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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Reflections on helping

I find myself back from Malawi and yet my heart is still very much there. I have been thinking through a few things and am hoping to jot down a few last thoughts before closing out my blog.  The processing that takes place after spending a year oversees is more than I had imagined.  I am working to give myself time and grace and to be ok with the tears that so often take me by surprise. 

As I drove through Seattle, I noticed the homeless standing with their signs.  This made me think of the many people who are in need in Malawi.  I struggled with the desire to help while in Malawi, but more so than just fulfilling a temporary need.  I could’ve handed out money each and every day and I do believe this is helping as it provides food for those who are hungry, but I felt a desire to be invested in people’s lives. 

As I thought through this, I realized there were people who I had come to know well who were in need.  I didn’t quite know how to ask about helping and so I waited, thinking through the best way to approach this.  I was thrilled when one day one of the cleaners at the academy asked to meet with me.  She shared her dream of starting her own business.  As she talked, I could tell she had spent years thinking through this and she came to me well prepared with the details.  She wanted to make freezies, which are similar to Otter Pops or other frozen snacks.  These are very popular due to the heat in Malawi.  She knew how much everything would cost and she factored in the profits.  She also had a plan of starting small and selling within her village and then branching out and expanding as she made money.  Her plan sounded manageable, but could not happen without a refrigerator.  She came to me asking for a loan.  She was very clear that she planned on paying me back.  I told her that I loved how she was passionate about this and how she has a vision.  I gave her the money to purchase the fridge and she told me how much she planned on paying me each month. 

As the months passed, I watched how hard she worked.  She would cook into the night and then sell her product after work.  In the beginning, she made no profit, but came out even.  She would come to me with an update and also with the amount she had told me she would pay.  Slowly, she started to expand her business.  She started making enough money to help buy the food her family needed.  Then she started saving up for a portable cooler so that she could take her freezies into town and sell them there.  Her joy and determination were so apparent and I couldn’t wait to hear her updates.  She hired a young man to take the cooler into town and sell the freezies there. 

I realized as I saw the success that was taking place, this was exactly what I had been hoping for as far as investing long term in sustainable living.  Once I realized how successful she was and that her plan had worked, I told her I didn’t want the loan paid back.  I explained that there were people in the states who were giving financially in order that I could be there in Malawi.  I explained that this wasn’t me giving to her, but there were many who were contributing.  This model seemed to work so well when individuals were the ones with the desire to start a small business.  I continued investing in this way and I was amazed at the success that took place.  In many cases, the vision, the desire, and the drive are all there, but the initial funds to get started are the component that is missing. 

There is more research I want to do into giving and supporting in this way.  There is a book I am starting to read called When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert.  I believe this will help me grasp this concept more fully.  Although I only began to touch the surface, I saw tangible ways in which others were able to grow crops and food that would help to sustain not only themselves, but also the communities in which they live. 

Those of you who gave to my financially are the ones who made this possible.  I wouldn’t have had the funds available to give in this way.  I cannot thank you enough for your support and I hope this story encourages you.  I would give anything to have you meet these women in Malawi who are now successfully running small businesses.  You were a huge part of their story.  

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Senior dinner and Graduation

The end has arrived.  It still hasn't hit me how quickly the year has come and gone and when attending events like the senior dinner and graduation, I had very mixed emotions.  The year has been so rich in getting to know others.  I feel my life now intertwined with some that I know I may not see again and others that will continuously come to my heart and mind. The senior class is filled with those who have faced challenges and adversity and put so much into their education.  I loved seeing them with their families and the joy that was so clear on their faces. To see such success makes me feel as though I myself can take on any obstacle.  The senior class has inspired and encouraged me.  My prayers go with them.  Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the dinner and graduation.
Maguire and his Uncle at the senior
dinner.  This was such a special night
as they each senior brought a guest.  Many of the seniors gave speeches.  Their words were heartfelt and inspiring.  This was a night filled with many memories.

The Squares and the Hanlons. Everyone was beautifully dressed and there were pictures taken throughout the night.  

