A Full Day of Seeing LifeNets Projects
Trip Start Sep 11, 2010
25Trip End Oct 06, 2010
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Where I stayed
Shire Highlands Hotel
We are awakened by the call to prayer to the neighboring mosque at 4:45 am. But the day's business began with Elifazi coming over with his son Yamikani, the fifth born of Elifazi Salawila. He will be our driver. We had not met him before. He does the driving for Elifazi.Elifazi does not drive.
The Salawila children from oldest are Lewis, Bilton, Manes, Shadrach, Yamikani, Chikondi, and Ganizani
Mr. Salawila has distinct mannerisms and expressions that we have become fond of. Whenever he gets excited he starts shaking his hands that is just so "him." He also uses the expression “is that so?” that it has even become a topic of discussion among us.
We set out to visit our Blantyre projects. We end up seeing nine of them today. We are surprised ourselves how much has been done in the past eight years.
Our first visit is to one of our scholarship graduates, Chifundo Chiumbuzo. He went to Malawi Polytechninc for three years studying electrical engineering. Now, he has opened a repair shop for electronics repairing radios, TV's, DVD players and cell phones. The most common repair is replacing power supplies that are damaged by power surges, brown-outs and lightning. One that he would like is to stock up on the most common repair items so that he wouldn’t have to order them separately each time. As we were visiting him he was with a client who needed his cell phone fixed. It was so encouraging to us to see someone get a higher education and now have his own business. He has a wife and two children. We talked to him about how he could enhance his business with a catchy sign outside, perhaps listing prices.
Next we went up the hill to Mr. and Mrs. Chiumbuzo’s home where their daughter Zione lives. She is a skilled seamstress. LifeNets has financed training at Thumbi Clothing School which taught her how to design and cut clothes. In 2006 we gave her a Singer sewing machine. Mrs. Chiumbuzo (Anna) works on a knitting machine. Again, it’s very gratifying to Bev and me to see the fruits of our dreams to help these disadvantaged people make something of their lives.
Water for drinking comes from the water board. They pay 5 kwachas for 20 litres.
Next, to Gilton Chikza’s home. He’s our Honey Man and has branded a Kaso Honey. But, sales have been down. Malawi is oversupplied with honey, he said, and people don’t seem to appreciate the health benefits of honey. He sells his honey for 500 kwachas a bottle for the large bottle. The small bottle goes for 350 kwachas (about $2). It costs him 200 kwachas to produce it, so he makes a profit of 150 kwachas (1$) per bottle. We are impressed how extremely neat his operation is. Nevertheless, sales are still there and he continues with the business which is simply a supplement. He is 81 years old. So is Elizabeth Chipalinga and Dr. Sam Chilopora.
Next we went to the Malawi Polytechnic College where we met with one of our scholarship students Madalidso Kazembe and the Dean of Students. Madalidso is a very special young man from a small rural village. He grew up with no electricity and no running water. Studying after dark is not possible. Now, he is studying electrical engineering and doing very well. We were really impressed by him and his desire to better himself. Bev and I brought over an extra unallocated laptop computer and decided to give it to him. In technical studies, your own personal computer accelerates your learning because you don’t have to stand in line to use the computer lab at school. We met at the Dean’s Office, Nellie Katenje who was very impressive. She is 61 years old. She truly cares about the individual students .
The day moves on. Sunset is about 5:30 and it gets dark fast. Very dark. There is little swing in the length of day as the earliest the sun sets is 5:11 PM and the latest about 5:30 pm.
CHIRIMBA. Lewis neighborhood that we financed for McBrams and Manes Chirwa. Next stop is the hardware store that we helped finance. The Chirwa's really put a lot of hard work into selling nails and hardware such as fasteners for sheet metal roof, nuts and bolts types of things is in an extremely busy commercial section of Blantyre. Sales are great and you can see a lot of at the hardware store and the surrounding stores as well. McBram has three other employees. His business hours are 6:30 to 5:30 pm. At that point the employees pack up all the inventory and lock it inside an enclosed building. He rents his spot for 70 kwachas a day (about 48 cents) based on a 26 day week.
We then went to Mr. Salawila’s home for lunch. Son Shadrach, Bilton and Yamikani and Fred Chiumbuzo who joined us after we visited his home. The Salawila’s are always hospitable and sharing with what they have. They offered beef and stew, nsima, greens (rape) and rice. Always bottles of Coke, Sprite and Orange Fanta. We talked about the use of Internet that Salawila’s who have access via a dongle. It’s a tether that goes into the USB port and wirelessly connects through the telecom service. They can use it only between 9 PM and 7 AM. Mr. Salawila communicates with us, but we found that Shadrack does the “secretarial” work for his Dad while Yamikani does the driving. The Internet service costs 36,000 kwachas for 6 months (about $200) and then you have to initially buy the dongle for 27,000 kwachas.
