Irish Post in Malawi
TODAY was another day full of unique experiences.
Up early again we headed off at 7am to visit Kalebe Village Clinic, which is supported by Concern and deals with health issues for children under the age of five.
Kalebe Village is located about an hour away from Nkhotakhota and the road conditions were like nothing I have seen before.
There were massive ditches on each side of the dusty track and the roadside bushes and reeds came up to the height of the car.
The track itself was rocky and bumpy with massive holes and divots and there were moments when my heart rose into my throat as I wondered if the jeep would topple.
The heat was stifling, even at that hour of the morning, and we couldn’t keep the windows open to let the breeze in, as we would have been smothered with the dust rising up off the dirt track.
Making our way closer to the village, it became apparent that people in this remote and rural area rarely see visitors, especially not a convoy like ours with a 6’7 rugby player in toe. Our presence drew stares from everyone that saw us.
Half naked children waved at us from the roadside and chased the jeep as we passed and women with babies swaddled on their back and balancing huge brightly coloured buckets on their heads waved at us and called out greetings.
We arrived into Kalebe Village to another chorus of song, a family band with homemade guitars and drums, and dancing like I have never seen before.
We were ushered into the clinic, which is in fact a stone hut with walls on just 3 sides and is completely bare on the interior.
We had a seat and were introduced to all the members of the clinic committee, the local community development committee as well as many others.
They told us about the lifesaving difference that the clinic makes to the local community.
Families can bring children under 5, who are sick with diarrhoea, pneumonia or malaria as a result of hunger and malnourishment, to the clinic and they will be treated or referred to the District Hospital.
However, this hospital is over 60km away and the majority of these people will have to travel on foot, in the searing heat, carrying their sick children and will often be barefoot.
Concern supports this clinic and has given training and advice to the health workers. It shows how vital it is that it continues to run in order to save the lives of the young in the community.
In the afternoon we headed to Nthanje 3 Village, which was another half hour away, to meet their development committee and see how Concern has helped them to apply Conservation Agriculture (CA) to their farming practices.
Conservation Agriculture is the promotion of improved eco-friendly farming practices to increase crop yield and also benefit the soil, and is something that Concern promotes and educates farmers on.
We had a chance to speak to the lead farmer for the community, Anthony, who told us about his positive experiences using CA and how it has helped him to feed his large family and avoid hunger and malnourishment.
We also met a great character, Frank, who was so keen to share his success story with us.
He brought us to his home, which comprises of 3 huts and is considered luxurious by local standards.
He explained to us how the Livestock group, that Concern runs, has saved and changed his life and the lives of his family. We met his wife, two of his beautiful daughters, and other family and friends who were there.
James then presented him with a London Irish Rugby jersey and I have never seen so much delight and gratitude in an individual.
It is obvious that the jersey will not be taken off for at least a week.
Driving back to Nkhotakhota this evening, I was watching the sun set over the mountains ahead of us, which was a sight of such beauty that I cannot even begin to put it into words.
The sky was a wash of reds, yellows and oranges, and I couldn’t help but feel quite emotionally drained by the day.
My mind was racing over all that we saw, and over the last few days, and it just further emphasises how difficult life can be for these people who have so little and how the smallest of things mean so much to them.
I am having the experience of a lifetime on the trip and cannot wait to see what beautiful characters and interesting stories we will come across tomorrow.