July 18th -20th

South Luangwa National Park, Zambia and Lilongwe, Malawi
Two days of safari rides into South Luangwa National Park provided many wonderful sightings of birds, mammals, and plants. Of the latter, the most interesting was probably the orchid that grows in trees where the seed has sprouted and taken root.
We saw many of the classic African animals to include two prides of lion, a leopard, hippo, impala, water buck, cape buffalo, crocodiles and much more. The bird life was also tremendous.
However, in terms of our project, we were able to deliver the specially built hand cycle designed and developed for Anastasia, a girl of 15 who is afflicted with polio while she also seems to have some other complications. She had to be lifted onto the seat then we adjusted it to make it easier for her to reach the foot rests. Through our driver, Sly, we learned that her first statement was that she wanted to go to church, and later said, “Grandma will be surprised.” Sly told us that she continued to demonstrate a great deal of happiness with the cycle, which her mother had to help her with.
Her uncle was also there and we talked about how she would need to practice in order to gain strength enough to power it herself. Both the mother and uncle promised to work with her to practice riding the cycle but they were also happy that Anastasia could now be transported without having to carry her.
We left they with extra tires and tubes for the cycle along with a hand pump so they could keep the tires inflated properly.
Afterward, we drove to see Elizabeth who had received a cycle in 2007. We had seen Elizabeth last year when we visited her home and noted that she had clearly gained strength through use of the cycle. Even though her progress had been note worthy, we did not anticipate the great change in her now. Due to the cycle, she had been able to return to school. That opportunity, in turn, had allowed her to learn to speak English to the point that she could communicate with us. Further, we found her at a shop where she now has a job—again, an outcome of the cycle as she is able to ride the 5 km to and from work on the weekends. Elizabeth remains in a room during the week but returns home on Sundays.
She has worked up a proposal for us to help her start raising chickens and she gave that proposal to us before our departure. She also has collected information and photos of others in the village who are also disabled in some way. Elizabeth had the collection of information, along with photos, of each of those people and presented them in a book for us to take home with the hope that we will be able to do something for them as well.
Later, we talked with Sly about starting a production facility in Mfuwe where there are plenty of people who have skills to produce devices we design. That plan is something we will have to work on through correspondence in the near future.
On the 20th, we made the long drive back to Lilongwe with Ben, our driver. The road, being long and dusty, provided good reason to shower and wash clothes once we arrived. We chose to go to Ali Baba’s for dinner; a favorite place for us and our children on past trips.

