Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The many struggles of opening an orphanage in Malawi

Instead of settling down to a comfortable retirement, Charamine Paliwoda sold everything and built an orphanage in Malawi. In her efforts to build the orphanage, she encountered many struggles with bureaucratic red tape, and challenges raising money for the children.

From this Edmonton Journal story that we found at Canada.com, reporter Karen Kleiss details some of the difficulty. But the challenges are many more than our small snippet contains, so he encourage you to read the full inspirational story.

After her husband Benny died in 1999, leaving her alone for the first time in her life, she was lost in a house filled with the remains of their 35 years together.

During those decades, dozens of children had lived in their Edmonton home — five of their own, and more than 60 foster kids. She once found Benny watching a World Vision special, and he said if he could have one wish, it would be for every child in the world to have a home, people to love them, food and an education.

After his death, she bought a cabin outside the city, adopted an old dog and took up working in her daughter's convenience store. The neighbourhood kids started calling her grandma.

Then in the summer of 2003, she met a woman at a friend's house and shared a few conversations with her about the possibility of starting an orphanage in Africa.

"We didn't get into any real great lengths about it," she says. "When I decided to go, I thought, that's exactly what Ben wished for. You can't give every child everything, but certainly you can improve the lives of some, and I think he would like that.

Every day was a struggle to navigate mind-boggling bureaucracy.

When the school opened in a rented room in March 2005, nearly 600 children wanted to register. They had room for 60.

After the school opened, Paliwoda returned to Canada with empty pockets. She'd run up her credit cards, called in debts, tapped her savings to the tune of $80,000, taken money from her retirement fund.

Over the next two years Benny's Hope consumed Paliwoda's days, and both she and Britner travelled back and forth between Edmonton and Njewa to keep the school going.

In Canada, Paliwoda sold her house and put much of the proceeds into Benny's Hope. Paliwoda's older sister, Marilyn Summersgill, became chairwoman of the board, and a small group of volunteers coalesced around her to raise money.

On July 27, 2007, they started building. Chief Njewa gave them land, and village men and women came to clear the brush. Volunteers made bricks. Paliwoda hauled cement bags with the car, two at a time. They had no electricity and few tools; the cement was mixed by hand in holes dug in the ground. From the pile of bricks emerged a three-room schoolhouse with bright white windows and space for a garden in front.

In September 2007, twenty-four women and one man came from Ontario to put the roof on the school, build desks and put up the finishing touches.

The grand opening was held on March 7, 2008.

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