Monday, May 28, 2012

Senior Safari

The senior class at the college has consistently impressed me throughout the year.  College is quite challenging, not only academically, but also financially.  It also takes a sacrifice to leave family and loved ones for many of the students.  It is a huge accomplishment to graduate with a degree anywhere in the world, but here in Malawi, it seems there are so many hurdles in the way that would hinder this from happening.  These factors among others make graduation a very special time.  We’ve reached that time of year for baccalaureate and graduation.  The senior class has been fundraising and planning for a senior trip in order to celebrate together all their hard work and accomplishments.  The senior trip took place last week and it was a trip to a safari here in Malawi.  The senior class invited a few staff members to join them on this trip.  I felt so honored to be asked to attend.  I have gotten to know many of the seniors throughout the year through sports or outreach.  They are an outstanding group of individuals. 

Of course I absolutely loved the safari, as it was something I had hoped to do when coming to Malawi.  However the trip was so much more than seeing incredible beauty and amazing animals.  I enjoyed seeing the seniors interacting.  They have invested in each other over the past four years and this was so visible through their interactions, their laughter during meals and their fellowship in the mornings and evenings as they sang songs together and talked over scripture. I know for these students this was a trip they will never forget.  I know this is true as well for myself.  I will keep these seniors in my prayers as they head off to use the degree they have earned and as they carry the relationships they have formed with them wherever they go. 

Of course I used my camera throughout the trip.  I captured some wonderful group shots that I will contribute to a CD for each of the seniors.  I also loved using my zoom lens to take some shots during our safari.  Below are a few of my favorites!  


Friday, May 25, 2012

Teacher appreciation

This week was teacher appreciation week at school.  I felt as if this was backward as I feel so appreciative and thankful to my students and their parents.  I have learned a considerable amount from them this year as they've shared their cultures and backgrounds with me.  I was overwhelmed by the cards, gifts and flowers.  I think my favorite part of the week was watching the students come in with their ways of showing their appreciation.  The smiles on their faces are just priceless!  There's this pride and determination when they walk in holding something and march right toward me with that smile.  It melts my heart and makes me feel so blessed to be the recipient of that kind of love and admiration.  I couldn't capture on camera the many hugs and smiles received, but I did get pictures of two of my students with their gifts.  I am one thankful and blessed teacher, there's no doubt about that!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

My dear friend, Sarah just celebrated her birthday.  Her very thoughtful husband decided that as a gift, she should get a weekend away to relax.  Instead of going as a family with the two girls, he decided that Sarah and I should go for some R & R.  We packed up and drove Saturday morning to the lake.  We came back Sunday around 4, sun-kissed and rested.  We stayed at the Safari Beach Lodge.  It was rustic and peaceful.  We did lots of sitting in the sun by the lake, reading and talking.  The place was absolutely beautiful, as you can see for yourself.  I am so thankful for Sarah's friendship and I greatly enjoyed our weekend away!  

Here's our room and our bathroom is the hut off to the side.
Here's the queen bed in our room.

The other bed and a picture of the sliding doors. 
The view from our porch. 

The pool at the lodge.  

Fishing on the lake.  
There were kids swimming and playing nearby. 

The view of the sunset from our room.  

Absolutely stunning!

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Houses on the hillside.  I passed these about 3 hours outside of Lilongwe on my way to Zomba.
Vegetables are typically sold in this fashion on the side of the road
or in the market.  

I was surprised to see this many baskets in one truck!   

Women getting water at a well.  

Trucks such as these often carry people and food.  

This is a normal sight as many things are carried on one's head.  

As the public transport near a market waits to leave, many street vendors will
approach passengers and sell goods through the windows.  

This is at a market.  The clothes are hung or displayed on the ground.
The colors and patterns are beautiful.  

This is a market.  There is food being made and sold as well as clothes and produce.  

Bikes carry so much more than just people!
Women, men and children all carry heavy loads on their heads.  This never ceases to amaze me!