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Monday, November 12, 2018

A Malawi Time of Year

By: Marcia King-Gamble

Today's post is supposed to be about Holiday Romance Reads. While I can think  of several including my popular Red Dress Series and the novel penned with author  Sandra Kitt. I'd rather address a more serious topic, that of malnourished kids in Africa.

As  we begin preparations  for another festive season.  It may be helpful to remember there are people who are desperately in need.  For many, this is not  a season of gift-giving, but  rather a time of surviving. So many are simply holding on and trying to just stay healthy.

As Americans, we truly are blessed to live in a country with easy access to a nourishing meal, or at least have the ability to find food; even if that means showing up at a food bank. Few people starve to death in the USA or are considered malnourished.   

That said, last  month I was fortunate enough to visit another country where many exist,  if lucky, on one meal a day. That meal is often provided by an organization, and may consist of corn meal and not much else. 

My day job, chose me along with six others as UNICEF ambassadors. What that meant was a life changing trip taking me to Malawi, Africa.  Visiting Malawi made me realize that despite the many issues we face in the USA, we are very fortunate to live here. 

Where is Malawi?  Malawi is in southeastern Africa. It is one of the poorest countries in the world. Many exist on  38 cents per day or less. The average family can easily have 8 -10 kids. Getting fresh water and adequate nutrition is a huge challenge for many. 

Here are the facts about Malawi: 

 Malawi gained independence on 6th July 1964 and was previously known as Nyasaland. It's capital is lilongwe.The languages spoken are English and Chichewa. 80% of its people are Christian and 20% Islamic. 

The currency in Malwi is the Kwacha.  The country is half the size of the UK and is considered sub tropical with a rainy season in December to May and a dry season running from, May to December. according to the World Bank, the population in  2015  was 17.2 million and is growing at 3.1 %  per year. 

45% of the population is 0-14 years old.  52% are 15-64 years old. The infant mortality rate is 44.2 deaths per 1000 live births. As of 2015, 980,000 people live with Aids. The average annual income is 100-200 US dollars. 84%  of Malawi's population live in  rural areas. The main export is tobacco.


This trip was hardly a vacation.  After an almost thirty hour trip, I arrived in Blantyre; Malawi's second largest city.  I along with my fellow ambassadors, were met by UNICEF representatives and transported to our hotel. We were given about 4 hours to rest before attending a briefing.

At that briefing we received an overview of what was expected of us as ambassadors. It was impressed on us that we were to be respectful, and not take photos of the police or of anyone who appeared to be distressed. We were also not to take photos without asking permission.  

As ambassadors we were up at 5 am (6am the latest) every day. What followed was a two to three hour drive into the country.

Pumping fresh water

On our second day we visited Gonda  Village and were addressed by chiefs, and greeted by many children. All appeared happy to see us. My company had donated  bicycles, mattresses and cooking utensils to this village.  We cooked  and helped screen children for malnutrition.  In the afternoon we visited the Chikwawa District Hospital and saw many heartbreaking sights. I especially enjoyed sprucing up a room that was to be used for recreation. 

Feeding hungry kids
My painting Class

Day three was spent in Neno where we visited a refugee camp and observed the early childhood development program. Kids were 3-5 years old and  we were fortunate to  participate in games and activities with kids and their caretakers designed to stimulate learning.The challenge we were told is that there were insufficient numbers of teachers to provide an adequate education.  

Class room Learning 

On day four we were off to Machinga where we visited the Kaombe primary school and put to work gardening. This school has a living schoolyard.  The idea behind this is to teach communities how to use locally available food to prevent malnutrition. At the same time, children get  to watch the transformation of barren land into a place that can now provide nourishment. We lost at a game of netball as many of the children have the making of  star athletes. It was all in good fun.

Device used to measure for malnutrition

Then began the long journey back. The memories of this trip will forever be stored in my heart. I have so much to be grateful for.

I share my experiences to remind you that as the holiday season approaches, many are simply not as fortunate as you. I urge you to reach out to a child or elderly person in need. You too can bring a smile to stranger, simply by filling a shoebox with basic necessities.  

The information is provided below. 

Give thanks all by giving back to someone who needs you. Happy Thanksgiving all!

About Marcia King-Gamble
Romance writer, Marcia King-Gamble originally hails from a sunny Caribbean island where the sky and ocean are the same mesmerizing shade of blue. This former travel industry executive and current world traveler has spent most of life in the United States. A National Bestselling author, Marcia has penned over 34 books and 8 novellas. Her free time is spent at the gym, traveling to exotic locales, and caring for her animal family.

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Judith Ashley said...

Marcia, Thank you for sharing about your time in Malawi. We are indeed blessed. I worked for almost 30 years in international (and domestic) adoptions so saw first hand malnourished infants. Heart breaking. So glad your trip was not just about bearing witness to devastating effects of poverty but also to do something to make a change. We often don't realize what long term effects some small gesture has. The time talking/listening; decorating a room; helping a staff person do their job - these actions can be life-changing for all involved.

Marcia King-Gamble said...

You are so right Judith. Thank you for trying to make a difference in people's lives. This is the time of year to give back.

Madelle Morgan said...

Marcia, as the US Thanksgiving approaches, it is a timely reminder to be thankful for all we have. Foreign aid to the less fortunate can make a huge impact on lives. It's not only a gift, but a moral responsibility - a helping hand up, not handout. You must work for an amazing company!