From here to the adjacent Maize Mill that is operated by Eliphazi Salawila and Fred Chiumbuzo. From Salawila’s home we hear the grinding motor. They have two other employees. Things are a lot brighter for the Maize Mill than they were two years ago when we were here. At one point there was pressure from an association of maize mills to keep prices up. That didn’t succeed and business has been more competitive and lucrative for the Chachisa (as they call their LifeNets mill). They have between 50 to 100 customers a day. We saw three of the customers. The first was an 11 year-old girl who was really business-like and really knew what she was doing as she walked in with a pail of maize on her head. She knew exactly what to do as she and the employee poured the maize into the grinder and then she knew exactly how to fix the wrapper around the collecting vessel. It was really fun to watch her. She then paid the man at the grinder, put the pail on her head and off she went. The next customer was a nine year old girl who went through the same procedure.
From here we walked to Bilton and Miriam’s home. He has been struggling with his music studio and giving lessons. The poor area of Ndirande (meaning “take from me” but in a positive way) is just not allowing too many to take private lessons. Bilton has a bass, acoustic guitar and a keyboard. His music studio really needs help, though. When we came to him a client wanting to record a song was waiting. He really needs a new desktop computer with a better sound card and amplifier. He has about five customers a week who come to use the studio for recording. He has three piano students and one guitar student.
Bilton has recorded some original music and is sending samples to the radio station for promotion and playing. He played one of the songs for me. It was beautiful. It was a song about the beauty of Malawi and was encouraging tourism. He really needs about $1000 worth of equipment upgrades to make himself more attractive to clients wanting to record.
Then we walked back and visited with Miracle Kachali. She’s an attractive and sharp young lady who will be studying at Malawi College of Accountancy in business and computers. She is a LifeNets scholarship recipient who promises to really do well. She comes from northern Malawi. She has just passed entrance exams.
It’s getting towards 3 pm and we need to keep moving to beat sundown when things get dark very fast in this part of the world right at 5:30pm. We are driving in our gas hog Toyoto Ipsum.
We had to drop off Christina at the bus stop to take her to Lilongwe. Elizabeth Chipalinga comes to meet her here before the bus comes by. We leave them but see people on the street with Ice cream cones. We asked where they got them. They told us and we got some, too. The ice cream treat was the talk of the next few days.
As we were driving Bev mentioned that our grandson and his wife were expecting a child in April. Everyone in the car marveled that anyone could know that far ahead when the baby would come. We told them that we could even know the sex of the child. They were startled. How can anyone know these things? Babies came as “surprises” to most in Malawi.
We passed the hotel where Mr. Salawila worked for many years for $20 a month. Arghhh…. I just don’t know how these people could live this way. He told us about how he acquired the land and house where he now lives in Ndirande. His mother, though, is quite a landlord owning a number of business premises around Blantyre.
We then drove out to the Chirimba area to visit our last three people for the day
The first stop was at James and Mary Mapinda’s home. We have helped him with a shoe manufacturing business, but the star project was the borehole on his property that serves more than 1000 people. The money was given to LifeNets by my Indianapolis East Rotary Club. He charges 5 kw for each vessel of water and for this large volume, the well has been a source of income and a convenience to the people in the community. He does not charge for water taken on Saturday’s. Since the price is 5kw for whatever size container, we noticed that women were bringing extra large tubs that they carried on their heads. Some had to be more than 10 litres, the standar “five gallon” size. The well is on a hillside and with all the traffic, we noticed that none of the water ever got spilled. We were so happy on this trip to see four of our boreholes successfully in operation. Wow.
Litithia Mapinda and son Precious were visiting. She is one of our scholarship students who has successfully finished a hotel and hospitality course. She has been doing internship work at Nkopola Lodge, Lilongwe’s Capital Hotel and now she is going to be “attached” to a Sunbird hotel in Mzuzu.
From Mapinda’s off to Dinnis and Flora Chinangwa’s home in the Chirimba area. He is the one with the taxi. He had an accident with his vehicle and has acquired a new body. He will take out the engine and drive train and put it into the new body. I’ve never heard of anything quite like that, but I guess that’s a lot of parts being changed all at one time!
Finally, a stop at Kudawasi Salawila’s home. Lewis works till almost 11 pm each night. Kudawasi is quiet and retiring….we enjoyed a few moments with her. She is Zimbabwean.