Malawi

Malawi

Olly Davidson, a member of our church family, is currently volunteering with Tearfund in Malawi.

Olly's desire is to do something meaningful with his gap year, to give back rather than to take away; and ultimately to serve God through it all.

Malawi is one of the poorest nations in the world. It has a population of 15 million: nearly 1 million live with HIV; nearly 2 million are at risk of food shortages in the next 6 months; and nearly 4 million do not have access to safe water.

As a team, they will be working in rural communities in partnership with local churches, helping to implement food security and water sanitation schemes, and also to spearhead HIV/AIDS awareness and action projects.

Olly will be sending us updates, which can be read below. Additonally you can read his blog at: ollymalawi.blogspot.co.uk

 

27th April 2013

Before the London 2012 Olympics, one of the key buzzwords was ‘legacy’. Once the fleeting moments of sporting spectacle had passed, what would be left to show for it all? What would be the long term impact on the surrounding community?

In a similar vein, I’ve been thinking about the ‘legacy’ of our trip out here in Malawi. Maybe legacy is too grandiose a term, but I think it aptly conveys the sentiments that I’m seeking to express. We’ve only a few weeks left in this country, so what will we leave behind? What will be the lasting effects of our time spent here?

Obviously, as brilliant as our collective talents are, we’re not expecting to witness some sort of national transformation in the wake of our stay. Nevertheless, the impact that we’ve had can still be observed, measured and continued.

Much of our work has entailed passing on skills and knowledge to communities, whether in schools, villages or churches. It may be (for instance) how to manage a business, how to obtain better crop yields, or how to ensure basic personal hygiene. These things, although intangible, will benefit not only the immediate recipients, but also can be passed on to fresh audiences: the ripple effect. It empowers people to help themselves, rather than rely on others for help.

Accordingly, we can start to undermine the insidious dependency culture that has arisen in Malawi (and indeed in much of Africa). We may not have a freshly painted classroom or a gleaming new block of toilets to show for our own efforts, but the success of our trip is not to be measured in bricks and mortar. Our focus has been on people; on equipping and empowering them to break out of the cycle of poverty that has entrapped them.

We hope that our work echoes the ethos of The Big Issue magazine back in the UK, whose slogan is ‘a hand up, not a hand out’. Many Malawians simply need a helping hand to get them on to the first rung of the ladder, the ladder by which they can climb out of their impoverished circumstances and improve their lives. Imparting skills and knowledge is just one means of achieving this. Through this (and other) initiatives, we pray that we can leave a lasting legacy that will continue to benefit Malawi long after we have departed.

 

31st March 2013

Observing the overwhelming need that exists in Malawi, it is all too easy to become disheartened. The problems are myriad, the solutions seemingly elusive. Poverty here resembles the hydra of Greek mythology: cut off one head (or tackle one issue), and two more appear in its place.

In light of this pessimistic outlook, it seems natural to adopt a defeatist stoic position, to accept the status quo and acknowledge the futility of trying to effect change. Anything else seems just a rose-tinted view of reality or wishful thinking.

But this in itself illustrates part of the problem of poverty. It enslaves its victims mentally as well as physically. This can take several forms. Poverty can breed a mindset of hopelessness and negativity, which begets only despair. Often, the communities we encounter here have the wherewithal to change their circumstances, but they lack the belief, the courage and the initiative to do so. Alternatively, the communities demonstrate a subconscious acceptance or acquiescence to poverty; things have been like this for so long, that is how it will always be.

Breaking these mindsets and empowering communities to take responsibility for their problems constitutes a significant proportion of our work here. We don’t want to provide unsustainable solutions or foster false hope, but we do want to bring people to a simple realisation:

To acknowledge what is real, without accepting that what is real is also final.

Our present does not need to dictate our future. We can take a stand and refuse to be victims of circumstance. We do not ignore or discount our problems, but we instead focus on solutions. Furthermore, if this approach (whose validity and scope are, admittedly, applicable to both secular and religious contexts) can be allied to God’s power and purpose, then there is no limit to what can be achieved – Mark 10:27.

God bless, and (a belated) Happy Easter!

 

11th March 2013

Riding on the back of a bicycle through endless fields of maize, tobacco and pumpkins, marvelling at the picturesque countryside, it is all too easy to lose focus. We have seen and experienced much over the past fortnight, yet it is our hope that we never lose sight of the purpose for which we travelled here: to serve God through serving others.

Purpose has been a recurring theme in recent days. We do not want to be just another charity doling out aid to impoverished communities, riding on the crest of some feel-good factor. We believe that there is an essential spiritual dimension to the work that we do, and though, admittedly, it has not felt like we have been doing much at times, God can take whatever meagre offerings we have given in faith and multiply them for His glory.

As I mentioned previously, the bulk of our work thus far has concerned issues surrounding water and sanitation. We have visited many schools and villages, monitoring the progress of projects and investigating what further improvements could be achieved. We have also been distributing water buckets (which provide a convenient water-source for drinking and washing hands), which have been gratefully and enthusiastically received. It has also been a privilege to join with whole communities in prayer, and occasionally preach too!

Please pray that, as a team, we would continue to put God first, and also that God would provide opportunities for us to put our collective talents to good use, for the furtherance of His Kingdom.

 

25th February 2013

Greetings from Malawi, the warm heart of Africa! It's a been a week now since our 9-strong Tearfund team arrived in the capital Lilongwe. Aside from a lost suitcase (eventually retrieved from Kenya), a bit of homesickness and occasional sunburn, the team are all safe, well and in good spirits.

After a couple of days spent acclimatising, we have now begun work on several different projects, predominantly concentrating on the needs of rural communities, with a particular focus on water and sanitation schemes. We are working with a Tearfund partner called AGREDS (Assemblies of God Relief & Development Service), whose mission is to empower those caught up in poverty and injustice to help themselves. Poverty is everywhere to be seen and the corresponding need is great. There are also spiritual needs to address; villages may have a church, but literacy levels and Bible supplies are very low, so it is hard for these congregations to have a solid grasp of basic biblical doctrine. One of our sub-teams (there are 3 of them) witnessed a prayer meeting, which involved both Christians and Muslims. Some Malawians seem to oscillate between whichever source of spirituality is perceived to be most helpful at the time, be that Christianity, Islam or animism.

Nevertheless, the Pentecostal church that we visited yesterday in Lilongwe was phenomenal. The worship was truly amazing, full of power. We introduced everyone to 'Mighty to Save' and sang it at the front. The sermon could not have been more relevant to our work - the relationship between the Gospel and social action. Please pray that we put God first in all that we do on this trip, for 'unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labour in vain' (Psalm 127:1).

Yours in Christ, Olly