For my new readers, I will be featuring my participants in a few blogs while they are here in Malawi this summer. Here is our first participant Henry.
HI!!! My name is Henry Dioh and I am one of the participants with Something Amazing. I live in Marietta, Georgia and work in insurance. I discovered Something Amazing through a Facebook share in the fall of 2016. When I saw that Something Amazing was going to Malawi in 2017 I knew that I had to be a part of the trip since Malawi was a country that I wanted to visit since my viewing of the 2008 documentary ” I Am Because We Are”. The purpose of my trip to Malawi is to volunteer to teach at a primary school.
Today is my seventh day in Malawi and I have experienced a roller coaster of emotions. I have been staying in a small village called Rumphi in a house with a host family and two other volunteers. Upon entering the home I was greeted with open arms. As I proceeded through the home I noticed that the walls did not touch the ceiling, there was no hot water (sometimes no water at all) with chickens running through the home, and I would have to share a bedroom with a complete stranger. Cold showers are torture!! I immediately thought that this was going to be the longest two weeks of my life. As time progressed I realized that the living situation adjustment was not as bad as I thought it would be. I began to embrace the chaos of living with 8 other people, lack of cold water/ electricity blackouts/personal space.
The warmth of the people in Malawi, whether it’s at my temporary home or on the street, is extremely comforting. There is a strong sense of community here that I do not see in America. It brings a smile to my face and joy to my heart when several of the children and parents (on the road that I live on) come over to talk or just hang out. I love how the Malawians wave to me as I ride my bike through town. Or how you can meet a person one day and go on a weekend getaway to Nkahta Bay the next day. I have not had to worry about my safety. Owning a car is a big luxury here in Malawi ( most Malawians walk or ride a bike). The average person lives on less than $1.00 a day with little to no education and poor health care. I have quickly gained a new found appreciation for life. I think to myself I cannot complain about anything. I have three days left in the great country of Malawi. Although my time is short here I am sure that other great encounters lie ahead of me.
Stay tuned and stay awesome!
In the last 48 hours, I have seen living conditions that wouldn’t even be fit for a dog. A house that was essentially just sticks held together by mud with a straw roof. One bedroom made for 8 people to live in, with no running water or electricity. I saw 6 kids running around who probably hasn’t eaten in a day or two. I’ve seen parents huddled around a circle trying to use the scraps of corn in order to make corn flower to have something to eat. Kids having huge holes in their clothes because that’s all they have. Looking at these things hurt my heart so much. It is the first time I wanted to cry immediately when seeing something.
Now the reason I was at this house held together by sticks and mud was that a few days ago I lost my phone. My phone fell out of my bike basket and I didn’t notice until 20 minutes later after riding into town. At first, one of the men who found my phone demanded money in order to get the phone back. I was taken back because although I lost my phone, I’ve never been held at ransom for anything. We (my host brother, several collages and local friends) eventually talked the man down off of a high amount of money for Malawians, 5,000 kwacha (Roughly 6 dollars) and convinced him to give my phone back. We agreed the money will be paid at a later time.
Now let’s fast forward back to today. I wanted to thank the man who found it in his heart to give my phone back because he could have sold it and brought a new house. (Androids/smartphones are hard to find here and very expensive). After talking with the school board members and one of the men who found the phone it was explained that asking for a ransom is not how the Malawian culture does things. They explained that I am volunteering in his community and that he should be happy that I am here. It is the Malawian culture return something that does not belong to them without demanding money. In the meeting, I wasn’t able to say anything due to the culture. I left the meeting not feeling right inside my heart. Therefore, I and a fellow local friend went and found the man at his house. We explained that I just wanted to thank him for returning my phone because he truly did the right thing.
After seeing the rough living conditions (mentioned above) we asked did they have any food, and the answer was no. My heart sank deep into my chest knowing that one of the kids I teach every day lived in this house. He is a quiet student and his home life is less than desirable. Therefore I did what I felt was right. I went into town and bought enough food for 2 weeks. It’s not much, it does not solve all of the problems these people face, but hopefully, it just makes it easier for a little while. Before sending the wife back up the hill with the groceries, I explained (with the help of my friend) that when you do good things, you can be rewarded.
In Malawi, the average person lives in less than a $1 a day. So the next time you pull into the Chik fila drive thru and order a $8 meal but are upset that the fries aren’t warm enough. I want you to realize that some people haven’t eaten in a few days. These are the people I am encountering every day, these are my students from my class, or my neighbor next door. This is not to shame any one, but with $8 and your help, you can assist in more ways than can be imagined. I cannot fix everything or anything at all, but what I can do is make small impacts in ways people would never expect.
If you can please donate using any link found on my blog.
Until next time
The last month has been a world wind of traveling and excitement, which has limited the amount of time I have had to work. For the last 6 months I have conquered navigating South African streets, Paris subways, different hiking trails, and many other exciting activities. Now I am back home. This is a bittersweet statement due to the fact my heart is not home with me. I found a place that I love more than Kanye loves Kanye. I miss all of my kids from the orphanage. The impact that these kids have had on my life is beyond anything I could have expected. The smiles, hugs, laughs and cries warmed my heart for so long that I am starting to feel empty. Every conversation held, I start to wrap any subject back to an experience back in South Africa.
Through the anger, disappointments, happy, sad, and exciting moments I would not have changed the last 6 months of my life. The first two weeks I cried for these kids. I cried because I did not know how to help. The pain in my heart did not go away, the pain simply just got smaller. The more time I spent with the kids the more attached I became. The attachment began to mirror the relationship of an older sister looking after her siblings. No one ever wants to say goodbye, not even a “see you later”. After a while, “the so longs” become “see you never” and the memories are all that are left of the amazing interaction.
The last day was extremely hard for me, as I hugged my last kid with tears running down my face I could not even muster up the courage to say, “You Later.” Although they saw me cry that day it was tears of sadness mixed with a dash of joy. One of the other volunteers on her last day wrote: “Today was a sad day. The day I had been dreading since I was accepted this assignment as a volunteer at this orphanage. The day we had to say goodbye again. I knew they would have a place in my heart, but my heart is now in 1000 pieces, I didn’t expect. I’m a mess right now and I feel like I have been dumped. I have a huge lump in my throat, a big hole in my stomach and my tears will never end. I love these kids. Each and every one. These kids, you changed me forever!” –Cecilie
South Africa treated me well during these last six months. I plan to return to the orphanage one day, but I pray that none of the kids I know is still at the home. I pray each of the kids at the orphanage find wonderful homes to grow up in. My biggest prayer is that all the kids eventually receive all of the love and attention that they deserve. I know these kids will do great things in life and I cannot wait until our paths cross again. For many of my kids I left a photo on their locker with words of encouragement on the back. I hope that photo travels with each and every one of them wherever they go in life.
Until next time South Africa,