Blog: July 2010

July 26, 2010

Ive had quite a change of scenery this week, experiencing several different ministries here in the capital city of Lilongwe. I helped out alongside American missionary doctors for several days at the African Bible College Community Clinic. I also joined a mobile clinic organized by Ministry of Hope yesterday to the village of Khwamba, helping the nurses take vital signs and such. One highlight was spending an afternoon at Christ Cares Ministries, one of our UPI affiliate programs. I enjoyed joining in the games and classes, although the best part was getting to sit for some time and discuss life with the standard eight girls there. In their particular neighborhood, there are many things luring girls away from school, especially the older male population that commutes in and out to the industries located there. Along with 3 girl interns from ABC, we were able to talk with them about how rewarding it is for girls to stay in school and go to college. As with Rays of Hope last week, it was so encouraging to see the UrbanPromise model flourishing in so many different communities here. The kids are really enjoying being involved and speak of so many positive changes in their lives. Its good to see them excited about their education and looking up to the leaders in the program. There's great things happening here in Malawi!

I'm approaching my last weekend here, I hope to write some final reflections and upload lots more pictures when I return. Thanks for reading and sorry this is short due to time crunch this last week :)

Picture: Me with the staff of Christ Cares Ministries

July 19, 2010

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.

July 15, 2010

There's always room for one more--I've learned that this is the case for many things here in Malawi. There is always room for one more person to squeeze in a minibus (record 21 today on our way to Lilongwe); always room for one more to join and share a meal; always room for one more use of a plastic bag or bottle. I love the resourcefulness that goes with these things, but also the hospitality that they represent. People live their lives always seeing room to include more people. I think we've lost that sense a bit in America, being satisfied with our family and our group of friends and only expanding that when we move or have a major life change. But I've been reminded about trying to live openly and expectantly for more people to be included in my life. I love how my church cell group always leaves an open chair for the next person. God changes lives one by one, and I think sharing and expanding our lives one person at a time can really change us, too. When we stop placing limits on what we think can occur in our lives, we leave room for even greater things to happen!

Sorry for not writing much this week, I've had a cold for a few days and we've only made a quick stop in town today on our way to visit Rays of Hope Ministry in Blantyre this weekend. I hope to share more when we return!

July 8, 2010

We’ve had a productive week here! After-school programs were filled with fun activities, we had more home visits, the standard 8 children finished their national exams, I spent three mornings at the hospital, and today we are attending a wedding! Whew! I wish I could share more and reflect about everything, but time and internet limitations only allow me to share a few highlights right now:
Tinashe and I had the privilege of visiting a sister program YouthCare Ministries in Lilongwe last Saturday. It was so special to visit with our friend Gibozi, with whom we interned in 07-08, and see the lives he is impacting. His ministry runs two after-school programs and the SafeHaven teenage-boys orphanage. Since it was Saturday, we didn’t see the after-school programs, but got to meet the boys at SafeHaven and share lunch together. We had a good time asking each other questions about life, education, and our World Cup predictions. The most poignant time was when I asked how they have seen positive change in themselves after being involved in YouthCare programs. They all had powerful stories of transformation. One used to beg on the streets for food but now has provisions and shelter at SafeHaven and is one of the most improved students at his school, another used to get by stealing and drinking, but now is attending secondary school and wants to serve God and have a career. How wonderful to see what focused love and resources can do in a kid’s life!

Another stand-out morning was my shift spent in the Madisi ARV (Anti-Retro Viral) clinic. During this time, I was able to shadow the clinician as he counseled and evaluated HIV-positive patients who have been determined to be sick enough to begin ARV therapy (the drugs are free, but only the sickest are eligible). While I spent my clinical visits at school this year working in the Pediatric AIDS clinic in New Jersey, this experience really put into focus how vast the need is to work on the HIV-AIDS issue worldwide and work for prevention and a vaccine. There was a constant stream of people all morning and it was hard to know that while ARVs will help their quality and length of life, there is still no cure. I really applaud the staff here for the thorough job they do trying to provide counseling and support for the patients. I can only imagine what is going on in the patients’ thoughts as they face this illness. Next week I’m planning a HIV preventive health lesson for the RiseMalawi kids, so my up-close experiences at the hospital have surely ignited my passion for sharing this message with them!
Thanks for all your kind words and support-Have a blessed week!

Pictures-Visiting with Gibozi and the SafeHaven boys and me trying to lead the kids' first paper mache` experience during arts & crafts time

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