Jayne and Sam in Malawi!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Back in Malawi

I have been back in Malawi for two weeks now and returning has been a bitter sweet experience. Am I glad to be back? Well, the answer to that question is a definite “yes” – it is certainly good to get back to The Lighthouse – it is good to pick up the reins again and to get ‘stuck in’ to our work here. There is so much to be done here; so many challenges that we still have to overcome. At times it is a little daunting, but it is also terribly exciting. It has also been lovely to catch up with my JTW colleagues and with our customers. BUT – and it is a very big ‘but’ – the last two weeks have also been extraordinarily difficult and tragedy has touched us all in a very personal way.

Obviously in a country like Malawi, there are vast cultural differences; I have often spoken about these and about how challenging it is to be in a place where everything is different and where there is virtually no common point of reference. You constantly have to change / readjust your ideas and thinking about things to accommodate the reality of day to day life; the following is a good example of this. In Malawi, most households have either a ‘house girl’ or ‘house boy’ – someone who helps to take care of the house. In our case, we have a young woman – she has been looking after Sam during the day and has been helping us with washing, cleaning etc. In the UK of course, this kind of live in ‘help’ is quite rare – the reserve of the very wealthy. However, here it is the norm and I must admit that it has taken me a long time to reach the point where I feel comfortable with this arrangement. But the lady in question is lovely and when she came to the house, she brought her baby daughter with her. Unfortunately this little girl has just died of Malaria – she was two years old. It is so desperately sad. I visited the hospital the morning after she died and arrived just in time to see the body being taken to the mortuary; it was an absolutely harrowing sight and one that I don’t think I will ever forget. It was the first time that I have visited Kasungu hospital and I must admit that I had no idea that things were so bad. There were so few beds to be seen and many patients were simply lying on the floor – with no mattresses and hardly any bedding. I was staggered by how many young children were there – most suffering from Malaria and/or diarrhoea. The stench in the hospital was dreadful; I thought I had seen everything that Malawi has in the way of poverty, but this just completely floored me. What has astonished me is the fact that several people have told me that the hospital has improved greatly over the last few years! Goodness only knows what it was like before; I certainly find it hard to imagine.

This lady has now returned to her village and is with her family. We have done everything we can to offer her support but it is hard to know what to say to someone who has just lost their entire world. She will not be coming back to Kasungu.

Amongst other things, the sudden death of this little girl is a reminder of just how fragile life is in Malawi - disease and death are never far away; in fact they are a regular part of life for most people here.

When I was in the UK, I had the opportunity to return to the secondary school that I used to work at to speak to pupils about JTW and about our work in Kasungu and Dzuwa village. More than anything, I wanted these young people to understand what life is like in a developing country like this one and to realise just how extraordinarily lucky they are. Ultimately though, there is only so much you can accomplish with words and with pictures/photos; I sincerely wish that every person in the developed world could come to Africa to experience the reality of life here. It certainly puts everything into perspective; you realise how trivial and also how repugnant so much of life in countries like the UK actually is. Why is it that so many nations have so much, when others have virtually nothing? It’s obscene and is something that everyone has a responsibility to not only think about, but to do something about. Even in difficult economic times and recessions, we in the west never face the kind of hardships and difficulties that so many people here face each and every day. I know that it is easy to ‘sound off’ - the frustration and sense of injustice are so overwhelming at times. Of course I also know that there are no easy answers; Africa’s problems are clearly enormous. The challenges facing the country of Malawi are certainly far ranging and complex, but there are a great many good people/organizations working here to try and turn this situation around. JTW is just one such organization. I do realise how fortunate I am to be here and to have the opportunity to make even a small contribution to the work it is doing.

If you would like more detailed information about the work that JTW is doing in Malawi - and how you might be able to help us - our website address is:


Any help you can give would be gratefully received; it really is the case that even small amounts of money can really make a difference here.

Before I close, can I just stress how wonderful it is to receive emails from home; over the last two weeks in particular, they have been a great help to me. Thank you to everyone who keeps in touch. Your news and/or messages of "hello" really do make such a difference; I am so thankful for all the good thoughts and prayers that come this way.

God Bless


PS - Sam is his usual wonderful self and sends you all his love. He gave me the most fantastic welcome home - lots of licks and cuddles! He made the long and difficult journey back to Malawi completely worthwhile. I will give you some more 'Sam news' next time.