Posted by: rhoban | March 6, 2009

Day 5 – Older orphans

Children become adolescents

You can hear today’s story by clicking here, or here:

One of the ways Malawi Children’sVillage has survived is by changing with the changing needs of the population they serve.  Director Chakunja Sibale says when he started the project twelve years ago, most of the children were young.  But children grow up and need support to become successful adults.

Sibale decided that he needed to train children who were getting older for the world of work.  So, he set up a tailoring shop, a woodshop, a dairy and demonstration garden.

Take a look at this short video of the demonstration garden.  It provides food for all the children at the infant feeding center, and is a place to teach local people about good agricultural practices.

And for some more fun… here’s a slideshow of workshops at MCV.

Sibale also started a secondary school.  After a mere three years, the Gracious School is considered the best in the district.  There are 218 students… 118 of them are orphans, and all these orphans have a sponsor somewhere in the United States.

You can find all the stories in the series here:

Finally, on a personal note…

If you’ve ever worked in a foreign country, you know the anxiety of wondering if you can trust the people you meet. That anxiety is elevated when you arrive at a place you don’t know at all… so, you take a deep breath.  You walk out of the airport building and a group of guys surround you, “Taxi! Taxi!”  You look the guys in the eye, hope someone meets your gaze and start to negotiate the fare.

After I landed in Blantyre, I walked out of the airport, and one man sauntered up to me and asked if I needed a taxi.  Of course, I did need a taxi to the guest house where I was staying for Saturday night, and someone to drive me to MCV early the next morning, as well.  His car had a bumper sticker on his taxi promoting the anti-child abuse campaign.  I didn’t know it then, but that was a good sign.

Along the way to the guest house, I gave him the treatment, namely asking all kinds of details about him: whether married, how many children, their ages and how they do in school, how many brothers and sisters, religion, how long he’s been driving a taxi…  When I lived in Asia, I got into this habit.  If you’ve ever been in Asia, usually whoever you meet extracts this info from you – and more – within five minutes.

He seemed like a good guy and by the time I reached the guest house, I proposed he might be someone to drive to Mangochi… if the guest house proprietor had not arranged that already, of course… and  depending on his proposed price.

Well, I struck gold in John Juma.  The price was good, the man was honest and not only did he answer about 200 questions – everything from “what does it say on that billboard?” to a discussion of press freedom in Malawi – but he jumped in when we were at the orphan project, handling babies and touring around the facilities with us.  It turns out John’s wife runs a day care, and he was great with the children at the infant feeding center at MCV.

I learned a lot from John, including the mechanics of setting up a walking club in one’s neighborhood!  It seems that his doctor told him he was too sedentary, and that his blood pressure had increased unacceptably.  He told me this on our last day together.  He arrived and I asked how he was.

“I’m tired.  I’ve walked 11 kilometers already this morning!”


Then he explained how he organized several men from his neighborhood to walk every morning.

It’s an amazing thing to land in a strange country and immediately meet someone you can trust.  I am very, very lucky.

Thanks, John.

(Sorry… I never got to take a photo of him, and he gently demurred when I asked to interview him on tape)

Comments? Send them to



%d bloggers like this: