I feel extremely honored and humbled to have had the opportunity to travel out to Bright Vision on Christmas Eve. The Hirotos, who are missionaries here at ABC, have been helping with this organization since 2006. Located about an hour outside of Lilongwe, this ministry aims at providing daycare year round as well as a feeding program six months out of the year for orphans who live nearby. There are as many as 200 children who benefit from this organization. On Christmas Eve, the Hiroto’s home church sponsored a meal for everyone. There were goats purchased as well as rice. I was told that for many in attendance, this was their first time to eat rice since last Christmas Eve.
We arrived around 10:30 AM and were greeted by many excited children as well as women who were singing, clapping, and dancing. I was amazed at the warm welcome and the way everyone there seemed to flock around the car to shake our hand and welcome us. It was overwhelming in the best way possible. We were then called into the main office where we sat with those who volunteer with Bright Vision. Each person was introduced and then they each gave a speech saying how happy they were to have us there and how much it meant to them. The man who started this organization shared how it has grown and developed over the years, as well as some of the visions for the future. I was amazed to see a room with sewing machines and to hear there’s a tailoring vocational training program in place for older orphans. After this, we each had a chance to introduce ourselves and give a “speech” if we so wished. I found it hard to keep my emotions under control as I sat in a room with teachers who are teaching orphans and volunteering their time. As a fellow educator and someone who has a passion for seeing children learn and grow, I thanked these wonderful people for their service and their heart and the amazing way they are providing an education to those who by no other means would have this opportunity.
We then went back outside where everyone was sitting on the grass. It was extremely hot and there were dark clouds rolling in, so we were expecting that the rains would possibly come. There were two rows of chairs up front. The back row was for the chiefs and the elders. The front row was where us, as the guests sat. Two choirs were there to perform songs. One was a children’s choir and there was also a women’s choir. They sang songs in Chichewa and then there was a message given in Chichewa by one of the college students at ABC who had come with us. The rains then interrupted the schedule. Everyone got up and ran under cover. The women kept on cooking and fortunately, the rain didn’t last for long.
Once the food was ready, children all sat on the ground and waited to be called up by age to wash their hands and take a bowl with nsima. This is a staple here in Malawi and is much like rice or pasta would be in other regions. It is made with maize flour and water. It is “paddled” not stirred, and more flour can be added until the right texture and consistency is achieved. It is then used with ones hand to scoop up relishes, or side dishes that are served with the nsima. It is relatively cheap and is served with many meals. Once the children had a bowl, they would stand in another line to receive the rice and relishes to accompany the nsima. I watched as the kids waited in lines and sat patiently. I also watched as they found a spot on the ground to eat. I was amazed at how the older kids looked out for those that were younger. Many helped to feed the younger kids. While everyone was eating, we were called back into the office where we were served our meal. This was the first time I’ve eaten goat that had been alive a few hours before. I was so hungry due to the heat and the walking around and everything tasted very good.
After eating, we went for a hike. It is an absolutely beautiful area and one can see so far out when up in elevation. I loved the shades of green (they have received more rain than we have in Lilongwe, so everything is greener), the fields with maize crops, and the mountains. It was absolutely beautiful.
We then came down and spent some more time with those remaining before heading home. As we said our goodbyes and got in our car to leave, I was struck that this was Christmas for those in attendance. They enjoyed a special meal together and the company of others. They honored us as guests and welcomed us, genuinely showing their appreciation and love. The women worked so hard to cook, serve, and clean up the meal. There were no gifts, there was no singing of Christmas carols, just time together and a meal for everyone there. I loved meeting these people and seeing the great work that is being done by those who have a passion to provide an education for the orphans. I hope to return some day to see those I have met, but for now, they had contributed to one of the most meaningful Christmas Eves I have ever and will ever experience.