Ndi Moyo Palliative Care Centre and Lake Malawi with Pics! (Saturday, August 4, 2007)

Saturday, August 4, 2007

After our time at SASO, we were headed to Ndi Moyo Palliative Centre. The centre procures medicines to help those with HIV and AIDS. I didn’t know anything about palliative care before our visit. Some of the patients were experiencing the advanced stages of AIDS and relieving their suffering was all that could be offered. They have enough land to tend several gardens to grow healthy food for many of their patients. Because of financial constraints the center is not residential but has two mobile units that can take medicines and food to many surrounding villages.

After all of we had packed into each day so far, we decided to spend a bit of time at Lake Malawi. The water was so blue! I ran out to the water and splashed around a bit. We didn’t get to stay nearly long enough. The weather was perfect not too hot, slight breeze, sunlight dancing off the waves. I sat on the sandy shore, looked out at the island across the lake, and reflected on the people who I had met over the past few days.

My favorite tree at Ndi Moyo.

My favorite tree at Ndi Moyo.

One of the gardens at Ndi Moyo that they use to grow food for patients.

Ndi Moyo Medical Trucks

Ndi Moyo Medical Trucks

Lake Malawi

Lake Malawi


Another full day…(August 4, 2007)

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Part 1
SASO (Salima AIDS Service Organisation)
We were up and on the road early this morning. The plan was to visit SASO (Salima AIDS Support Organisation), then Ndi Moyo Pailliative Care Centre, Senga Bay Baptist Clinic, and end with visit to Lake Malawi. Salima was a couple of hours away so it was important to get an early start.
When we arrived at SASO we were greeted by many happy, smiling faces. Linli, a beautiful young woman who is expecting her baby any day, gave us a little background information on the center. She came to work at SASO in 2002. It was founded in 1994 by Katherine Quinn. Orphans ages 6-18 receive services. The center provides HIV testing and counseling, home-based care, youth and outreach programs. They work to inform and educate surrounding communities about HIV/AIDS. But they do not actually educate the children at the center. Primary school is free in Malawi, meaning up to 5th grade. After that many families can only afford to send one child, usually a son, and the girl remains behind in the village.

At SASO, they provide breakfast usually porridge and lunch consisting of nsima. One day a week the children are provided a full meal. When we visited, lunch was nsima, an egg and some vegetables. On occasion the children might get a little beef. The children come from their communities on Saturday to eat, play then return home. Some children coming from 6km away. SASO provides services for about 300 children and is supported mainly by GAIA (Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance) and COMESA.
Linli explained that the first priority in Malawi is to have children with their parents. Another goal is to reduce the number of child headed households.
The children sat outside and in a very orderly fashion stood in line for their meals. Some of the older children walked around and picked up the empty plates and took them to be washed. The kids either ran around to the front of the center to play or to the back for a game of soccer. As with Dzama village, I felt a pure sense of happiness. Despite the conditions and challenges these children were facing their smiles carried a sense of hope and peace that I envied.

12 years and half a world away. (August 4, 2007)

Saturday, August 4, 2007

My journal entry:

“I had so many thoughts running through my head last night I couldn’t process them. Even this morning I find it difficult to put to paper all the emotions that were coursing through me.

I had originally thought that the infant center would be the place that I would most connect with, but I found it difficult to let my guard down and be present with the babies. At times I felt very in tune with what was going on and at other times, thousands of miles and 12 years away. I kept being drawn 12 years into my past; a very pregnant 19-year old just days away from having her first baby. For years the decision to give my first child up for adoption has haunted me. I have cried, screamed, felt anger, bitterness, resentment, hatred toward myself and others but never a sense of peace. I have told myself over and over I did what I thought was right; but I didn’t. I made a decision out of fear. I didn’t listen to the voice of God who came in many forms to me during my pregnancy. I filled my life with chatter; high school graduation, off to college, another show at the theatre, getting married.

The spiritual reflection for tonight is about grieving (I am leading the discussion, Yes, God I am listening). How does one grieve a loss or disappointment? My idea is to bottle everything up and then when something triggers me I have a meltdown, sometimes it looks more like a 2-year old having a temper tantrum. But that isn’t grieving. I have tried talking about how I feel; writing endlessly about it, pretending time will heal all wounds. But here I sit half way around the world, surrounded by strangers overshadowed by a past that I can’t seem to shake. I have had a few things come to mind about how to grieve the loss of my daughter and the disappointment with myself not only in the initial decision but how I have handled my life since that time. The word that kept coming to me was, gentle. I am not typically gentle with myself. Get over it and move on is more what I would tell myself, but that is not what God wants for me. My capacity to love others is directly related to my ability to love myself and for many years I have not loved myself. Through this inability to love myself, I have lost a lot of time to truly love those around me and allow them to love me. I can think of only one person in this world that I have let down most egregiously and I am truly sorry for that. The beauty of God’s grace is that he has loved me wholly and completely through all times and in Him my life starts new everyday with opportunities to listen for His words of gentleness to heal my heart.”