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July 15th -17th

Little Field Orphanage (Chigamba Village near Nyenje Trading Centre), to Lilongwe, to South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
The hearing clinic at the Little Field Orphanage was well received by the villagers (morning) and all the orphans were tested in the afternoon. The villagers crowded around the building where we slept and used for the clinic. The structure had been used as a medical clinic in the past but for some reason it is not in use at tis time. Word had spread in the village and many thought medications would be dispensed.
The audiology team members found numerous cases of ear infections that needed to be treated medically and others who were fully deaf. At 11:00 we made an announcement that the testing of villagers would end at noon but when that time came, we had to have the team disappear into the back room in order to convince the villagers there would be no more testing. They would have stayed into the night and yet the team members needed to rest and eat before they resumed testing with the orphans. As it was, a few villagers hung around and even protested.
That afternoon, as the orphans were being tested, Clarice and I took a walk down the dirt road toward a lake. A man on a bicycle came along just as we started and he dismounted in order to walk along with us. Soon he asked if we were husband and wife and when we said,“Yes” he immediately expressed surprise. Although we know that it is not customary for married couples to walk along the road together, we had not, in the past, experienced such a surprised reaction to our doing so. He repeated the verbal expression of his surprise and, on my prompting, shared it with three women who were walking along the road in the opposite direction.
They appeared to be coming back from the fields as one carried a long blade tool that resembles a machete, while the other a type of hoe. The one with the blade assumed a stance, with the tool across her chest, in what seemed a humorous defense of the tradition that disallows women to walk with their husbands. A man, who is a teacher at the orphanage, came by on his bicycle and joined the conversation and, he too, shared that such a practice, “… cannot be done.” Little else was discussed as the issue remained their focus of attention until we stopped to turn around. Only then did the first man say that we had taught them something and he wanted for us to come to his home to meet his family.
We were not prepared to continue our walk as we had already walked for quite some time, so declined and headed back. As we did, two young girls, carrying large bowls of flour on their heads, passed us and never stopped even though they passed other children who asked to have their pictures taken.
The hearing clinic had finished by the time we returned so we sat and talked with on of the Malawians who had helped with translations. Solomon is a student at the University of Maine and has been financially assisted by a woman benefactor he happened to meet a few years ago. When asked about his future intention, Solomon was clear that he wanted to return to become an educator. He was interested in our other projects so we showed the video of the well repair and then the recently developed hand cycle for which he was impressed.
The next morning, Janet Littlefield came to see us as she had not been there for the hearing clinic. She and Bill had driven to Lilongwe to drop someone off at the airport and he went on to Ntchisi Forest Lodge in order to see for himself what the place looked like.
After saying good bye, we headed back toward Lilongwe. When we reached the Shire River, I stopped at the Hippo View Hotel, which was familiar to us from a trip in 2004. Although we had not stayed there, it was a nice place to view the river. Even though we did not see hippos, we did hear them from across the river.
We stopped at the Dedza Pottery Factory for lunch—another location that was familiar from previous trips—and enjoyed the break before getting back on the road for the final leg. We arrived in Lilongwe in time to go directly to the bureau of exchange to get more money and then stop to see Mcdonald Ganisyeje at Land and Lake. He had heard from our clearing agent to say the shipment of medical devices had arrived and I had to go immediately to the airport to pick them up. So we headed to the Golden Peacock to unload before Kyle and I drove to the airport.
Mathews was waiting for us and we quickly loaded the largest box onto the top carrier. It was so large that it barely fit, while the next largest had to be pushed into the back of the Land Cruiser. I paid the duty, and Mathews fee of MK 20,000 then found that our vehicle would not start. One of the workers twisted the terminal and that was enough to re-establish the connection—something I should have thought of—and we were on our way.
We stopped to buy some beer and then returned to the Golden Peacock for dinner. Afterward, we unloaded the boxes and separated the devices so the one destined for Zambia was ready for the next day’s trip. There were bags of cereal and children’s backpacks that had been added to the shipment by Vin Pizziconi and I shared some of the cereal with the Golden Peacock workers who had helped unload the boxes. I also gave a backpack and cereal to Suleman for his young daughter and son.
After a special breakfast at the café in front of Land and Lake Safari, we loaded the trailer, to include Anastasia’s hand cycle, and climbed into the 9 passenger Land Cruiser for our day’s drive to the village of Mfuwe, and the Zambian, South Luangwa National Park. The drive takes most of a day as we must pass through customs at the border, pay USD $50 to enter Zambia, and once past the first major town (Chipata), the road is dirt.
We arrived in the afternoon and were met by one of the greeters who gave a short welcome and talk about safety issues (don’t walk about at night as elephants, leopards, and other animals pass through the camp) and scheduling for the meals and safari rides. Hippos come up on shore so the trail that leads from the camp to the dining area cannot be used after dark. There was a great degree of excitement amongst our group as even then we began to see animals in the wild, along the Luangwa River, they had only seen on TV or in zoos.
We settled into our cabin-tents, enjoyed the sunset, sounds and sights along the river, and waited until the driver brought the specially outfitted, open aired, Land Rover to drive us to the dining area for dinner. Afterward, we returned and headed for bed as the next morning’s wake-up would be early with a 6:00 AM departure for our first of four safari rides.

