Newsletter September 2009
Happy Birthday Kunyumba!
Admittedly we are only one month old, but we have got plenty to celebrate! Our opening party on the 29th August went with a bang as we happily welcomed friends and guests. What was to be a small party grew as the smells of roasting goat, and the heart-warming sounds of the Madalitso Children's choir, began to waft through the village. More and more people arrived and everyone was made welcome.
After two days' of cleaning-up we finally opened our doors on the 31st August. The first hurdle was getting the children's relatives used to our opening hours. Malawi runs on Africa Time and that means 'pangono pangono' or slowly slowly. So we decided to make a trip to the local market to invest in some second-hand watches... and keep our fingers' crossed.
Much to our surprise the children began to arrive at 7.30 to be greeted by our 'house mother' a wonderful lady called Kingless. The daily routine starts with a bath, a set of clean clothes and a nutritious breakfast.
Mtima is usually the first to arrive and always wears the same big smile that he keeps on all day. Life in Kunyumba is very different for Mtima who had spent most of his childhood tied to a tree to stop him getting into difficulties. Here he's free to run around the garden and is beginning to get the hang of playing with toys. His appetite knows no bounds and he's settled in very quickly.
Our four-year-old Lucy is not the person we originally thought she was. Malawians have difficulty pronouncing the letters 'R' and 'L and it turns out that 'Lucy' is really 'Ruthie'. However, Ruthie's name isn't all that's changed: the quiet girl we met a month ago has become very self-assured, very cheeky and very motivated to conquer her disability.
Misi is our youngest family-member who arrived on his grandmother's back aged just four weeks. Sadly his mother died in childbirth and his father is nowhere to be seen. Nevertheless Misi's grandparents are optimistic about his future and together we have agreed to give him the nickname Chief. It rolls off the tongue much more easily...and besides he really does look like a chief!
Looking after Chief has brought home one of the many injustices of life in Malawi. In a country that's so desperately poor it's incomprehensible that a month's supply of milk powder costs double the average monthly salary. It's hardly surprising Malawi's young orphans have very little chance.
Sem is another newcomer who's had a tangled upbringing. As far as we can establish Sem's grandmother raised him after the death of his mother and father. However, when she passed away Sem was taken-in by a local lady who brought him to Kunyumba. We don't know exactly how old he is, but we are guessing about eight. Part of the problem is that his speech is underdeveloped.
And let's not forget Memory! At fifteen Memory is the eldest member of the Kunyumba family and she's also had the greatest impact. Memory's story echoes that of so many children's lives in Malawi. Her father passed away and her mother travelled to South Africa as an economic migrant; leaving Memory to look after six-year old Lexa and her blind grandmother. Kunyumba has become a real home to Memory and she's instinctively taken on the role of mother, something that isn't unusual for teenage girls in Malawi. Her mornings are spent helping with the other children and her afternoons are spent at school. Our hopes are to ensure that Memory gets a good education and doesn't become just another teenage mum. Memory's sister Lexa joins us every Friday and is settling-in well.
In reaching out to the local community we have had nothing but positive feedback, and there's even a small queue of volunteers lining-up for work experience. Our carpenter's daughter Erica has been incredibly helpful and we have been visited by our very own Malawian Madonna.
Recent governmental elections have tied Kunyumba up in yet more red tape, delaying official registration as an NGO and the subsequent authority to provide day and night care. Patience and persistence are two invaluable qualities in Malawi (and they would make great names for girls too!)
Phew! That's about it for the first month, except for the ongoing task of finding suitable land on which to build, We'll be in-touch again next time with plenty more news to share.
Maaike & Sarah