Lilongwe, Malawi to Johannesburg, South Africa
The last two full days in Malawi were filled with meetings at both ends of the Malawian political structure. On the day after our deliver of the hand cycle to the young boy at Senga Bay, we (Clarice, Meria, and I) met with the Secretary of the Malawian Ministry of Persons with Disability and the Elderly. Felix, who works under the Secretary, was interested in having the Secretary hear about the project and for him to see the video that shows the cycle in action. Although the video is on our website (www.sustainableltd.org) it has been handy to have it available on my computer for such showing. The Secretary wanted to know why we had not contacted his office before then and I had no real good answer other than to say that we have been working at the village level and this meeting represented our first opportunity to meet with Government officials.
Truthfully, the credit for our being able to connect with all of the Malawian Government officials these two days goes to Meria, aunt of our friend Mcdonald Ganisyeje, and collaborator in our effort to establish the school for women, girls and people with disabilities. The Secretary made it clear that we should not have to pay duty on future shipments and even suggested that they could help pay for the shipments.
We had very similar responses with the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture—Malawian President Mutharika is also the Minister of Agriculture—who was very interested in our Kuroiler (poultry) project, now underway in Uganda. The Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Community Development, with whom we met on the 30th, voiced his approval of our plan for the school for women, girls and people with disabilities even as he spoke of his disappointment in the, Raising Malawi project, headed by Madonna, and which involves the building of a school just outside Lilongwe. He also offered resources for the project, to include funding, office space, and a worker who could help us as a representative while we work in the US. He asked that we prepare a proposal that would help him in his effort to secure funding.
Following our meetings with Government officials, we headed to the Njewa Area to speak with village headsmen. McDonald, and three of the students, joined us for this event. The area is where we plan to build the school and a new headsman is now in charge so we wanted to meet with him and others from near-by villages. The setting was in stark contrast to our office meetings with Government officials as we sat near a tree, on chairs brought from near-by huts, amongst a number of villagers who had come to witness the event.
Since our project has taken longer to get underway, due to funding issues, there was need to reassure the people that the plans are still fully intended to become a reality. In response, the lead tribal headsman asked what they could do to help. After some thought, we suggested that they could start a cooperative bakery—a plan we have wanted to implement for a couple of years—and they agreed that it would be good to have one in the area. However, they had no supplies to get such an operation underway and asked if we could help them do so. We agreed to fund baking pans, an initial 25 kg bag of flour, and other items necessary. They could build a wood-fired oven—we would rather not have them use firewood but electric ovens are not a realistic option at this time—and start the operation with the intent to expand through use of profits to purchase more baking pans, flour and other items to make the bakery more successful.
We asked that a woman be appointed to watch over the sales with the intent to maintain a growing fund that would be used toward the school. Even though the profits from this effort would be minimal, at best, they would serve to provide means for the villagers to gain a sense of pride in knowing that they will have made a contribution.
We also suggested that they start a sewing group with the same idea in mind. People could make clothes and other items that could be sold for profit. They did not have a (treadle) sewing machine or other supplies necessary to get that project going so we agreed to provide them before our return to the US.
The meeting ended with brief speeches by a few of the headsmen who said they would meet again very soon to make some decisions on the project and appoint a woman to oversee the funds earned. Then the people started to sing and dance as a form of celebration.
The rest of the day was spent in purchasing the items promised for the village cooperative enterprises. Later we, joined by McDonald and his wife, all had our last dinner together at the Golden Peacock. Following the dinner, with the others heading off to pack for the return to the US, Meria and I worked on the school proposal promised for the Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Community Development.
On the morning of the 30th, I drove the four-audiology students, and most of the luggage, to the Lilongwe Airport. Then I returned to the Golden Peacock to prepare the Land Cruiser for storage—to include lifting the vehicle and setting jack stands underneath so the tires would not be damaged over the long period—and then the remaining three of us were driven to the Airport by Sulemon.
After our flight from Lilongwe to Johannesburg, Clarice and I checked into a hotel while the students chose to overnight at the airport. Our 15-hour flight from Jo’Burg to JFK is scheduled for the evening of the 31st and then we will have a few more hours of layover before our flight to Phoenix.
We return home with a strong sense of continued accomplishment as the new audiology project was well received, we have several new interviews with people who have disabilities, deliveries of devices were made, and the outcomes of our meetings, both Government and village, provided reason to believe we are on the right course.
Barring unforeseen circumstances, we will be back in Malawi and Kenya at the same time next year.
jdavid6 on July 7th