WOW!! What a day of happy surprises!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Blantyre, Malawi
WOW!!! What a day!! Today was our day to see several of our LifeNets success stories for the Malawi people.

We want to give special commendation to Henry Khembo who has driven us around all day long today. It was a hard journey. I had NEVER been on roads as bad as the one we traveled on and we stayed all within Blantyre today. We were in the within the Ndilande and the Chirinda sections of town. Ndilande is densely populated compacted into a neighborhood, some of which has no electricity or running water. We walked through sections of it.

We were an hour late getting going, but that is Africa. With all the things that go wrong, it is a miracle sometimes that we get done what we do. At 11:00 Henry and Cindy Khembo with their young son Jordan came to get us in their travel trailer. Off we go to Eliphaz and Celia Salawilla's home. We were here two years ago and what a pleasant difference with the improvements we have seen.

Mr. Salawilla keeps the UCG office in a separate room in his home. Two years ago there were gaping holes in the sheet metal roof. There was only a basic bench where he stuffed envelopes with literature and Good News magazines. Since that time LifeNets helped him with a new sheet metal roof which will keep water out during the rainy season. Also there are various sorting bins for various literature and a nice desk. It really looks great. Mr. Salawilla has such a warm heart.

Mrs. Salawilla and her daughter, daughter-in-law and niece prepared lunch that included chicken, nsima, rice and vegetables and always the bottle of soda pop. We all talked, laughed and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Myriads of children peered through the doorway at us white people visiting the Ndilande neighborhood.

Off to see the LifeNets maize mill which was right next door. Three families manage the maize mill which is called the Chachisa (named after the three families who manage the mill - Chakaza, Chambuso and Salawilla).

We were impressed! A steady stream of customers was streaming to the mill with women coming to get their maize milled. The humming and whirring electric motor in no time would grind up a whole pans of maize. The women would collect the finished product, put it on their head and head on down the street. The busiest hours of operation are from 10 to noon when there is a line of women waiting with their maize. Then they go home and prepare the evening meal. We were so excited to see all this activity - also knowing that it provide a GOOD living for three families. Mr. Fred Chimbuzo was unemployed for six years. He has 15 children. He used a paltry government pension to pay for support his family. Now he can support himself. LifeNets goal is to help people become self-sufficient where we do not have to continually support them. Our LifeNets maize mill project was one of our more expensive ones: $9,500, but it is very solid, profitable and serves a commodity interest of the community.

From the maize mill we went on to Mr. Chipendo's "homes" in an extremely poor part of the Ndilande neighborhood. LifeNets had helped him a year ago to put new sheet metal roofs on the tiny dwellings which still have dirt floors. He rents them out and some of the rent is only $2.25 a month. With the new roofs he can double the rent. If he were to put in a concrete floor, the value of the property would double again. What would a concrete floor cost? Amazingly, only about $25 per floor and the cost could be recovered in a year's time.

I often hear the expression that Africa is a "black hole." That is not necessarily untrue, but I do find that a well-thought through project can help people be able to sustain themselves in their own economies and cultures. It helps change attitudes, makes them feel better about themselves and helps lift them out of a poverty mentality. We have seen this work over and over again. Yes, Africa needs a new infrastructure, but along with it, it needs a lifting of the spirit with spiritual values to give it dignity.

From Chipendo's neighborhood which I could never possibly find again in a the maze of twisted alleys we go on to another neighborhood called Chirenda where Lewis and his wife Kuda live.

Henry Khembo does a masterfool job navigating the camper through the almost non-existant roads and steep climbs. I have NEVER been on anything so challenging, even the Lusaka - Mumbwa road in Zambia.

Lewis and Kuda along with their children live in a more open and nicer area of Blantyre.
They own a modest home around which they are building a security wall. LifeNets has helped Kuda with a "Freezes" shop. It is basically owning a freezer and selling frozen treats. Lewis works for the Sobo bottling company and is able to be a reseller of various sodas. They family is able to have a substantial income supplement with the Freezes shop. They plan to put it outside at the security wall and make it more convenient for passing customers.

On the new LifeNets water well funded by my Rotary District in Central Indiana as well as my home Rotary Club also in the Chirinda neighborhood. There was road here that I thought was completely impassable, but Henry got us through. He used to be a truck driver and had a good sense of the terrain, but we would come to an obstacle and he would make the right maneuvers to get us through. There were at least two times that I said, "We can't make this." But, we did.

We made it up to James and Mary Mapinda's dwelling on the side of a hill. We knew immediately what house it was because there was a crowd of women and a long string of water buckets around the new Rotary-financed well. It was so exciting to see this!

The water well has been operating for over a month and has provided over thousand people much more easily accessible water. The well before was nearly a mile away that included an up and down a steep incline. The Mapindas, for example, had their daughters make seven trips a day to bring 5 gallon buckets of water on their heads to provide for the family's water needs. Now the well is in their backyard and provides water for all their neighbors.

We took lots of pictures and video. What a buzz of activity.

The hours are moving quickly towards sunset and we have two more stops to see a four acre vegetable farming project at Peter Kawinga's that LifeNets is interested in helping become self-sufficient by providing treadmill pumps and fertilizer for the first round. We got there as the sun was beginning to set and saw the work that he done in preparation for November which is planting time. Being on the side of a mountain he was able to build a reservoir for collecting water that he can then pump up to the garden.

The day ended with most of our group eating dinner at a close-by Indiana restaurant by where we are staying. The Salawilla's and Mr. Chimbuso, Bill and Cheryl and Bev and me had a great finish to an exciting day!!!
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