Monday, April 12, 2010
Activity Days at the Orphan Care Centres - Grab a coffee, it's a long read.
April 5, 2010
We started off our week trying to compensate for the loss of our luggage and some of our supplies and then come up with Plan B for the programs that we would be running at the centres. The first thing we had to do was buy a bale of clothing at the Dapp. When we pulled up there were two soldiers with big guns (okay very big, big guns/ semi-automatic actually) sitting outside of the shop. I thought it wise not to take pictures :) and just got one pic of Andre looking over the bales. So this is what happens to those clothes you send to second hand stores - they end up here and are considered very valuable.
Ana ndi Athu, Grace, Maula Orphan Care Centres:
On Tuesday, April 6, 2010 we visited our first orphan care centre – Ana ndi Athu. Ana is an orphan care centre in a small village, out in the country, nestled in amongst the crops near Jali, outside Zomba District.
When we arrived they put three chairs out in the open area in front of the centre for Sydney, Alex and I - chairs for their honoured guests. The children sang songs to us and recited their numbers. More children came from around the village to stare at us and see what all the excitement was. Quite a few of the orphan children were crying or would start crying if we came too close. It appears that the wee little gaffers are afraid of white people. When the children were done with their special presentation for their guests, we then were introduced by the Director of the Centre Mr. William Magamedi (not really sure if I got his last name correct). Mr. M. is a professor at the local college who is responsible for starting Ana because he had a deep desire to help the children who were not receiving an education or proper care. Ana provides the children with basic school instruction and a meal everyday. They will often identify children who are malnourished and then endeavour to help those children. In January, 10 children were very malnourished and Andre through E.I. provided 50-10lb bags of maize for the centre to help feed all of the children and get them through the hungry season to harvest time (which is now). Mr. M. told me that it was because of this food that those malnourished children are doing much better. This amount of maize was also provided to Maula.
Now it was our turn. Our basic program for all of the centres looked liked this:
Geography – basically that we came from Canada to see them and gave them some brief info on our country. I felt it was important to tell them that there were a lot of people in my community and in my church that cared very much for them and have been praying for them. I taught them a little bit about the world by showing them a large map, where we came from and how long it took us to get to their country. Many people in Malawi don’t know that the world is round so I asked the children if they knew what shape the world was. Only an Amai knew the answer. Amais are the centre’s moms. Amai is also a name for woman or Mrs. Each centre has a few Amais to teach the children and help care for them.
One of the untruths in Malawian culture is this idea that white people are smarter or more important than them. The story of Zacchaeus was effective in showing the children that Jesus doesn’t favour some people over others and loves everyone the same. It was important to me to articulate to the children that they are very special to Jesus.
Bubbles, face painting, skip rope and soccer
The children loved it all. While we got a few of them doing bubbles, some played soccer or skipped rope with the village children and others got face painting. Definitely these activities were a big hit and I would do again.
Gifts -Teddy bears, school supplies and clothes
The teddy bears were so cool! Seeing this little girl’s face when I handed her a soft little bunny holding a carrot was amazing - she was ecstatic and for me it will be a lasting memory of Malawi. Each child received two school books, two pencils, pencil sharpener and an outfit (pants & shirt). The centre received 5 soccer balls and a pump, boxes of chalk and erasers, extra school books, pencils, pens, teaching aids, and whistles.
Traditional Malawian meal of rice, stewed cabbage with tomato and goat meat was provided for lunch. Everyone received a generous pile of food. Some people don’t get to eat meat for a very long time. Andre and Alex’s guard, Isaac told them at Christmas time last year that he hadn’t had meat in more than 6 months. Rice is considered a luxury so to have the rice and meat together for the children was more than what these children had eaten in a very long time and a real blessing.
In all we provided for 87 children at Ana ndi Atu.
Grace Orphan Care Centre
On Wednesday we went to Grace. Grace Orphan Care is run by a fellow named Ernest who had the same desire to help orphaned children who were wandering around with no care. Grace provides for more than 220 children of all ages.
When we arrived there were only 3 kindergarten children and we were expecting at least 15 for the morning program. We were told that there was a funeral in the village and that was why there were not very many children at the start. Very shortly though many children showed up and before we knew it we had 30. The children were afraid of us again but it almost seemed like they were more afraid then at Ana so we started off with bubbles. This was the perfect activity for such little children to help them feel more comfortable with us.
Again we did our program for the children. They loved colouring at Grace. I mean they really loved it. They coloured with such concentration for quite a while and since they were enjoying the activity so much we were flexible and adapted to them.
Playing games with them was a lot of fun. By this time many older children had arrived and my time working with the Youth, VBS and Children’s Church came in handy. We played red light/green light with them and they loved running their hearts out so they could show me who was the fastest.
We met some children with disabilities. The Amai showed me a little girl that looked like she was no more than 3 or 4 years old and I was told that she was actually 10 years old. It is hard to believe. Something I have noticed and been shown that children in Malawian culture are often malnourished resulting in their growth being stunted. Not that this was the case for this girl but it is for many. Andre showed me a picture of twins and told me that one twin was sent back to the village while the other one kept at the centre because of health issues. The twin that was sent back appeared to be at least 3 or 4 years younger than his brother.
Finishing off with Grace – about another 100 children showed up for the afternoon program of lunch, soccer and introduction/stories and activities. We face painted for at least an hour, handed out stuff and had fun with the kids. It was a long day for our small team at this facility.
Maula Orphan Care
Many of you saw the photos from Maula before I left and maybe are aware that Maula already held a special place I in my heart, but all the more so now after Thursday. Maula is situated in the country amidst the crops on the outskirts of Zomba District. The Chief of the village greeted us - yes I said Chief. Maula is a 2 room hut basically and is by far the poorest orphan care centre that we have visited. The Chief explained to me that he was very concerned for the children and their education and Maula was borne out of a desire to help the orphaned children of his village.
After we did all of our activities and had lunch with the children it was time for speeches. First the Chief made his speech about Maula and how it started, then he thanked us for coming all the way from Canada to bless them. He said that no other people had ever done anything for them like we had done that day. I was surprised and it made me hope that maybe there would be another opportunity to do more. Then I had to make my speech. I have had to make quite a few speeches since coming here (it is the custom of Malawi) and I think I’m getting the hang of it. The village, the orphans, caregivers and the Chief know that many people in my community care very much for them and were responsible for the wonderful things that were provided to his village. Not only were we able to bless the orphans of Maula but we were able to feed the village children and provide them with school supplies as well. The village children (many of them teens) also got to enjoy a very competitive game of soccer. When speeches were done and we were getting ready to the leave one teen boy started singing and then all of the children started singing to us. You just can’t imagine what it was like to hear these beautiful children singing – it just brings tears to my eyes even now as I write this.
Blessings from Generous Supporters
All of the wonderful gifts we gave the children and provided for them were because of the wonderfully caring people in Canada. Not just from Chilliwack but Saanich and Nova Scotia as well. It is because of you all that these children had fun, were fed a nourishing meal, received practical school supplies and clothing and then went home with a stuffy. Truly Canadians have blessed Malawians during this time.
Until next time…
In His Service (and so grateful to be there)