Molly in Africa

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Another woman to meet...

This is Margaret Nyirenda and she is caring for her 4 grandchildren by herself.  Their parents died and Margaret is a widow.  She joined MIRACLE to help support her eldest granddaughter who is in secondary school because she didn't have enough money for school fees.  When we visited her yesterday, she told us that she was so grateful for MIRACLE because her granddaughter just graduated from secondary school this term!

In our meeting with all the women in her village after we visited her home, Margaret was a clear advocate for our office, the program policies and how we stick to them.  Several times women asked questions that Margaret chose to answer instead of forcing us to repeat policies we have.

Margaret is just another example of why I'm grateful to be a part of this program.  Knowing that the work we're doing is leading to grandmothers caring for their grandchildren is definitely something I can support. :)

Other than the Women's Empowerment Program, things are going well in my life here.  This weekend I'll be headed to Mzuzu (a city about 4 hours from Karonga) with 35 MIRACLE students for a YCS (Young Christian Students) retreat/conference.  I'm excited and a little nervous to go because I don't know what to expect.  I am looking forward to spending more time with my students- they're great!  Last night we had our bi-monthly dinner with the Brothers' community next door and it was a blast!  I really enjoy them and am continually enjoying interacting with them more- both in prayer and just around Karonga.

Alright, time to get back to work now...

Feel free to keep in touch (!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Meet Mary

In talking to my parents yesterday, I realized I still haven't told you about any of the women that I get to work with here, so in this post you get to meet Mary.

Mary is caring for 9 orphans and as you can tell from this picture (she's the one with the cloth on her head in the middle), she's not exactly a young woman!  We had gone to visit her at her home last month and had only met two of the orphan-women that she cares for.  This week, we met seven of the people she cares for and there were two that were at school.  While it is clear she has a lot on her plate here, that's not abnormal of the women we support.

What I was most impressed by with her was her positive attitude toward life and her responsibilities in life.  She doesn't know much English, so Madam Mwalweni had to translate everything for me but Mary was saying that she is just using what God has given her to make ends meet.  Since the last time we visited her, she had started a new side business to be able to more fully meet the needs of all the people she cares for.  As we were finishing our visit with her she said that she will continue to work hard because God loves her and it was clear that she felt that God's love of her will give her the strength she needs as long as she does her part.  What an amazing woman!


Saturday, October 18, 2008

There might be a little Molly in Malawi....

No, I'm not pregnant!  Hahah...

Yesterday, I was talking with some women from a group that just recently joined our waiting list.  As we chatted, I told the women about how we could accommodate a problem they were facing and the one woman who understood English in the group broke into a huge grin.  Then she told me that if God ever blesses her with a girl (right now she only has sons), then she would name it Molly after me! Hahaha!

Just thought some of you would get a kick out of that.  Hope you're all having a great day!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

"Madam, you are full of ifs"

A few weeks ago (actually in my second and third week working at MIRACLE), MIRACLE started its yearly process of choosing its students for the following school year.  School years begin in January here, so the process needs to be complete by November-ish.  MIRACLE invites anyone between the ages of 17-27 to come for interviews on two days and the staff splits up and interviews as many candidates as possible. One of the cool things about these interviews was that when looking for their qualifications, we do look at their grades, but then equally (if not more) important is whether they are needy.  Most of our students have at least one parent who has died- many have lost both of their parents.  I learned a great deal from these interviews when I first arrived and this past week we had the chance to continue the process.
After the potential students come to MIRACLE for an interview, then we (the staff) go to visit the top candidates at their homes to verify the information they gave us.  The MIRACLE staff were split up and assigned one to two days of "Village Visitation" as it was called.  On my assigned days, I joined my co-workers in our pick-up truck and spent the day away from the office.  On my first day, I had the chance to interview about 8 students.  Each had a really interesting story and I was constantly impressed with the perseverance and determination that these students exhibited.  One of the students we met with was hoping for a spot in the carpentry course and when we commented on how far she lives from MIRACLE she said she is willing to make the hour and a half walk each day to and from school!
On my second day of village visits, we had a late start and had about twice as many students to visit.  When we arrived at the first village (which in this case was a town), we were greeted by 12 students sitting on the veranda in front of the post office.  After a few minutes of roll call and paper shuffling, we realized that we had left 4 of their interview forms at the office, so in an attempt to save time, I decided to stay back with half the students and take their information again while the rest of the staff went to visit the first half of the students' houses.  After finishing their interviews, we had another hour or so to just sit and wait until the rest of the staff came back.  It ended up being a really great chance for me to get to know them better and for them to ask me all the questions they could come up with about how to compare Malawi and the States... and any other questions they could think of.  
There were several times when things would come up about what would happen in this next year if they were accepted to MIRACLE and that started us off on a pretty funny interaction.  To all their questions, I kept replying, "IF you're accepted to MIRACLE, then I would be the teacher for two of you."  "IF you go to MIRACLE, then we could play frisbee, football or volleyball on the weekends."  "IF you go to MIRACLE, you can visit me in my office and ask me more questions."  I even learned how to say, "IF you go..." in Chitumbuka because I was saying it so much: para mwaluta...  So then I would say, "PARA mwaluta, you can keep teaching me Chitumbuka."  These candidates were making fun of me for always saying "if" and they told me, "Madam, you are full of 'ifs'!"  I explained that I didn't want to be held responsible by them if for some reason they weren't accepted because then they'd come to MIRACLE, point at me and say, "But that madam said we would be at MIRACLE."  I really enjoyed my time with those students and as it turns out, I think most (if not all) of them have been accepted so I have some visitors to look forward to starting next term!