October 28, 2005

First Week

Hi there! I hope I soon succeed in posting some pictures on this blog! I am using some pretty up-to-date computer equipment from an internet café in Blantyre center. IT business seems to find fertile grounds just about everywhere in the world, don’t they?! And that’s good I must say! As a result, I think I’ll be able to upgrade this blog at least once a week!

So where to start? Well, once upon a time, there was this retired English lady who’d been living in Malawi for a couple of years and who one day decided to start helping the local communities suffering from poverty. Malawi is probably the second or third poorest country in the world. Most of the population lives under the poverty line, in remote rural areas, on a soil, which the rain just seems to boycott! AIDS and malaria are big killers out here. In addition to these diseases, hunger, maternal deaths and crime have orphaned millions of children. Out on the streets, these orphans become the victims of ill human natures. Some are trafficked into prostitution and pornography circles; others are used as trading commodities and turned into human slaves. Fortunately, orphans vulnerability is a well-known plague in the country and many local initiatives exist to fight the problem and protect the kids. There is not one family in Malawi not taking care of at least one orphan. Sylvia, my British lady, is one to support such initiatives.

Since I have arrived, she has taken me to visit a few of the villages’ orphan centers she supports. These centers operate during the daytime. Children come after school, which ends in the late morning, and are fed, bathed, and entertained until the late afternoon. At nights, relatives, neighbors and other caring community members take in orphans. These orphan centers function as Community Based Organizations (a term well-known amongst development experts, right?!), registered with the local authorities and recognized by the whole community or village. CBOs can benefit from local funding, but very seldom do, and also from the private sector, usually the expatriate community. Sylvia personally funds about 10 centers. A group of close friends in her UK home have organized themselves into a charity committee and regularly do fundraising activities for her project. Such a small-scale project, (between friends really if you think about it!) works really well. With the money collected and transferred to her, Sylvia can provide the different centers with bags of maize, soap, sugar, grains, clothes and other basic goods. When she returns to the UK, she meets with the committee to show them pictures, drawings and the like, and also to discuss the next year budget. As a school teacher, she feels she doesn’t handle the accounts as professionally as she should be. However, I think she does a very good job. She never ran out of resources for these centers. Today, she built about 3 schools, bought land for food production, and has helped and encouraged small local groups to become proper CBOs. She has called her project the Joshua Orphan Care Project. And all ten village orphan centers are children of the Joshua Project. Today, we are looking into making Joshua a NGO so that we can get more continuous funding from big international foundations (and a tax-exempt 4X4!! Yes we do need one!). However, we are not so sure to benefit from that much more as a NGO. It could just give the Malawian government an excuse to ask us for money (registration fee….) this is where I come in. Anyhow, it’s a lot to take in, and my days are full. I am adjusting to this new adventure but I find it surprisingly hard this time around. I am still on an emotional rollercoaster, but I suppose that’s what homesickness is all about, isn’t it? Until next time! Ciao…..


Blogger Alison said...

What an interesting adventure!

I found your website through a link on Bicyclemarks' Communique. I am a regular reader of his and a university student in the U.S.

Do keep updating regularly. This is a valuable glimpse into a world I will probably never see otherwise.

November 02, 2005  
Anonymous D said...

Dear Cilo:
Such story... working hard, hah? Last time we chated you had certain questions... that seem to be solved.

November 02, 2005  

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