Our travels today took us to an Epicentre of The Hunger Project (THP) called Champiti, which has been awarded the status of self-reliance, a huge effort by the local community!
Our bus trip took a couple of hours to head North-West of Blantyre and we passed much barren territory, a lasting effect of the past three years of El Nino which has devastated the country.
Our first stop was the home and shop of the inspirational Sarah Dzenza and the local women greeted us with song, dance and some serious ululating (which we later practiced in the bus!) Sarah embraced the philosophy of The Hunger Project early and has had 6 loans from the rural bank to expand and grow her businesses (selling supplies and sarongs) and improve her home, now a burnt brick dwelling with rendered walls and an iron roof – quite an achievement!
It was a little overwhelming for me to walk up to her home with memories flooding back of my previous visit to Uganda, being surrounded by children whose folks are doing everything they can to give them a better life, the incredible heat and noise and sunlight that is Africa.
We then headed to briefly meet the first chairman of the Epicentre, Mr Hiwa and his lovely wife of 50 years who explained what life was like for the villages prior to THP and how their lives and that of the community has improved. Next stop the Epicentre!!
Another amazing traditional dance from both the men and women greeted us on arrival and it felt like we were walking into a National Geographic spread. We were proudly shown around the maize mill, food bank, medical facilities and rural bank with the local team on hand to answer questions about how they’d managed to achieve the status of self-reliance.
A deeper dive into the various works that committees arrange, such as Women’s Empowerment, Nutrition, Health, HIV & AIDS, Water & Sanitation, Food Security, Micro-finance, Education and Literacy were all covered. No handouts here, just education across all that’s necessary and massive mindset changes required to move past the resignation and into a place of hope.
Spending time with Everton, the young bank manager and learning about his family and job was lovely. He tells me women are educated before taking out the loans and strict warnings are given not to pass on the funds to their husbands as they are still responsible for the loan and any associated interest (around 2%) even if their husband’s spend the money! A warning that women the world over would be wise to follow!
Sex Ed was also fascinating with the mindset changes required for communities to embrace male and female condoms and HIV testing and increasing health and sanitation practices.
After hours of learning and inspiration from the local Malawians we were all invited to join in final songs and dance. We all need so much more spontaneous song and dance in our lives! An uplifting and beautiful way to finish our visit. Then time for selfies, hugs, goodbyes with the kids, more pictures and long waves…
On the way home, a brilliant sunset occurred to our west, as the supermoon rose from the east in epic African skies. A fitting end to a fabulous day of learning and laughter.