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.