April Blahs….Winter is A’Coming

My Heart in Africa


I feel uninspired tonight. Not really sure what I'm going to write to you. I’ve just come home from a week’s holiday in a first world country, and the culture shock is worse this time around! The first time I came to Malawi, I was on an adventure. Each new thing I saw or experienced was part of the journey and was met with an open mind and excitement.

But now, I will be honest, getting on the plane Sunday morning to return to “home” in Lilongwe was not something I was eager to do. I prayed earnestly that the flight would be cancelled or I would miss my connection. And even though my first flight I nearly missed thanks to some airline staff who overslept their alarms, and my second flight I could have offered to be bumped had I learned they overbooked soon enough, I still ended up back in Malawi by noon on Sunday.

I wont say it was dread that filled me, but definitely a sense of frustration. I really do like living here, that is an honest admission. But the life that I’ve known for nearly 35yrs is so much more pleasant. I got to run a race with friends and then even ran around the neighborhood one morning – with no gawking stares or offhand comments. I didn’t feel like an anomaly nor did I get asked for money every time I stepped outside. I got to shop in a mall, which ironically, is one of my least favorite activities in Canada, but it was just so nice to be in a familiar setting where I could get everything I needed in one stop. The disparity was not forgotten; and my heart did yearn for a better life for those who have become good friends here in Malawi. But the escape was hugely appreciated.

The struggle I now find myself in is to look forward. I still have two months of work here in Malawi and I don’t even feel like I’ve accomplished much at all thus far. I need to really focus on finishing well. I don’t want to be lazy in the last couple of months, but man, my motivation is at an ultimate low. I know there is no sense in starting something new now, especially seeing as my goal has been to assist and never to create a role for myself that can not be filled when I leave. So, the question is now, how can I best exit? There are a bunch of unfinished projects I have on the go, and I’m tempted to pull back from the preschool work and just focus on finishing some of the behind the scenes things. But, by pulling back, I wont get to see the children nearly as much. And they are my favorites! I love the children.

So, as I wrestle with the battle of what to do, how much to do, and how to get everything accomplished, I am aware that May is just around the corner. We have less than two weeks until the “cold” season starts and one of the things we would like to do is give each child a sweater (jumper, jersey, hoodie, insert your own choice of word). And , like Christmas, in order to do that, we rely on donations. After Christmas, I organized our leftovers and have discovered that we have very little warm weather clothing to give away. We would need at least 400 sweaters of all sizes, and have, maybe 75, mostly for young girls (ages 3-6).

Earlier, in March, I employed a few moms to crochet hats for the winter so that we would have some to give away also. I had found donated yarn in some of our boxes and paid them a small amount for labor to make them for us. I was surprised that only two moms jumped on the opportunity, despite the fact that many said they could crochet/knit. They didn’t even have to supply the needles. But anyway, I ended up with only twenty hats, or so, but I'm not even sure I can purchase new ones.

 The great thing is, I can buy second hand sweaters for less than $3 each! Unless you are a “rich” Malawian, you don’t buy your clothes at shops. You buy them from street vendors or market stalls, or the front yard of a neighbor. These clothing items arrive in mass quantity on big trucks and are a variety of everything. Usually they are slightly used or perhaps cast offs that are flawed. The fact that they aren’t perfect isn’t an issue when you're cold. Especially when you have no other option.
$3 is nothing to us in Canada (American, Australia, insert your home country).
It buys a coffee, but not a latte. It buys a jar of peanut butter on sale, or a one way trip on some public transport.
How many times in one day can you choose to save $3?
And, would you be willing to give it to a child in Malawi who needs a sweater to keep warm this winter?

Think it over.
Personally, I'm doing all I can right now with my support money. Im stretching it as best I can. I often end up spending my personal budget on little things for the school or the children because I hate that there is such a need. I admit, I'm probably not being wise most of the time. I am probably spoiling the children and perpetuating the cycle of "freebies".
But I think its easier when the need isn’t staring you in the face each morning. You're welcome to criticize my actions. I definitely struggle with them myself.
But at the same time, if you could consider for a few minutes, what $3, $10, $18 might actually cost you…(nothing?) then could you consider GIVING it to a child in Malawi?
Lets worry about the bigger picture of western aid to Africa AFTER the children are warmly tucked into bed at night!

If you want a tax receipt, you can donate through PAOC, but I think your donation needs to be a bit more than $3 in order to get one. Otherwise, it would be simplest if you just emailed me the money (if you do online banking).
I promise, promise, promise, all the money will go toward buying sweaters. I wont even use your donations to cover the ridiculous surcharge I get to withdraw cash!
And I’m happy to take pictures if you want also. That way you can see the PRICELESS smile of a $3 sweater!


ETRANSFER - this email address: melbee1978@gmail.com
Zikomo Kwambiri!!!!
ps - photo is of a blanket I made with donated material. also another project I have on the go for the winter!

Originally posted to My Heart in Africa