classrooms are being renovated with cement, and our team of volunteers will help to paint the walls with whitewash and blackboard paint. The teachers are inspiring in their commitment to improving the quality of education for their students, and not being a party to the usual handouts. They provide their own bricks and sand using local labour and get the students to contribute towards some of these costs. I’ve been blessed to build up such a good relationship with them, and it was touching on the last few visits when students remembered my name and when miraculously I could understand conversations in broken chichewa!!
Of course, it hasn’t all been long days in the office and hard days on the road... what brilliant adventures i’ve had with such good friends! (hahaha sorry Kat, couldn’t resist, love you!)
Prayer points: please pray for our team of volunteers coming from the UK TODAY! Please pray for courage, humility and grace for all of us, that we might be able to make a positive impact in the work that we do and the people we work with. Please also pray for God’s provision, that we would have enough fuel to get to where we need and so on.
So onwards we go.... thank you for your kind words of support and prayer, and I hope you have found some of my mutterings interesting.... I hope to write to you all again living in another exotic paradise somewhere in the world, but until then...
Love and blessings