Monday, July 13, 2009

An ark for Malawi's many orphans

A couple of orphanages in Malawi has links to your blogger's home state. Christian Church International which was started in Flint, Michigan operates the Noah's Ark orphanages in Malawi. Noah's Ark takes in children orphaned by AIDS or malaria.

Robin Rosenthal is spending the summer volunteering Malawi and writing about her trip for the Kalamazoo Gazette. yopu can view Robin's blog at Give Good Day. From her latest story, we learn more about the great need for the many children who have lost their parents in Malawi.

In a country where the people literally are starving to death, Noah's Ark has brought hope -- and given life -- to nearly 100 orphans in two communities. Children walk miles in the rising sun to come to the center for breakfast, then turn around and walk back the same path to school. Some make the same trek at lunchtime, while the orphanage takes lunch to others. After school, children rush to the center for a last meal and sometimes more schooling.

Pastor Captain Chisale runs the Mateketa center, which serves a more remote and needy population. He spends about $20 a month for 144 pounds of maize to feed the orphan children. He also grows his own maize to ensure that his family and the families at Noah's Ark have food after the harvest, when food prices nearly double.

"By February, people come here begging for food," he said.

The centers each receive about $500 a month in donations, mostly from the Flint area, to operate. But that isn't enough to meet even the current needs. Often the centers turn to Malawians for donations.

Just before our group arrived, the Chirimba Township center received more than 130 bags of a vitamin-enriched porridge from Feed the Children and a promise of more to come. Sisco said she will take the savings from that donation to buy fresh vegetables for the children, a delicacy in Malawi.

There's no question that orphanages like Noah's Ark are a lifeline in Malawi. But the need continues to outpace resources. Sisco said she's tearfully turned away children.

"It hurts," Sisco said. "I do a lot of praying."

When the Mateketa center opened in 2007, hundreds of children lined up for help. Within walking distance of the center are well over 100 orphans. That number grows with each passing day.

"They're coming to us," Chisale said. "I was born here. I know everyone around. If there's a funeral, there is a kid (left behind)."

On my first day of walking the streets here in Malawi, I watched several men dig a grave, while just a yard away several other men quietly bid farewell to yet another Malawian. I stood from a distance, wondering if another child had been orphaned.

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