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July 14th

Blantyre to Little Field Orphanage (Chigamba Village near Nyenje Trading Centre), Malawi
Another new development—or perhaps a repeat new development. After loading up and heading out of Blantyre, we stopped at a ShopRite for provisions then began our drive on the Zomba Highway. After only about 15 miles along the paved, though bumpy road, the top carrier collapsed again. Everything had to be taken off the top and loaded inside along with the 8 of us.
Zomba was the next large population center and we arrived about 11:00. With a little guidance, we found someone who had top carriers and feet that would serve our needs. It took about 5 hours, some searching for steel to allow our carrier to fit the new feet, a local welder, and a great deal of patience, to get us back on the road.
Then, as we headed out of Zomba, another new development came upon us. For the first time in our experience in Malawi we came upon a speed zone equipped with a camera. Although I tend to drive under the speed limits—50 kph in this and most residential areas—the police had their camera set up at the bottom of a hill and caught me doing 61 kph. Apparently this location is lucrative for them as we saw many pulled over and we later learned that both Janet Littlefield and Bill, had been caught in the same place only recently.
I was given a citation and told to pay the fine (MK 5000) to a police officer who sat near by on a log. The entire episode was conducted in a friendly manner, and I did my best to maintain a pleasant demeanor as well, but given the day’s events, my normal effort to maintain safe speeds, and our reason for being there, the citation was somewhat difficult to take. None-the-less, I was glad to see that some effort was being carried out to reduce driving speed in at least this location. Malawian drivers, and especially minibus drivers, tend to drive too fast through congested areas.
With the delays, we were once again forced to drive in the dark and, at times, it seemed we were not on the right road. We reached Liwonde, on the Shire River, which is familiar to Clarice and I from previous visits, just after dusk. Our turnoff from there seemed obvious enough but we then rode for many miles, up a steep grade, with few trade centers along the way.
At one point, we came upon a typical police gate across the road and were glad to have opportunity to get assurance that we were on the right road. For some reason they made a point that my bicycle, on the front-mounted rack, was illegal but we told them that placement of the bicycle had not been mentioned by other officers. We were able to get them to focus on helping us with directions and Clarice gave one officer a pen—always a desired item—and we were on our way.
We reached the turn off at Nyenje Trading Centre and then found the dirt road that led to Little Field Orphanage. After another 5-6 km, we came upon our destination and children started to pour out of the gate as we drove onto the compound. There was a lot of excitement amongst the children and local people, and Janet and Bill were glad to see us. However, we hardly received any greetings from the volunteers who had been with us a few days before at Ntchisi Forest Lodge.
It was about 7:30 when we arrived and the children were having reading time along with the volunteers. As much as possible, the volunteers were reading with 1-2 children in the room where we sat down to eat dinner. The noise level was significant and we had a difficult time in talking with Bill and Janet. We learned some things about the operation of the orphanage and could readily tell that conditions were far more primitive than what we experienced at the SOS facility or any other place we had visited.
We were lodged in an old clinic outfitted with bunk beds. After another difficult day, we were ready for sleep.

