Malawi Project - Richards trip bio
First impressions when arriving into Malawi were not depressing at all. The airport is modern enough, and then a fleet of cars awaits outside the airport ready to whisk passengers to their onward destination.
In fact even when heading into Lilongwe the capital, I simply took in the vast space and beautiful scenery from my taxi window. Lilongwe itself is a bustling city with all sorts of trade. Dodgy drivers are everywhere, but none the less, I didn’t have any fears.
The journey out of Lilongwe shows a different plight for the people though. The roads now start to be lined with people trying to offer their skills and trade, with some very impressive crafts of homemade furniture and beds.
Further away from Lilongwe leads to a more barren outlook on life in Malawi. For within 30 minutes en route south, the road side trade is sparse, now any stalls are mainly selling some sort of home grown crops, from tomatoes, to potatoes. It begs the question, how do people survive out here?
The main road is intermittently broken by police checks, which judging by the numerous unroadworthy vehicles out here is a good thing, although the odd handshake with a few Kwacha didn’t go unnoticed.
Upon arriving in Domassi 3 hours later, the main road takes itself south to Blantyre, the second largest city in Malawi. As we head east we hit the dirt roads, which are far better travelled on by the local Jinka’s (Bicycle taxi’s), as I would later find out.
This is where the real people of Malawi are found, where the basics in life are what makes them survive, where self sufficiency takes on a whole new meaning. Day to day food to feed their hunger is the main focus. When I talk about food, lets not get carried away with some delicious dish that makes your mouth water at the prospect. No, when we talk about food here, we are talking about a basic meal, which is called Nsima. It consists of a flour/maise based dough which is eaten with a relish of some sort, possibly beans or pumpkin leaves. It’s not mouth watering, but does fill the gap.
People wave as we come through, with beaming smiles, for they have become accustomed that the westerners that arrive here are here to try and help them. Shouts of ‘Bo-bo’ spoken in their local Chichewa language ring in the air, as the majority shout hello.
It’s right here where it tugs at my heart, for these people are just so beautiful. They have literally nothing yet they are so happy at the sight of a new face. A new face they hope to be able to call a friend. It suddenly makes them forget about their struggles, as they want us to feel happy during our stay.
I suddenly feel accepted and want to do everything I can to put a smile on their faces, as they have tried to put one on mine.
It’s probably a bit of a cliché but these people literally have next to nothing and yet don’t seem envious or jealous in anyway. There seems to be so much we could learn from spending time with these amazing people.
How could you survive living day to day having to take on your children’s children who are now orphaned due to the unfortunate death of their parents? Imagine trying to raise 10 children.
But now imagine raising 10 children the hardest way possible. A house which is no more than a mud hut, no kitchen, just a place to light a real fire to be able to put one large saucepan on. Forget sofas, and even beds, for these would cost too much, and also wouldn’t fit into their small and basic homes. Electricity?? Now you’re being wishful. Lights out is signalled when the sun sets, although there may be the odd candle lit.
These people work hard, and don’t shirk at the prospect of a long hard days work. If they want to eat, then that’s what they need to do. In this region, most of them make their money from the crops they grow. They dream to harvest enough to be able to sell some, or they hope they harvest enough just to be able to feed their family. Luxury here is simply a plate of food every day.
Its not a question of who’s better, it’s a case of survival. It made me realise that we have a varied and complex way of surviving in the UK. We have a problem if we cant afford a holiday, let alone the newest flat screen televisions. How many times have we moaned at being fed up at work, and wishing we didn’t have the 9-5 routine?
OK then, here’s my challenge to you. Pack your things and move to Malawi, live your life growing your own food, and survive living with next to nothing. You better believe that feeling of Monday morning at 9am no longer becomes a chore. Yet we can’t, and nor do we want to. Yet it is something that makes you suddenly feel grateful for what we moan about, and no longer feel the need to moan about it.
Kids scatter the area wearing their rag like clothes, some plastic bags as a toy and some fried maise as a treat (a bit like the popcorn kernals that haven’t turned into popcorn). Smiles surround you, from the children, adults and elders. It’s a really friendly place to be, and the surrounding views of the mountains are incredible.
The sight of a football gets, not only the boys, but also the girls into a frenzy. Oh how these kids and grown-ups love their football, and netball. In fact, I got totally caught up in the intensity and sporting ability when watching a local game of netball between the girls and young ladies. The start of the game was delayed to enable a young mother in her late teens to breast feed her baby, again food comes first, but when the game commenced the atmosphere was electric. Kids singing and dancing on the sidelines, the ladies on the court giving their all for the sake of fun. It felt like when any sport was being played, it allowed people to forget where they were, and the day to day plight for survival. At this moment they rejoiced and cheered and enjoyed the company of one another in a rich and joyous occasion. It really is a beautiful and pure sight to have had the privilage of watching.
Sport really works out here, and if we can give them more of it, then perhaps their lives would be happier, and more fulfilling.
Therefore, we arranged a meeting to set up a sports academy, a place that can bring people together to have fun and enrich their lives through a passion they seem to be born with. Could we also use it as a place to enable the children to be properly fed? Could it also be used to educate them? Could it also act as a place to generate awareness of HIV? The meeting thrived to the sounds of ‘Could we…..’
So the challenge has been set. To create the first academy in Malawi that will become a focal point for the area of Zomba to feel proud of. To put this area on the map, for positive reasons. The chiefs have kindly allowed the use of the land for this to happen.
It’s where people, no matter what their backgrounds or circumstances, can unite and make something special happen for people that so deserve something good in their life.
If we can give them fun and educate them and steer them from a live of poverty, we will have saved their lives.
The trip touched my heart, and I owe it to the kids out there.
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