Day 10: Returning to Chilinda

We are surrounded by intense poverty and so much need here. It sometimes becomes hard to focus on the MoonCatcher Project’s mission and prevent “mission creep” as we witness so many people in dire circumstances. It’s tempting to want to help everywhere, but the reality of course is that we can’t. I chose a small something – helping girls stay in school by providing menstrual kits - and I have tried to focus on just that. But other needs arise - this year it was a few pieces of foam for mattresses that my friend Helen and I decided we’d give to a school here. Girls had been sleeping on the metal springs of bunk beds. A good night’s sleep may help keep a girl in school too. 

All day long I found myself thinking of yesterday’s accident. I did have a chance to check in with Brian (Dr. Lisse – founder of Bridges to Malawi) this morning and was told that that thing about staying awake when you may have a concussion is an outdated belief. It really doesn’t help or matter – poor baby Lorice wanted to sleep and her two “helpers” were nudging and poking her relentlessly to keep her awake!  We also learned that the mother probably had some trauma to her frontal lobe which should sort itself out fairly soon and she will then pay attention to her baby again. I wonder how they are all doing. I suppose we’ll never know.

We returned to Chilinda, the school that we went to last week that had no students. Today 62 girls showed up to hear about menstrual management and reproductive health. We handed out MoonCatcher Kits and also pads made by Days for Girls. Sarah, one of the high school kids with Bridges to Malawi, brought the Days for Girls kits and helped us teach. I think it worked pretty well. I feel a little bad that her kits had soap and ours didn’t. So, some girls got that and others didn’t. We just haven’t worked out a way to supply soap to girls here like we do in Uganda.

Sarah teaching part of the menstrual health curriculum.

Sarah teaching part of the menstrual health curriculum.

Happy students with their kits.

Happy students with their kits.

Charlotte wanted some fabric, so we stopped in Kasungu on our way back and bought pieces of African cloth. It was fun to look through the colorful stalls and exclaim over the many designs and colors. Helen found a fabric with birds (birdwatching being her favorite thing in life) and the rest of us found various other designs that we bought. I’ve been in love with a red fabric that had polka dots on it and a border of colorful stripes along the edge. We see it on women everywhere and have dubbed it “Ellie’s fabric” after being told that some of the popular pieces have names.

The president is campaigning and there was a big noisy parade in town with soldiers riding on the hoods of trucks holding giant machine guns. I suppose the president was in one of those vehicles. We were told not to take pictures. 

Finally, we made it to the orphanage to hold babies. We spent a couple of hours feeding, walking, and rocking babies. The youngest was a couple of weeks old and there were four or five other tiny ones too. Toddlers kept wandering in, climbing onto our laps, and in my case often falling asleep. We got our baby fix and managed not to bring them all back home with us. 

These little ones need everything. They share four or five bottles and when we looked at the nipples we noticed mold. The clothing situation is pretty dire too. Everything is ripped and stained. The beds have cockroaches crawling on the dirty mattresses and every baby had bites. The place does the best it can. Babies are held and comforted. The older children seem happy and run around playing a lot. Elizabeth, the house head truly cares about these children but there is never enough to go around, and she is worn out trying to make it all work. We brought a few receiving blankets, but I wish we’d filled a fifty-pound bag with clothes or diapers.

Charlotte and I took a walk around the compound and got a little exercise. We are both a little red from the sun but feel like we aren’t quite so pasty white anymore. It was a good day.