Tis The Season
Women clad in matching dark-blue chitenje material march past me in the cramped maternity ward, singing and clapping in rhythm. My neck prickles with gooseflesh as I stand along with the health center’s resident population of expectant mothers watching over fifty good-natured neighbors and community members flood the room. The women have come to clean the health center’s grounds and new building, and also donate bars of soap to the maternity patients. They have donated several hours of their time and hard-earned money, driven to give back by the assistance and community support Lifuwu Health Center has seen in recent months surrounding the activities of help2kids.
|The holidays are upon us. Tis the season, and all over the world, people of various backgrounds, religions, and beliefs are celebrating the season. While the shops and houses in Lifuwu are not exactly festooned with decorations as are most likely those in your own town, the spirit of giving and fellowship are in the air. Insects are hatching in the lake, producing jaw-dropping, suffocating swarms that fortunately mean exceptional catches for our fisherman friends. Lifuwu’s farmers have prepared and in some cases planted their fields and simply await rain and the promise of a good harvest in the coming year.
Yes, excitement is in the air over what will come, however the holidays are not a time of plenty in Lifuwu. Maize is becoming scarce due to poor harvests last year, so most Malawians are keenly watching the fields this growing season while they do what they can to keep food on the table during the intervening months. Even amidst lean times, help2kids and the community are giving what they can to sustain one another into the New Year.
|In addition to heralding in the holiday season, December begins with World AIDS Day, a day to remind us of the ongoing fight against the pandemic virus and the stigma associated with it as we work towards zero new infections. Just as we did last year, we worked with Tingathe Youth and Drama group to hold a lakeside event, complete with dancing, dramas, speeches, games, and songs to raise awareness, reduce stigma, and encourage everybody to seek out HIV testing and if necessary, treatment.
help2kids volunteer Nadja once again joined the ranks of Tingathe and participated in dramas and activities, demonstrating the universality of the issue – that HIV/AIDS affects everyone, so we are in this together!
Mr. Yona spoke at the World AIDS Day event, encouraging the community to visit the newly constructed HIV testing/treatment facilities constructed with donations from Konda Ku Lifuwu which were raised by former help2kids volunteers. Some gifts are a long time in the making, and the new clinic building is a prime example. help2kids collaborated with community partners, craftspeople, and Konda Ku Lifuwu for an entire year to accomplish the project.
The new building provides a single, discreet spot for people to receive HIV testing and counseling, anti-retroviral treatment for HIV infection, and tuberculosis (which is a common co-infection with HIV) treatment.
Previously these services were scattered amongst the limited available space around Lifuwu Health Center, so people seeking treatment which is still viewed as “taboo” used to be forced to traverse the crowded clinical areas, sometimes repeatedly. The new building greatly improves the health center’s ability to deliver these services, and will hopefully increase the number of people to whom they benefit.
We continue to see more and more women choosing to give the “gift of life” to their children at Lifuwu Health Center as a result of our safe motherhood initiative. In addition to giving life to their children, these women are giving the safest possible birth to their babies as well as themselves. Experienced midwife, Catherine joined us briefly as a volunteer to join her daughter and assist us in these efforts. She examined (and in many cases, put at ease) many women, consulted with Lifuwu’s own nurse-midwives, donated a Doppler machine (which measures fetal heartrate), and was present at some births to provide knowledge and support. During her brief time in Lifuwu, Catherine gave greatly of herself and will not be soon forgotten.
Inspired by our efforts at the health center with the new building, the garden, and the rest of the safe motherhood initiative, a women’s group from the rice research station were motivated to do some giving of their own. They gave back by giving the new building a good scrubbing to remove any remaining construction dirt and ready it for service. While one group cleaned the building, another tidied the clinic grounds, sweeping up any rubbish and debris. They then asked help2kids staff and expectant mothers to assemble in the delivery ward. There we sat, unsure of what to expect when the group entered en mass, to donate soap to the mothers which the group had banded together to purchase. The spokeswoman apologized for not managing to afford more, but the gesture spoke more powerfully than the quantity of the donation and the room erupted into thunderous applause. This simple effort said “We are part of the same community, and we must care for one another.”
What was especially moving during this occasion was the women’s willingness to give during a time when both money and food are tight across Malawi. When people are struggling to make ends meet across the board, it is all the more profound when they give what little they have.
This lean time, or “hungry season” makes our feeding programs at Tiyanjane and Lifuwu Health Center all the more important. As time progresses, families’ income will run out and food will become increasingly scarce as Malawi waits for 2016’s harvest. The Malawian government has appealed to the international community for food assistance, and some has been given, however it will take time for it to reach Lifuwu and may not be enough. This means our feeding programs will become among the very few reliable sources of nutrition for those who are vulnerable.
In order to continue these programs, especially at the health center, we need continued donations to purchase maize and maintain the garden. Please join the community of Lifuwu in getting into the giving spirit this season and donate what you can to our feeding programs. Pass this information along to those you know who are looking for charities to assist during the holidays. Start a campaign on myhelp2kids ask instead of presents, for donations. You can get involved and make a huge difference in the lives of your friends in Lifuwu.
If you are interested in contributing to our projects, or would like more information please contact Malawi Field Manager, Nicole Barren at firstname.lastname@example.org or click on the donation button below. To all of our followers, supporters, former and current volunteers: thank you very much for everything you have done for help2kids. We wish you a very happy holidays and a joyous New Year from Malawi.