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July 13th

Blantyre, Malawi
The audiology team was scheduled to provide a clinic at a school for the deaf located outside Blantyre. Of course we had heard it was ‘close’ but we found out it was much farther beyond the city than anticipated and we stopped several times for directions—each time the implication was that it was only a short distance. Neither roads nor the school are clearly marked and we had just about given up finding the school when we came upon it well off the main road.
By the time the team was set up, it was almost 11:00 and easy to tell there was concern that they would not complete the task by the end of the day. The school had designated 30 students to be tested and since many are truly deaf, each series of tests takes longer in order to properly determine their condition.
Kyle Karber was along and we waited until the team had started the testing to take some photos. The headmaster promised to return the team to our hotel so I would not have to drive back to get them. We headed back toward the hotel and watched for a hardware store to purchase bolts to further strengthen the top carrier. Along the way we found a garage and had them install the bolts as well as fix a loose tailpipe; all at a reasonable price.
By the time we arrived at the hotel, it was 2:00 PM and Clarice was beginning to wonder what had happened. The three of us had lunch and spent the afternoon catching up with email.
The day before, we had made arrangements with McDonald Ganisyeje’s aunt, Meria, to meet us at the hotel for dinner so we wanted to be sure to be ready when she and her son, Tito, arrived. The audiology team returned at 6:00 and reported that they had tested over 30 students and identified many who were truly deaf.
Meria and Tito arrived at 7:00 and, after introductions to the others, we four sat down for dinner. The conversation focused on many of the projects, to include the Kuroiler chicken and Malawians with disabilities, and Meria said she would contact people in the office of the minister of Agriculture as well as the Minister of Disabilities. As it is, the President (Mutharika) is also the Minister of Agriculture. She does not know him personally but knows people who work in his office. She will attempt to set up appointments for us in those offices as well as with the new tribal headsman at Njewa Village before we depart for the US.
We showed videos of one of the projects for a disabled boy in Senga Bay and President Obama’s speech in which he spoke about our project. She asked if I had anything on the Kuroiler project that could be shown and I pulled up a PowerPoint presentation then provided a copy on her flash drive.

