This week I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to conduct research through the Malawi Children’s Mission. The research consisted of conducting interviews with men from three of the surrounding villages: M’bwana, Jamali and Mwazama. What struck me the most was that, in the face of unimaginable poverty and hardship, these people possess a resounding fortitude and drive to better their lot in any way. All this while never losing kindness and a generosity I never expected to receive.
Following the interview in Jamali, Clark Soulia and I were escorted through the village by three men.
The purpose behind this tour was to see the location of the nearest borehole, a source of water for the village, and to attempt to comprehend the struggles these individuals face on a day-to-day basis. In essence, we were attempting to walk an abridged mile in their shoes. The tour began from the small house in which we conducted our interview and looped around the village to a house belonging to one of the men and through, what seemed to be, the village hangout. It was on this tour that I was immensely moved by the actions of one of tour guides, a village carpenter.
As we journeyed along the dirt road that connected the farthest corners of the village, we passed by their crops. Many of the maize, peas, or sorghum were dead due to the lack of proper nutrients as a result of the destructive drought in which the community is currently plagued.
We then arrived at the home of the carpenter, who was immensely proud as he showed us his home and workshop. Small, consisting of a workbench, it was here that this man attempts to scrape by a meager living in order to sustain his family and himself.
The man informed us that he most definitely has the skills to be a carpenter, as evidence by the chair legs we picked off the ground, but that it’s difficult to possess the raw materials in order to make a self-sustaining business. Through all the obstacles, however, the man wanted nothing more than to be able to utilize his skills to better his own life. He was not asking us to fix his problems, just to help him find a solution to alleviate them.
Following the tour of his workspace the man went inside his home, returning with a small dish. He then went behind the house to a tree. Assuming he was feeding the number of dogs that lived on the property I didn’t think much of this action. When he returned, though, it became one of the more shocking moments of the trip for me.
Even though we had just walked through their crops and witnessed firsthand the destruction that this drought has wrecked on their lives this man returned with food. He had gone to the tree to retrieve an entire bag worth of pinenuts for Clark and me to take back to the lodge. Even though this man is most likely facing days without food he possessed a kindness that allowed him to give food to the two men who arrived in the village for the morning and will return to their lodge in the evening.
I’m still trying to comprehend the kindness and generosity that I’ve experienced in Malawi even though these people are amongst the poorest in the world. These people could very well be angry with the world and the people who attempt to “save” the village; instead they opened up themselves and homes to us in order that we may better understand their struggle and plight. And they do it with a smile and kindness.