We were supposed to leave for Liwonde Wednesday and then Thursday but there are delays in getting the house we are renting ready. That and the car needed some repairs and an oil change and we have not bought soy beans yet for the feeding program. Now the plan is to go to Liwonde on Sunday. Rodrick has been on a search for something every day. The first few days it was for fuel, now it is for soy beans for the porridge for the Feeding Program. Delays in Malawi! I remember now that this is very common. In the meantime Meaghan and I have kept ourselves busy by reading, writing and organizing. Meaghan has been transferring files from her recording in Lebannon, backing up her files but also to free up room for filming in Liwonde. I have been preparing documentation to detail the plans for the Feeding program, its structure and programming. We are thinking of hiring a teacher as the head of the Feeding program, she has experience and she can speak English and read and use documentation we give her on early language learning strategies. I have prepared a job description for her and we are starting to discuss salary. This will be something to gather for funds for when I get back but I am beginning to think that this will be incredibly necessary and will give the children a better foundation that we can build on. They will be future pupils of the secondary school too although their tuition will be subsidized. I struggle with thinking that we have so little time here and spending it cooped up in Rodrick’s house is a waste of our time when we could be doing more in Liwonde. But, I am writing so much about the whole experience and Meaghan has started working on a manual for future volunteers who plan to come to Malawi. We are talking so much with Malawians we meet, about the conditions and political state of Malawi and I am like a sponge, trying to immediately write it all down as I know I will forget or struggle to find words to describe it to people when I get back home. This trip was after all, supposed to be about documenting life here to be able to share with people back home and encourage them to get involved in some way. To be fair, we haven’t seen the water well yet which is in the process of being dug. Also, if we are there simply for the start of the feeding/pre-school program to get it up and running and gather all the supplies as which we have almost already all done, then we can propel the project. It won’t be us running it long term anyways so I guess it is okay. I am eager to meet all the children. We will be registering them all for the Feeding program starting on Monday. I think this will give us a real picture of the children, what age and whether they are orphans or not, if they are sick or well and so on. I prepared registration forms and sheets to track their progress in weight (every week) and height (every six months) and an observation check list that the teacher can evaluate the students on in a 5- 6 month period. I am happy that I brought the supplies that I did, several binders, sheets, folders and so on. We will be able to use them right away to get everything organized. I guess I have resolved to view this as the research and planning stage of the trip. Which is of great importance, I just don’t have pictures to tell of all it. No one wants to see us both just busily typing on our laptops as we drink Malawian tea ;)
I promise, pictures of the actual project will come next week.
Bye for now.
Liz & Meg
The gas shortage is causing even more problems than I realized. Maize mills use fuel because electricity is so scarce, especially in the rural areas. Maize mills grind the maize into floor which is used to make nsima, the staple food in Malawi. Gas companies are refusing to sell fuel in bottles so people cannot bring fuel to the Maize mill machine and, as Tandala so beautifully put it, “maize machines cannot get up and walk to a fueling station”. So, Malawians, especially rural Malawians are living in a more and more desperate situation. On July 20, there is a planned protest against the current President, Bingu wa Matharika to voice concern about the current conditions in Malawi.
Read this article about the upcoming demonstration http://www.malawidemocrat.com/politics/malawi-ngos-plot-fuel-protests/
Since our arrival, we’ve been able to chat quite a bit with Rodrick and Agnes and have been able to get a picture of what life is like for Malawian’s, especially life in Lilongwe, the capital. Read on…
Malawians who must travel to work every day must rely on public transport, especially now with the gas shortage. The salaries in Lilongwe are such that a minimum wage person can be earning 5 000 KW (Malawian Kwacha- one Canadian dollar is roughly 150 Kwachas) a month and the transport cost could be as much as 100 KW for just one way. Multiply this by 25 days of work a month and a Malawian can spend their entire salary on transport to and from work. This is why most walk to work each day, especially if their car is empty on gas.
