Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Today I met Damales

I was introduced to Damales today. She is just two years old, was wearing a green dress and wasn’t too sure about this big white guy taking an interest in her. Her story is not uncommon. A couple of years ago, her dad passed away and eventually her mom remarried. When her mom began to get sick the new husband ran away and left them alone living near their grandmother. Last month her Mom died and now her and her four siblings are left with their blind grandmother. Her oldest sibling is a brother who is in eighth grade. This is what has become known as an ‘orphan headed household’. The fact that a category has been established tells you something about its frequency.

Our kids are off school this week. Caleb traveled with me as I escorted a visitor about an hour south of Blantyre to one of our three Orphan Care programs. This was my first time to visit the program at Phingo that opened last year. I had been to the area to preach before and had been there a lot in 2002 -2003 when we ran a large food relief program in the area.

The Orphan care program runs a preschool for children under five, assists orphans in the community with practical needs and scholarships a group of secondary school students. Today we visited the preschool and two homes in the community.

I was really pleased with the project. Gerald Chisale, the Orphan Care Coordinator, really works with the communities that we go into to ensure there is ownership and involvement. Both the building where the preschool meets and the kitchen where the children’s food is cooked were built by the community. The community is also involved in indicating which orphans are most in need. Gerald used to work a similar job with a different organization but was not permitted to express his faith so he joined us a few years ago.

At the preschool we watched as children recited numbers, letters and songs. They went outside to play follow the leaders and a game similar to duck, duck goose called hyena and goat. The children made a circle while holding hands. The one designated as the goat stayed inside the circle and the one designated as the hyena stayed outside the circle or fence. The goat then had to choose a spot to duck under a pair of arms and run around the outside of the circle and back in before the hyena could catch them. After some games, the kids had their meal of vitamin fortified porridge.

As we walked in the village to visit the homes I asked Caleb what he thought of Damales and her family. He said that it would be really difficult to lose both of your parents. He reflected on the fact that he is about the same age as the boy who now has responsibility for his three sisters and grandmother. “It would be really hard” he said. “Beyond that, the boy said that he is number one in his class at school,” pretty significant considering the circumstances.

As we prepared to leave Phingo I felt both good and bad. I felt good that there was a group of volunteers that are looking after Damales and her family. I felt good knowing that they have some food, school uniforms are being made for the kids and Damales and one of her sisters attend the preschool. People are looking out for them. At the same time I felt bad knowing that there are many other areas in Malawi that aren’t as fortunate. We’ve been planning on starting Orphan Care in a fourth location this year, but we’re not sure we’ve got the funds to do it. Pray with us.


  1. Hey Ryan,
    Great to read about your ministry work. Keep up the great work!
    -J. Pink

  2. I am so grateful for the Christian individuals int he community who stand up and do something about the needy in their midst. It is such a powerful witness of what God is like.

  3. That's neat that Caleb went with you