February 2023

A day of water

Written by: 
Steven Overbeek


Not a dull moment happens on our days. Every hour is a new experience on its own and today was no different.

Let’s rewind to early this morning. Due to the common blackouts our power was cut abruptly at 5am. In Nsanje the coolest it gets overnight is 25 degrees Celsius, but with the humidity it feels like 30 degrees Celsius. Due to the temperature and the power outage, we awoke with a sweat as our fans were turned off. In waking up we wanted to take a shower: turned the tap and no water. That’s actually okay, as we literally were going to soak in sweat all day anyway.

We started with a small breakfast of fried eggs, chips(fries) and toast. Coffee was unavailable but we asked our host if they had anything and they brought us some delicious instant coffee. This definitely gave us a jolt of energy and we were ready to start our day.

Our first stop was to pick up some bottled water. We go through about 40L of bottled water a day with our group as the water here will make you quite sick. The shop owner had a few 5L bottles but the majority had broken seals and were not filled all the way. We managed to get enough to last us through the day. 

At about 8am we arrived at the Timotheous Chickumagura childcare centre. The centre provides education and a hot meal to over 300 children, most of which are orphans. Our main goal is to establish an effective and efficient method of irrigating their vegetable and banana crops.

After we arrived the ladies went with the Grade 5 children and distributed education posters and a class photo/posters that the Grade 5 class of Mount Cheam Christian School had created. The children were so pleased with the gifts, they sang a thank you song in their native Malawian language of Chichewa. Next the ladies distributed school supplies from several donors in Chilliwack.
They also did sponsorship updates for the children who are sponsored from various donors in Canada. Their responses were heartbreaking and really showed how there is a serious hunger crisis. One child asked for their sponsor to pray for their hunger to go away and that they would be provided with clothing and housing. Another child was an Albino (white African) and the only thing he asked was for his sponsor to send him black shampoo to make his skin black. Albino children are seen as outcasts by the African communities.

The men went to start a hard days work in the field. We created raised beds and installed drip irrigation for the future vegetable crops. We baked for the majority of the morning with temperatures rising up to 36 degrees Celsius, but we came a long way. The Malawian local farmers assisted us. There is no way you could outwork them as they were just giving their all for the entire day.

Lunchtime had come and all of the children were let out of class. They were in awe with the amount of azungas (white people) they were seeing. They established that I was going to be their ‘Mambo’ which means Father. They repeated this for the remainder of the day. We listened as they were taught a Bible story of Jesus feeding the 5000 people with just a basket of fish and bread. After they ate and returned to class we came by to each classroom and distributed lollipops, crayons, and a Bible verse colouring book to each child. It was overwhelming to see the little twinkle of joy in their eyes.
At this time it was about 2:30pm. We left the childcare centre and headed for the Nsanje market. On the way we were told to throw out our empty water bottles to the children on the side of the road. This was very conflicting as it is seen as littering in Canada, but here it is considered a treasure. The children scrambled across the road to pick up the bottles. They don’t have money to purchase bottles and they never drink bottled water, so they are very grateful to be able to have them handed to them for free.
At the Nsanje market we were greeted by many young and old Malawians. Many of the children who followers were beggars and one even tried to steal from us. A man standing near us attempted to scare them off by throwing stones at them. What a sight to behold! Two of us went searching for an iPhone charger but had very little luck. All they had was Android or USB-C cords. We finally found one and paid 3500 KWACHA for it ($3USD). Continuing on we were on the lookout for some 1” irrigation caps. The hardware stores had everything but that. We were able to make something work with several fittings put together.
So on our way home we went. You think this was it? Ha well the best hasn’t even been said.
We left the market and took a quick tour through a local village and down to the River. This river separates Malawi and Mozambique. It is home to the local hippos and crocodiles. We had met a few grandmothers washing their laundry in the river and asked if they wanted their photo taken. They were absolutely delighted and laughed with joy. The village children had followed us and entertained us with singing and dancing to the African World Cup song “waka waka”.
On our way home we went through a police road block.  One of our group members was videoing the policemen as we were handing them lollipops out of the window, and for that our bus was told to pull over. The officer went into our bus and asked for our passports. None of us had it on us. He then proceeded to tell us that it was illegal to take videos of the Malawian police. He made the group member delete the video off their phone, and after some conversation let us proceed.
We were nearly home when we were caught in another Malawian drizzle (aka torrential thunderstorm). The roads quickly turned to rivers and our views were obstructed by waterfalls pouring down our windows.
We entered our lodge and made a dash to each one of our rooms. We wanted to clean up as the body odours were getting a bit much. Much to our dismay there was no electricity or water. We took full advantage of the thunderstorm and had our showers outside. Laughter filled the air as we rinsed off. This was something we could definitely cross off our bucket list.
We ended the day with a supper of fried chicken and rice and a few card games of President. All in all a day for the books.

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