Food is not cheap for Malawians in respect to their salary scale. A 50kg bag of Maize flour, which is used to make nsima, their staple food, can cost 2 500 KW when it is not harvesting season. With just nsima, you are still not getting any protein (which Malawians get from eggs or meat (chicken, beef or fish) and vitamins and nutrients from greens such as peas or pumpkin leaves. The cost can go up very fast.
Malawi’s President is the same person who was in power when I was here in 2007. He came in to power and then switched to the other major political party. In 2007 the governing body, upset with this switch over were refusing to meet and so things like making a budget did not happen. As a result, money was not being distributed to the different sectors so hospitals, for example, did not have medication to distribute.
Now, in 2011, the President has more political power since the government is largely composed of his party members, or independents who are really supporters of the President and simply masked as independents. In this way, the government is making policies more readily. Whatever policies they are making, they don’t seem to be making life any better for the average Malawian.
We have arrived safely in Malawi and we are staying at Rodrick and Agnes (Rodrick’s wife)’s house in Lilongwe, Malawi until late Wednesday or Thursday. They have two twin boys who are now 15 years old. Tandala and Tiamike. They also have taken in their niece, Salome and Edward, a young man. The two help out around the house, cooking, cleaning and the like. It has been nice staying with Rodrick and his family. The two twin boys made us a lovely banner saying Welcome Meaghan and Elizabeth hanging up in our temporary room. It was very sweet. We brought them some presents from Malawi which they have enjoyed, especially the flashlights. Power goes off here all the time for an undetermined amount of time.
Currently in Malawi there is a Petroleum shortage. Some people leave their cars at the station for up to a week to keep their place in line since there is such a gas shortage. Apparently it is easier to get it on the black market. The government doesn’t seem to be doing much about this though. Apparently it is hard to buy gas because Malawi doesn’t have enough foreign currency. Today we saw queue 40 cars long at a petroleum station. Rodrick said that these Malawians could be waiting there all night for gas. We waited for half an hour in line as Rodrick tried to call people he knew in the hopes of getting gas faster. We felt pretty lucky in the end that we were able to get 20 Liters of Gas an hour later. We will have to get some more tomorrow before travelling to Liwonde.
I am feeling very excited about going to Liwonde and meeting the community. Tomorrow we will buy most of the supplies for the Feeding and Early Childhood Education project. I have been working on forms for registering students in the Feeding Program. A new practice we are trying to introduce to be able to tract students and their progress. We hope to document not only the name and age of the children but who is their guardian, are they orphans, do they have any known diseases and what is their background. Also, we will tract their weight over the weeks to measure improvements.
Also it will be exciting to see the water hole as it is supposed to reach water in the coming days. They are currently digging to try and reach sea level. Then we will take a sample of the water to the water board to check its purity. Apparently it should be safe at sea level. Many wells are done quickly and inefficiently and are dug only 50 meters until water is reached. Often these well constructions are not supervised so people who are paid don’t do the job properly. When the try season comes the water level goes down and the well runs dry. That and the water is often contaminated by deposits in the area. When we take a sample from the new well, I have also asked that we take a sample from an existing well in the area that is only 50 or so meters deep. We will also need to build a structure around the well to protect the water from contamination and from collapsing in a year or so.
I will send you more news in the first few days at Liwonde.
Sorry no pics yet. We have both been pretty tired and just taking everything in.
Congratulations to Zack Daunoravicius from St. Gabriel’s and a former student from Heritage who won the two U2 tickets!
HUGE THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO SUPPORTED ME. In total I raised $3667.80.
A Special thanks to :
St. Stephen’s who contributed $1500.00
St. Gabriel’s Church who in all contributed $542.75
Heritage Regional High School Staff(my wonderful work colleagues) $446.00
Standard Life Staff (my wonderful hubbies work colleagues) $479.44
To all those who bought gift cards from me through Fundscrip (I will continue when i get back)
And to my lovely family and friends
Keep checking my blog to see first hand where all your support is going.
I have heard back from Rodrick this week and the bore hole (water well) is in the process of being dug. When we arrive I will make sure to get many pictures.