May 26, 2013
I felt like I wanted to give a little update on this post. It’s been five years and a lot has happened in that time.  My eldest daughter will be 18 in just a couple of months. I’m so blessed to have her in my life. I’ve been able to be a part of her life and watch her grow into an extraordinary young woman. Looking back I know she has brought joy to so many people. She and Bellina are sisters and the best of friends. I’m grateful my girls will have each other the rest of their lives. 🙂 Romans 8:28 is so true!

The evening is at hand…Part 4 of August 3, 2007

 Friday, August 3, 2007

Part 4

One of the highlights of the trip for me was the time we would spend in spiritual reflection as a group each day. Before we left New York, our priest, Kate, prepared a schedule with readings for spiritual reflection and who would lead the reflection along with who would lead Compline (evening prayer) for the evening.

We left the boys at Youthcare Ministries to return to the lodge and have spiritual reflection before dinner. Dinner this night turned out not to be fried chicken but a treat at an Indian restaurant.

The power had gone out. It wasn’t until later that evening we learned that power outages would happen again, and they were scheduled each evening. We continued on by candlelight. Krista led the reflection with a text from Henri Nouwen on listening. One of the points Krista made in the beginning was the idea to quiet the chatter in our minds to hear God. The ‘stuff’ of life: the grocery shopping, phone calls, dentist appointments, school functions. Work begins to fill up every quiet place we have in our lives. This chatter becomes a wall and we are unable to hear God’s voice.

We had a lovely dinner and returned to the lodge for Compline and much needed showers and rest. After such a long day, I was ready for a shower and bed, but our room had no hot water pressure. I went to the front desk to ask for a towel, but no one was there. I ended up taking a towel off the clothesline; it was mostly dry.

As I was waiting to take my shower, the tears began to fall. The tears were not only for the children I met and held earlier that day, but also my child, and myself as a child. It is tragic and unfathomable that there is poverty to the level it exists in Malawi or the United States, anywhere on our planet at this time in history. That is really just the most sweeping, generic, truly inadequate description of what I saw throughout the day. 

This day never ends…Part 3 (August 3, 2007)

August 3, 2007 Part 3

After the Ministry of Hope Crisis Nursery, we were off to the Youthcare Ministries. This is a mission that finds boys that have no homes then gets them off the street and into a stable environment. My head was already spinning from the activities of the day. I teared up several times after leaving the babies. We pulled up to the gate of the Youthcare Ministries, our driver honked and a little girl of maybe four came running to open the gates. Once inside the gates, we saw several teenage boys standing around. Their teachers were not around, but they were more than willing to take us on a tour. We saw their bedrooms, kitchen, schoolroom and garden area. They were in the middle of cooking something for dinner. Stephan was the young man who took the lead in answering our questions. He is 15 and has been at the Youthcare Ministries mission for about two years. Before that he was alone, on the streets, and addicted to drugs. He is now in a safe environment where he can be fed and educated. Stephan was the highlight of my day! He was articulate, respectful, attentive. He loves schoolwork and very happy to be where he is now. The head of the school, (William) was not there, but I will have the good fortune to meet him later on my trip. I was able to look at the books that the boys are learning from. They are learning both English and Chichewa. Stephan also knows a little Spanish. The accommodations are meager. But all in all the spirits are high and the boys seem happy.

All too soon it was time to go back to the lodge for dinner. I wanted to sit and talk with Stephan about his hopes and dreams for the future. I wanted to know what the best thing was about living at the mission and what he would change if he could. “Family is the most important thing,” he said several times. He wanted a sweet wife and lots of children. I had wanted to be the sweet wife and have lots of children too, but things hadn’t turned out that way. In that moment I felt so close to Stephan in our shared hopes for our lives. Time was slipping away, and we had to return to the lodge before nightfall. We said our goodbyes and were on our way. 

Oh, how could I forget! A group of us did the chicken dance with the boys. They knew the dance; we knew the dance, and we had a blast!


Alec, Me, Stephan at the Youthcare Ministries Safehome


Babies, babies everywhere! (Friday, August 3, 2007) Part 2

Friday, August 3, 2007 Part 2


Madalitso and Me

After lunch we went to the Ministry of Hope Crisis Nursery. The children here range from about two months to one year. There are many reasons for the babies being placed here. Their mothers have died and the villages can’t take care of an infant. The idea is that during the crisis phase the children will be cared for at the center then be reunited with family in the villages.

