Malawi – Melissa Bougdanos

Airport
Chileka Airport, Blantyre, Malawi

As my excitement grew in the airplane, I started getting nervous once we arrived at the airport. What if I was denied entrance into Malawi? I got in a long line to try to get my visa. I was nervous that immigration was going to give me a hard time. I gave in all my documents and, to my surprise, things went very smoothly! Flushed with relief, I walked out of the airport ready to start this new adventure!!

We got to Annie’s lodge, which is a wonderful little place. We took some time to drive around Blantyre. The scenery of Blantyre is so beautiful, full of mountains and plantations. I saw curious stares, friendly smiles and waves as we drove along.

Blantyre
Blantyre

Sunday was an incredible experience. We went to Blantyre Baptist church. It just so happened that Kenya’s “Sing for Africa” group was there and gave a beautiful performance. Later that night we followed the singing group to an academy. As students trickled in, they began to sing and dance. Suddenly there was a blackout but that didn’t stop anyone. We continued to sing and dance and play games in the dark! The students were filled with joy and I saw such happiness.

Monday morning our work officially started and we met with M’bwana village. Over the next couple of days we also met with Jamali and Mwazama village. We went each day to each village to talk to the women about starting the Women’s Initiative – which is an extension of the Young Women’s Initiative. We would be guiding them to start their own sustainable business. We sat on the ground and waited for all the women to get to the meeting. I was expecting a small group to turn up, but to my surprise and amazement there were over 100 women from just one village!

It was an unreal experience to be sitting with women from the village discussing problems they face and the reality of their situation. I truly feel blessed to have the opportunity to sit with these women and hear what they have to say. Malawi has been experiencing bad droughts so the villages cannot grow enough crops. The villages are facing severe climate changes, resulting in long periods of droughts or flooding. The communities face hunger, poverty and illness. The realities of the severity of the problems they face are very real and there is an urgency to help them generate income. This is where asset-based community development comes in and micro-financing their new business. The project we are working on will hopefully address those problems.

Finished product
Finished product
Village business: making soap
Village business: making soap

After hearing about all the hardships these villages are going through, I saw such strength and resilience within the communities. The women in each village all shared their excitement and motivation to work on making this new business. I really admire the sense of community the villages share. There would be five women from each village that would be involved in the business – making jewelry or soap, yet the profits made would be used for the whole community.

Jamali village started singing and clapping at the end of the meeting. The women showed us such appreciation, community and culture. It was so beautiful and moving. It is a moment I will never forget.

Malawi Children's Mission
Malawi Children’s Mission

We also met the children at Malawi Children’s Mission!!! Words can’t describe how meaningful it was to finally meet them! The children are so open and friendly and eager to learn. I could spend hours and hours playing with the children. Despite everything the children have been through, I see genuine smiles and love. When we drive up to MCM, the children come running with huge smiles. It is such a joy to be able to work and play with all the children at MCM everyday. I am so excited for the upcoming week.

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