St Alphege Malawi Appeal
§ Malawi is the 7th poorest country in the world with a population of about 15 million. Over 200 people die of AIDS each day, and life expectancy is 52. 48% of children in Malawi are chronically malnourished.
§ In the last decade maternal deaths in childbirth have increased by 100% and one in four children die before the age of five.
§ Only 7% of the population have electricity.
§ 42% of the populationare illiterate. Only 3.4% of the population complete secondary education and only 1% of the population go to University.
§ 83% of the population are Christian
§ Gross national income per capita is below $1 per day.
After hosting a Malawi visitor last September Angela and I decided to join the outgoing Mission to Malawi in October 2011. Our guest in September was Geoffrey Mbawala who many of you met when he joined us at Mass one Sunday. Geoffrey prepared us well mentally for our trip to Malawi the following month and we soon became great friends. He is fortunate to have a good job with an insurance company and lives with his family in a modern house in Blantyre. On Christmas Eve we became God Parents to his twin boys taking a full part in the ceremony via Skype.
This however paints a very different picture to that of most people in Malawi.
Ten days after Geoffrey returned home we travelled to Malawi as part of a two week Diocesan Mission. The Mission was timed to coincide with the celebrations to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the setting up of the first Anglican Mission in Malawi by Dr David Livingstone and Bishop Mackenzie. As the Diocese of Birmingham has a long-standing link with Malawi going back to 1966, Bishop Andrew was invited to lead the group there. The Archbishop of Canterbury was also invited to attend the celebrations scheduled to take place on Saturday 8th October. On our arrival in the community of Mtunthama the welcome given by the ladies of the Mother’s Union and the schoolchildren was quite overwhelming. We visited the Hospital, the Orphanage and both the primary and secondary schools and despite our previous knowledge we were still shocked by the lack of resources.
In the schools the children sit sixty to a class on the bare concrete floor. They have no chairs or desks and there is a chronic shortage of paper and pencils. Needless to say there are virtually no text books. Over one hundred needy children are being sponsored through school, giving them an opportunity they would not otherwise have had. Education, probably more than any other single factor, can change lives for the better.
At the orphanage, an amazing couple, Florence and Boyson, both over 70 years old, care for the children day and night. The children work well together, with the older ones caring for the youngsters, and all helping with cooking and cleaning. They had schooling, food and clothes to wear. It was a place of love and laughter, and the children were so very happy. The orphanage now has over 60 children, about 25 of whom are sponsored by people in Solihull. Nearly all are resident, but a few live with local families. Those families taking orphans into their own homes are not paid, but they do receive some clothes for the children, and maize on a regular basis. In the orphanage at present there are 9 babies and there is a chronic shortage of clothes for the babies and the children. The garden is productive, providing vegetables for the children. This is looked after by a gardener who is assisted by some of the older childrens.
The hospital has around 25 inpatients, and sees 50 – 100 outpatients per day. An operating theatre has recently opened. The majority of patients are children under 5 with malaria or malnutrition. In the pharmacy there were empty shelves and operations are being carried out by unqualified trainees due to a shortage of doctors. The hospital has very few resources by UK standards and has to cope with the challenging infrastructure of Malawi with frequent power cuts when very little can be done. The population is desperately poor and patients cannot afford to pay for the tests and medications that they need. However the hospital undoubtedly saves many lives, and the dedication of the nurses and clinical officers is impressive.
Despite all the problems the people display great happiness, generosity and very strong Christian beliefs. During our visit we caught up with our personally sponsored orphan Osward. He was rather overwhelmed by our visit and could not understand why a mad Mzungu white woman (Angela) was kissing him on the head. We presented him with a Bible and a small present.
We are appealing for items for the next Diocesan container due to go out at the end of March. Top of the list are Babies’ clothes, Terry nappies, all sizes of children’s clothes, towels and bed linen, HB pencils, school exercise books, bikes, sewing machines, and theological books (for the Theological College in Zomba).
Please give generously to this appeal. If you have no goods to send but wish to sponsor some items see Angela or me. Remember the container leaves at the end of March so we do not have much time. We do want items in good condition that will last as long as possible. If you are unable to help with any of the above items you may like to make a donation to the Diocesan Malawi Fund to help defray costs. If you would like to sponsor a child’s education which costs just £60 per year, contact me for a leaflet or see www.medicmalawi.org for full details.
In the March magazine and/or on the pew slip I hope to publish arrangements for bringing gifts to church. Dependent on the quantities involved I will be looking for volunteers and the loan of a van or other suitable vehicle for transporting the gifts to St Georges Centre, Newtown where the container will be loaded.
Zikomo (Thank you) and Ukhalenso ndi inu (Peace be with you).
0121 705 6370