Friday, March 21, 2008
Wow, what a blessing it is to be back in Africa. So far I've gone from ATL to DC to NYC to Dakar Senegal to Joburg to Mzuzu, Malawi--where we're spending the week. So yes, I am now in Mzuzu, Malawi with some good folks from CitiHope Intl. (our main Malawi partner) and other orgs that are helping to care for orphans and raise AIDS awareness here.
Malawi is a small sliver of a nation of 13 million near Zambia (one-time home of the great adventurer Stew Hill), Mozambique, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and several other places whose GNP is dwarfed by that of Mountain Brook, AL.
Malawi is a terribly poor country where some 80% of the population relies on some form of agriculture for survival. You can imagine the suffering that ensues from droughts, floods, a poor harvest, price fluctuations etc. For a morbid point of reference, Coffin-making is the number 3 industry in this country.
Malawi has also been hard hit by HIV AIDS. I think something like 1 million of the population is infected, and another 1 million are AIDS orphans, which is just a little bit ridiculous. There are many villages where there are only children and very old people left, all the other folks have died. Despite the immense suffering here, Malawi is known as the Warm Heart of Africa, and for good reason.
Malawians are quite simply the most gracious, kind, welcoming people in the world.
Our lodgings here are quite lovely. I'm amazed at how Malawi, one of the ten poorest countries of the world, appears light years ahead of Haiti infrastructure-wise.
FYI, I ate a fish's eyeball on my first night here just to show I was serious. It wasn't bad as far as fish eyes go but the retina was a bit chewy.
The work HG supports here is nothing less than outstanding--we're supporting orphanages, medical outreaches, community outreaches (food, education etc. for vulnerable kids), a prison ministry, well drilling and something called Hope Scholarships, which give older orphans a chance to pursue an education. We went to a church today where several of the beneficiaries were, and I was absolutely blown away. They all spoke beautiful English, and were looking forward to pursuing degrees in things like forestry, accounting, business administration and human resources. What a beautiful thing to see hope restored in these folks' lives. What a beautiful thing to see what a difference a bag of maize or rice makes.
Read more of Robby's blog on Hopegivers website: www.hopegivers.org