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July 9th -12th

Lilongwe-Ntchisi Forest Lodge-Blantyre, Malawi
These past four days went by fast and featured both relaxing and somewhat tense moments. We left the audiology equipment in Lilongwe and drove to Ntchisi Boma with Janet Littlefield and her group following in the 8-passenger van she had just acquired from Sulemon. Once off the tarmac at Ntchisi Boma the road is rough and dusty so she had to go slowly to avoid damage.
We arrived about 12:30, with the trip lasting about 2 ½ hours and, with exception of Clarice and I, everyone got their first view of the Lodge with Lake Malawi far below, and to the east. After lunch, we went to visit the elderly lady for whom prior bioengineering students had designed boots with memory foam to fit around her stub foot—severely injured when she fell into a cooking fire as an infant. The devices had been delivered the year before but we had not seen her since the interview in 2006. This lady was glad to see us and became animated while she described how her boots and cane allowed her to move about more freely. More than once she said that others ask where she got the shoes, a natural point of interest amongst those in a village where most do not have shoes. We ended our visit with an unplanned opportunity to witness a church choir practice that included dancing. We learned that this woman was the “choir mistress” and both her voice and dancing demonstrated a significant change from when we had interviewed her.
We saw one of the boys for whom an exercise device had been produced to counter effects of cerebral palsy on one arm. The boy had no visible change and when I asked if he was doing the exercise he said the device was being kept by Mr. Banda, who is the village school headmaster. For some reason, and perhaps a misunderstanding, the boy did not have the device available so I went to Mr. Banda to request it and have him continue with the exercise.
We took the morning of our one full day on Ntchisi Mountain to hike the trail that leads around the top and through the rain forest. The group was somewhat noisy so we did not get to see much of any wildlife but the scenes were beautiful. Along the trail, we saw an old poaching pit that was partially filled in with debris but it gave the others an idea of the method by which some of the local people took game.
We wanted to see the local midwife to ask questions about birthing. A few of us, along with Harrison to act as a translator, took the Land Cruiser to the village birthing facility where we found her. There was no birthing activity going on and she was willing to share information although it was not possible to tell if it was entirely accurate. When we started the questioning, she asked why we asked and I told her about one of our projects that involves development of birthing centers made from modified 40 foot shipping containers. I also explained that, through doctors from the US, we would like to provide training to stop maternal hemorrhaging, which is a main cause of death for mothers giving birth in Malawi. We wanted to know if she would like to receive that training and she said she would. When asked about deaths of babies born in her facility, she said that about 2 a year die but that no mothers had died. Although seemingly impressive, we later thought that she might not have provided a truthful response. Two of Janet Littlefield’s group, who were present, told us that they have heard other such reports that never indicate maternal deaths at like birthing centers.
She showed the birthing room, which was not very clean although it was obvious that she made an effort to keep it swept. We took photos of the facility and then visited a family involved with a poultry project that Lone and Craig had started. The chickens were clearly healthy and larger than typical village chickens but had to be fed grain rather than survive by scavenging for food. Seeing them reminded me of the need to visit people at the agriculture college to discuss the Kuroiler chicken project.
James joined us and asked that we come to his house to see his family. As it turned out, the road to his house was quite steep down a long grade and he thought we would have to walk but the Land Cruiser performed well. James and his wife had lost their 4 year-old-son to a mysterious illness this past year and were told that it was due to the poor water quality. They do not have fresh water in their location and must use collected rain water or haul it from a pipe located up the steep road in the next village area. According to James, several members of his family became ill and his one son died. They believed it was due to poor water and he wanted us to purchase 800 meters of water pipe. This request represents a significant amount of money—Craig later told me that water pipe cost MK 5000/ 3 meter section—and we would have to find donations but I also had to wonder if by tapping the upper pipe there would be too much drain on the current system. This issue is one the Malawian government needs to deal with but I thought it would be good to look into the problem.
James also asked for assistance in paying for his daughter’s schooling. The school is located some distance away, so she boards there, and they must pay MK 20,000 for each term (3 terms/school year). James has addressed this issue before and we feel confident that he is, in fact, using the money to have his daughter attend school. So we provided MK 5000 with a promise to send another MK 15,000 but it will be necessary to find someone, or group, in the US to help James and his family to keep his daughter in school. We have known James since 2004 and our willingness to help through provision of money represents a rarity as we do not typically do that. A similar situation exists at Nkhata Bay and we have had successful results.
We drove up the long steep grade, using the compound 4×4 low range for the first time in the Land Cruiser, and stopped by the church we had funded to build in 2007. The choir was practicing so we went inside to listen. It may be that the choir practice was staged to draw our attention—while there we learned that they needed a car battery to power the keyboard—but it was enjoyable regardless. No question that we feel privileged to be able to come and go within the villages as we do.
During our stay at the Lodge, Janet, Clarice and I met with Craig and Lone to discuss the potential acquisition of the property. We made arrangements for the investor to come in August however Craig and Lone would be in Europe to meet with another potential buyer. Meanwhile, her parents would be there to run the Lodge and they were the original investors behind the refurbishing process.
We left Ntchisi Forest Lodge after an enjoyable 1½ days and headed down the mountain back to Lilongwe. Once there, we quickly unloaded luggage and packed the action packers on top so we would have the equipment for hearing tests in Blantyre. Not wanting to travel in the dark, and knowing the drive would take at least 4 hours, we quickly prepared for our continuation of the drive south.
Along the way we experienced traffic and rough roads as the highway, M1, is the main north/south route through the Country. We arrive in Blantyre at dusk but had difficulty locating the place where we had arranged to stay. When we did locate it, with some confusion due to misguided sources of direction by many, we found the place to be overpriced and poorly managed. So we left and found a much better accommodation close to the center of city center. After a quick (by Malawian standards) dinner we went to bed.
The next day was spent at the SOS Clinic for Malawians with disabilities, which is located just north of the City. Directions to the place were confusing so it took longer than expected to get there and only then after being escorted by the Clinic’s audiology technician who spotted us along the way—a good argument for not having a white Land Cruiser like every other NGO.
The day went well and the audiology team performed well and remained busy with many children and adults who came for the testing. Meanwhile, I was kept busy in making arrangements to have our top carrier repaired since it had buckled under the weight of the Action Packers filled with equipment plus our luggage. As a result, I was not able to perform any interviews of people with disabilities. We returned to our hotel in the night; once again having to drive the Malawian roads at a time when it becomes even more dangerous due to vehicles with no lights and hoards of people walking along, and crossing, the roads.
Another late dinner and then quickly to bed.

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