A Walk in the Community, Chitimba, Malawi


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The room was packed with small children sitting cross legged on the dirt  floor .  Some of them  clutched  a scrap  of writing paper and a stubby of pencil , many had nothing to write on at all. .   The classroom was dark.  Shafts of light  penetrated the  the gloom  through rough cut  windows and the open door.

That morning we had stepped out of our  secure, safe, sterile, comfortable  bubbled accommodation  to go on a community walk of the area   The money we paid would go to local projects .   When we visit an area we try to support small  local initiatives but in Africa this was proving hard,  as most accommodation, restaurants and  tour operators seemed  to be owned by ex-pats or rich white Africans.   However, w e could  normally  find at least one small restaurant or bar run  by an entreprenerual  soul that we could  frequent and learn about realities  their situation. .  However, being interested in social policy and a social  worker  the tour  gave me  an  opportunity to see  how schools, health clinics  and community projects are working (or not),  If  you have never been on one of these tours before and want to go, prepare yourself for an eye-opener..

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David, our guide,  was trying to put himself through medical school.  He told us he supported himself and his nephew through this work and  by selling tomatoes that he grew.

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First we visited the local comprehensive and secondary school which was  awash with several hundred children and only  4  teachers to take lessons and maintain some kind of order.  The range of subjects  taught was ambitious,  the teachers clearly dedicated but how effective this was considering the kids had no pens, paper, or books, nothing to sit on and nothing to write on, no electricity at home to do homework by, I’m not sure..

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We moved on through the village huts and met several families who farmed the land and David notice that  that the crops were being munched on by  locausts (his identification).    Passing  by high stacks of  baked mud building  bricks, hollowed  trunks  ready to be turned into fishing  canoes,  women  pumping water from the communal well, we were  taken to meet  Grace.  A widowed older person, who had no family to support her and no income since her husband had died.  She lived on  gifts  from local people and money she received from  the tour  for letting strangers poke around her 2 small roomed mud house.  Life for Grace and  the other villagers meant no running water or electricity and cooking over a wood fire.

We moved onto the clinic where locals came to be  tested for Malaria and HIV, treated for ailments and have their babies.  As the health budget had been misappropriated by the ex-prime minister who passed away before he could be brought to justice,  the very young doctors  main resource was  their infinite passion about helping the community.    Holes gaped in the ceilings, water mark stained the walls, wood was being chewed by the worm,  medical supplies non-existent, even basic hygiene rules could not be met as there was no soap to wash hands between patients (my infection control nurse would have a fruit).  There was only one mattress  in the  5 bedded maternity ward

Three hours later, several donations,  a bulk purchase of soap, a stop off to see David’s house; admire his  tomatoes and wonder how he could survive  the monsoon without a proper roof and  two declined invitations.  One to visit David’s grandfather who ‘grew good dope’ and  two, to see  the local witch doctor, we finished the tour and my understanding of Malawi’s social and political situation was just beginning.

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10 thoughts on “A Walk in the Community, Chitimba, Malawi

  1. I have long had a heart for Africa and have known the personal stories through friendships of several who have suffered in various African countries before coming to the US where I met them. The thing that impacts me the most is the shining spirits I have met and their tenacious effort to make it in this country. They are also fiercely connected to their own community and support each other as Americans would never even begin to do.
    Even knowing that conditions are hard in many parts of Africa, it was still an eye-opener to me to know there was not even soap and one mattress. I wanted to say, Unreal…. If only it were.
    Thanks for your kind help there and for continuing to show us the beauty and hardships of the people you meet on your travels.
    You may remember my post of my story ‘Palms Outward’ and my drawing ‘Oppression’ that speak my heart on what I’ve encountered from afar in the stories of my friends. If you didn’t happen to catch those posts, you can search for them at the bottom of my home page. I think you would appreciate them.
    Thanks for your work to help create change where you can.

  2. Living in Africa is for sure not easy! My last 5 years in South Africa were in a private school with 36 children age 5 to 8. Three school years in one class! Just teaching reading, writing and maths!

  3. My husband spent two years in Malawi as a teacher for the Peace Corps. I went to visit twice during his service and I love to see that someone else is writing about their Malawian experiences. Just as we left when his service was over, the country was experiencing a gas shortage and riots in the cities. We came close to not being able to leave his village due to lack of transportation. It was a crazy experience but we still find ourselves missing parts of Malawi. Something about the simplicity and sense of community. Safe travels and thank you so much for sharing!

  4. A very thought provoking and eye-opening post, especially in this season of excess. We’ve been traveling through Central America for several months and see similar levels of poverty. Even though we carry little as travelers I’m reminded again and again of how truly wealthy we are and to cherish every smile and greeting that we are gifted with. Anita

  5. terribly challenging circumstances for people who, like us, want to live a decent life in safety and health, and pursue good goals. So glad you got to help them even a little, and hope I can find a way as well. Thank you for sharing this information.

  6. A timely post Sue, it seems shocking that people are still living like this in the 21st century and I often wonder how much damage we (the western world) are doing by providing so much money in aid and charity donations (which rarely seems to get to those who need it most) and only goes to make them dependent. If it was withdrawn (or preferably, properly managed) then maybe the people would throw out the corrupt governments and select responsible representatives. Someone once said that Africa should be left to the Africans – when I read about places like this I have to wonder whether that wouldn’t be better if we did.
    Jude xx

    • So many people would agree with you jude. Have you read Zanzibar chest by any chance. I bought a big issue in cape topecial addition ñwith articles from and prom people about how litte has changed and the stats to back it up were shocking. Travelling in sa ople. st highlights how the wealth has remained mainly in the Hands of white peopleit

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