Besides my dreams, I was carrying with me an amazing assortment of school supplies and sports equipment that had been donated graciously by students at Worcester Prep. Before I embarked on my journey, I set up donation boxes in the school; now items from those boxes were on the way to help supply a new school in Malawi.
I traveled with a mission group of nine others from the Presbyterian Church of Easton. We spent the first couple days in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, getting ready for a long and bumpy journey to Embangweni by car. The roads were awful and made me fully appreciate the ones we have in America.
During the time I spent in Malawi, I embraced the culture and enjoyed learning about it. What amazed me most was how happy Malawian people were with what little they have. They live for each day.
The women cannot show their knees, so they wrap a special type of cloth that they make called a chitenji around themselves. Most women work with a child on their back. They carry very heavy materials on top of their head. One woman I saw was carrying 150 pounds of water on her head. I would never even imagine doing that, but that is their way of life.
The Presbyterian Church of Easton donated the funds for a school in Kapiri, a town close to Embangweni. The reason for the school was that children in the 12 “nearby” villages have to walk up to eight to 10 miles each way to school. Many children didn’t make it to school.
The new school will make it easier for children to get to school each day and to get the education they need. While I was there, we had a celebration and dedication for this new primary school. The dedication of the school was not a cut-the-ribbon with scissors type of event, but instead the Malawian people danced, thanked us, and gave us gifts.
The most memorable gift we received was a goat. Yes, a real live goat on the day before we were leaving. We named our goat, Sputnik, because our rental car had that name on the side. Because we could not keep this goat, we loaded it in our van and donated it to the deaf school down the street from where we stayed.
While I was there, I mostly kept myself very busy with the children. I read books such as “Corduroy,” “Rainbow Fish,” “Curious George,” “The Kite,” “Donkey Donkey,” “Clifford,” and “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” to the primary school children.
Usually, a craft activity followed the book I read. The students I had were delighted that they got to keep the crafts that they made.
I taught the kids to make paper airplanes, which was followed by a contest on who could throw it the farthest. I also went on a mobile clinic and helped weigh babies with a weighted hook tied to a tree. I gave out pills and made tallies to see if the children were malnourished, overweight, or average. Sadly, most of my tallies went to malnourished.
For the adults in the village, I taught a computer class, which included Microsoft Word and PowerPoint. The people that I taught were the nurses of the Embangweni Hospital.
I ran sport activities for the older kids; they taught me new soccer skills, and I taught them Frisbee and how to jump rope. By the end our sessions, they were jumping rope faster than I, which showed me their agility, and their openness and eagerness to learn.
I will never forget the opening of the new school and the handing out of the supplies we brought. There were 1,200 plus eyes in the crowd looking at us amazed and appreciative, for they had a new school and materials to go with it. It’s my goal that helping to build a school in Kapiri with my church will help many children start their education, improve their future and the future of Malawi.