The clinical officer, Mwawi, seemed at times a one-woman dynamo. She is petite, soft-spoken, and she loves these babies! When we arrived there were already visitors rocking babies. We patiently waited then we were able to go into one of the rooms and pick the babies up rock them, play with them, take them outside. I found Madalitso to be quite talkative and knew this was the boy for me!  I was quite surprised to find that he was about 10 and a half months old and still not crawling, even quite wobbly when he tried to sit up; he didn’t even try to push off me with his legs.Yes, I admit I compared him to my daughter who had the most ideal set of circumstances coming into this world. Sarah was walking by this age; I felt a twinge of sadness. But then he started chatting with me and all the sadness vanished! He made eye contact with me ,and we jabbered back and forth. Oh, how I love to jabber!  He and I walked outside and played out on the mat covered with more babies and volunteers. The day was moving quickly ahead of us. We had one more stop to make. I took Madalitso back to his crib and situated his mobile above his head. He was not happy that I was leaving. He raised his little arms up. I caved and picked him up and cuddled on him a little longer. I kissed his round cheeks, put him back in his crib and walked out of the room wiping tears from my eyes. I know he won’t consciously remember me, but I hope that somehow my hugs and kisses left behind an imprint that he can feel. He certainly will be in my heart for a long time.

Infant Crisis Center

Playing with the babies!

Wait, this isn’t the right village. (Friday, August 3, 2007)

Part 1, Dzama Village, Malawi

My morning started with a full breakfast: fried egg, fried potatoes, baked beans, sausage and toast. And of course a bottle of Coca-Cola! The plan for the day was to visit Dzama Village first. This is the village that, through GAIA (Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance), Christ Church’s contributions have helped build a school and install a water pump. Then the second half of the day was to be spent either at the Ministry of Hope Crisis Nursery or Youth Care Ministries. As we came to realize more and more on the trip, flexibility to change plans was a must.

We loaded into our van and headed to Dzama Village. No one seemed to be expecting us and class was going on inside the school building. It was only after we had unloaded and started playing with the children and talking with the teachers that we were all informed that this was not in fact Dzama Village. The teachers were helpful in getting us back on our way. We finally made it to right village. Children lined both sides of the dusty road; school was not in session. Some children had blank expressions on their faces others had smiles from ear to ear, waving happily and chasing after the van.

We parked near the new school building; our van surrounded by excited children. For all my grousing at times, I do love children. They are my weakness. They were all fascinated by our digital cameras. The peals of laughter after seeing one’s image on the playback screen filled me with joy. The village was one of the poorer areas we had seen. It felt at times to be one big campground. We were shown the schoolhouse that was almost done. There are about 125 students and of that number 45 are orphans. The desks and seats are interesting. Both are made entirely of cement. They stay nice and cool. There are probably many happy bottoms in the 100 degree weather for that.The children sit five to a desk.

One of the teachers kept saying that they don’t have textbooks and that they still need them for the children. I can empathize but looking around the village, textbooks would not have been on my top five list of things for the children. We were shown the water pump that had been installed. They are now able to pump water for cooking, laundry and wherever they need it. My initial impression of Dzama Village was “there is too much to do, a school and water pump won’t fix this.” It got me to thinking what is it that we as Westerners are trying to do in Africa? I went in with notions of taking basic medical/school supplies, clothing, a few toiletries. But I wanted to listen to what the villagers said they wanted and needed. The problem I found in Dzama was it sounded like the teacher was parroting back to us what he had been told by someone else what he needed. He said it over and over, “I beg you for books.” Books are a helpful tool in education, but as life has taught me many times, you don’t learn everything from a book. I left feeling confused, and that I had nothing to offer these children.

We said our goodbyes and headed back to Lilongwe for lunch. What’s for lunch? Say it with me now, Chicken! The most exciting part of my lunch came at the end. I stepped outside for a bit and started talking to a local fellow. His name was John. He lived in a local village nearby and came into town to sell some things that he made. I asked him a few questions, being the nosy person that I am, and he was more than willing to be honest with me. We talked about his HIV status, his son, and LaBeka the woman who came from the UK and taught him and a few others how to make bracelets and necklaces. I bought one of each. He is part of a group called Tandezo (help) that supports people living with HIV. Writing this now I can’t believe that we talked about so much in the span of 15 minutes, but I guess I had faith that I could ask him personal questions and we could get to the heart of something instead of just talking about the pretty weather.


My, Sweetie. The most beautiful little girl in the village.