Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Children's Coffins?


On my recent trip to Malawi, I visited FOMCO--one of the orphan day-care centers we support. On the road leading to the center I saw a sign advertizing wood coffins.

Children’s’ Coffins! A lot of children die in Malawi due to famine and disease. Coffin-making has become the #1 industry in Malawi, I was told. “You make coffins for the children you can’t save, so that you can save the ones you can,” my colleague Paul Moore Jr. observed.

FOMCO means Friends of Mzuzu Community Orphans—a community-based organization run by members of the community who volunteer their time and services. Established in June, 2000, the Center feeds 200-300 orphans and abandoned children their one and only meal, which is served outside to the orphans as they sit quietly on the red African dirt with their plastic bowels in hand.

Church volunteers also come daily to the FOMCO Center to help feed, clothe and care for the kids. When visitors visit, the kids love it because they get to play with donated soccer balls, balloons, freebies, and simple group games. Volunteers and visitors teach the kids new songs, and the kids and guardians show their visitors how to sing and dance their songs. The kids sometimes receive simple gifts and candies from the visitors, and always love and prayers.

Teachers come to the Center to hold class sessions in an outdoor, make-shift class room for those unable to go to public school. Skilled volunteers come to center on Tuesdays and Thursday to teach sewing to the older children. They make drapes and simple clothing to sell at market to support the work. A master carpenter comes daily to make small and medium sized coffins in the woodshop, and teach carpentry skills to others and to help provide income for the Center.

FOMCO’s Director, Mrs. Sichinga, took me into the kitchen hut and introduced me to young Viola (1.5 months) whose father died of AIDS. Her mother now volunteers as a cook. It takes two pots of porridge-- soy-protein mixed with maize--to feed all the kids at FOMCO one meal each and every day. As the meals are served, a group of guardians sing and dance. The Director provides a rough translation for me:

“It’s not the wish of these children to lose their parents…
We are thanking you today for giving us this meal…
People are caring for us,
Because if you are caring for the children,
You are caring for us.
Continue caring for us, and giving us food and clothing.
We thank God because it is the same God who gives you this Heart.

While I enjoyed the singing, I could not help but think about the chidren's coffins...and the children who die in Malawi due to famine and disease.

“You make coffins for the children you can’t save, so that you can save the ones you can.”