Wow—so much has happened since I was last able to post details and pictures! I’m beginning my last week here and can’t believe my time here is almost finished. It has certainly been a fun and busy past few weeks! I’ve done quite a bit of traveling and experienced the Southern region cities of Zomba and Blantyre, where Tinashe and I visited more of her family and our UrbanPromise International friends at Rays of Hope and Project TEACH ministries. I also saw the beautiful Lake Malawi on a field trip this past weekend with the kids of Rise. Lastly, I’m heading this evening to African Bible College in Lilongwe, alma mater to many of the UPI fellows, to volunteer at their community clinic for several days.
Meanwhile, back in Madisi, I’ve been incorporating some health education into the RiseMalawi programs these last few weeks. I led sessions on Sanitation/Hygiene, Dental Health, HIV Prevention, and an Intro to Medical Careers. It has been really fun to bring together my interests in health care and youth ministry in this way. I yearn for these kids (and kids everywhere) to be able to reach their God-given potential without being hindered by preventable health issues. I feel an important piece of this is to empower the children with knowledge and tools so that they can make positive, healthy decisions for their lives. To me, it’s a natural extension of the UrbanPromise vision to equip youth with the skills necessary for success in education, leadership, spiritual growth, and life management. It also seems a natural extension of my vision for my career in healthcare, preventing illness being just as important as devoting my time to treat those who become sick. Under the advice of Tinashe and with some generous funds that people back home entrusted to me before my trip, I was able to provide new toothbrushes for all the kids in the program to take home after our lesson. I also bought and stocked a first aid kit for Rise, which had been on their wish list for a while. (Ironically, I was the first person to use it after a nsima-stirring hand burn, but I successfully made nsima for staff lunch all by myself!) It was nice to be able to know the kids and the program and work with the staff to identify areas where those resources could be used best.
On this topic of giving/donating, I’ve had some really engaging conversations about this with Tinashe and other staff. We’ve discussed and debated about how to support the physical needs of the children in the programs and others in the community. I think we’d all prefer if it was as simple as seeing a kid with torn clothes and just buying and giving them new clothes. But, it’s been interesting to hear about how the dignity of the children needs to be preserved as well as the respect due in their homes for their parents as providers. These two points, along with other concerns about logistics, program and visitor precedents, and perception of the community, have really called me to evaluate how we can help the kids in Malawi and elsewhere around the world. I have been impressed to see the Rise staff being thoughtful in ways they handle these situations. Shortly after I arrived, they had a small award ceremony where the kids with the best grades from the previous term were acknowledged and received a few school supplies and a t-shirt. The standard 6 awardee, Jakob, has without fail worn that T-shirt every non-school uniform day I have seen him since. I just think it’s wonderful to know that he wears that shirt with pride that he studied hard and earned it, which is so much more fulfilling than to be thinking someone gave it to him in pity of his poverty. I think creating and supporting programs where these types of physical and psychological encouragement coexist is one of the best ways people can channel their charitable resources. I’ve been challenged here that the blessing of having resources is also a challenge for the creative side of our minds. I think God wants us not to be lazy and participate in simple, mindless, giving, rather he offers us a chance to be creative, to engage others, and to honor each other as fellow human beings when we share what He has entrusted to us.
I hope to be in touch again before the end of the week-thanks for reading!
Picture: Kids playing doctor during my health lesson at camp.