The Mellens in Malawi

Thoughts, ponderings, strange tales, prayer requests and news of everyday life from the Mellen family in Zomba, Malawi.

Friday, December 08, 2006

A Chapter closes

Liz and the kids all finished school today. We have been into our sequence of "last" events for some time now, but with the end of the school term it really does feel like the end of a significant chapter in our family life. Not only the children finishing, but Liz as well, after teaching at Sir Harry Johnston International Primary School for the last two and a half years.
So now we have done our last Sunday at church, last WFP meeting, last staff monthly prayer day, quite a few other lasts as well. We actually leave Malawi a week from today, and with still quite a bit of work to do, not to mention packing up the house and our luggage, it still feels a bit hectic.
We are doing our best to "leave well" as it say in all the missionary manuals. Not sure if we will arrive too well though! Counting our blessings though, we have a house to move into, a car to get around in, schools all sorted out for the children, and family and friends to cheer us through our festive re-introduction back into the UK. On the BBC website today it said that Wyverstone (our new home) had a max temp. of 9 degrees C today. Thats only 25 less than where we are now!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Madonna and Child

So Malawi makes the news again - this time because Madonna has adopted a little Malawian boy. There's clearly a lot more to this story than the press knows, its been interesting to read and hear quite a few inaccuracies in the media these last few weeks, so here's a few thoughts and facts from the Malawian end:
A figure often quoted is that there are somewhere between 800,000 to 1 million AIDS orphans in Malawi. That figure is not far wrong, but very much depends on what you call an "orphan" - here it can mean a child which has lost it's mother or father (a single orphan) and less commonly a child that has lost both parents.
The Independent today was reporting that Malawi has "a million children in orphanages" which is absurd - the vast majority of both sorts of orphans are cared for within the extended family by Uncles, Aunties, grandparents and neighbours, only a tiny fraction are cared for in residential orphanages.
Its weird to think that Madonna has adopted a boy who still has a living parent - but the truth is that there are very few actual abandoned kids available - we have friends who have been involved in adopting here but they found that often a child in a orphanage still has a parent somewhere, or family connections who are not willing to let them be permanently adopted - the orphanage is used for some kind of respite care until the community is able to take them back.

If she is bringing the child back to the UK then Madonna and her husband will have already gone through the strenuous process of assessment by social workers - so this is definitely not something she is doing on a whim. Contrary to some press reports I have heard, she has definitely been here in Malawi for about three weeks, visiting various orphanages and presumably checking out various possible adoptees.
Has she shortcut the usual system here? For sure. Her commitment to put substantial funds into orphan support here probably helped swing things her way.
Is this the best thing for little David? Difficult to say. I'm not sure that the father would so willingly have given up his son had he been to one of her recent shows.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Betwixt and Between

We do seem to be pretty bad at this blogging thing - no posting for almost two months! If anybody is still bothering to check this, you deserve an award for persistence.
So . . . back in Malawi for 15 weeks! Betwixt our summer house-hunting break in the UK, and a permanent move back there just before Christmas.
I have to say that coming back here was a relief, particularly after a lot of travelling in our last few days in the UK. Being able to stay in the same bed for several consecutive nights was fantastic. Within a couple of days of our retun to Zomba, routines were re-established, roots sunk back into work, school and the local community. But at the same time we are all too aware that its a temporary state, a hiatus of normality before we leave Malawi and start life again somewhere else.
Don't get me wrong - the next stage is exciting and we are really looking forward to it - but for now we are here, still doing our jobs, maintaining our relationships - (even making new ones in the transient ex-pat community) and life goes on.
Change is exciting, but it isn't always easy - we need to keep focused on today rather than thinking too much about tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Sorry again

Hi everyone,

sorry that we again havn't posted for a while. Our laptop stopped working for a while (quite scary as we have a lot of photos on there not backed up) but luckily it turned out to be just a loose memory chip - sometimes I think I have the same problem. All OK again for now.
Liz and the children finished the academic year at school today, with a big sense of relief. Its great also to have Kezi back with us from boarding school for an extended period, rather than just the weekends.
In two weeks we fly home to see friends, family, supporters and to look for a place to live.
Thanks once again for all those who help us so we can be out here.
A very special thanks to our friends who have given us a car for when we get home. Its a very special thing to have people caring for us in such a practical way.
All for now, Andy for the Malawi Mellens

Friday, May 26, 2006

Another month, another meeting

Today is the last Friday in the month, and thats when all the project staff meet together at the church headquarters for what is called "prayer day" - basically a church service with some information sharing stuff thrown in, then we all have lunch together.
Previously it had also been pay day, so there was a big incentive to show up and collect your envelope of cash, but recently we have started paying people through the bank, and the attendance had dropped off and it had really stopped being what it should be - a chance to celebrate together with the staff, get them excited and motivated about the projects, and spend time together.
Well today was a bit of a "re-launch", and it was great - good attendance, people on time, good participation, even a speech by the country director! I did a little ice-breaker / team-building activity which seemed to work very well, all in all the atmosphere was really good, and I look forward to the next one.
Less than eight weeks until we are at home for our brak in the UK. The main thing we hope to do is find a house for when we come home for good at the end of the year. Prices seem to be on the rise again, so I just don't know how its going to work out, all we can do is trust that God will provide - as he has done in the past.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Back on the blog - at last

I really don't know how few people look at our blog, but nobody has complained about the absence of postings recently! We've been struggling with technical problem for a while - our 3 year old laptop developed a fault, eventually we managed to get it sorted out and are back on line and back on the blog.
Some of you will know that we have decided to extend our time in Malawi by a further three months or so, which will take us up to Christmas, though we will be in the UK for about 6 weeks in the summer, mostly we'll be looking for a house where we can live when we come home.
Life doesn't seem to get less busy - (even though I'm aware that we have less stuff going on in general than when we lived in UK) so even though its still two months away, I'm looking forward to the break.
The picture is Caleb with our friend Giles - he's someone we help regularly by giving him a day's work each week. Giles has a slight disability, probably something like cerebral palsy, also he has no parents, but these things don't hold him back at all - he's the youth choir master at our church, plays in a football team, and cycles several miles to help with a disabled group once a week. Caleb and me usually drive out to his place on a Saturday and have been helping him with some farming, trying out some different ideas which may help his family's food security. Last year he harvested 2 bags of maize, but with the good rains this year, plus a hefty dose of chicken manure which I brought in for him, he's got 8 bags, and will also have some sweet potato to harvest later on.
Its not difficult to help people, but how to ensure that they don't need the same help time and time again in the future? Malawi has just emerged from yet another food crisis, where food once again became a hand-out to stop people starving. Lives are saved, but at the same time arguably we create dependency for the future.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

End of term

Dear all,
apologies for the long silence without any posts - a combination of technical problems and lack of time.
This is Liz writing. The last seven days has seemed like being in a parallel universe as I have been totally flattened by a bad bout of malaria. Though we take prophylaxis ( protective medecine) it doesn't give 100% protection. So there goes the first week of the holidays with nothing done!
Malaria apart, this busy term has gone well. A highlight was being able to take 25 students (years 3-6) to visit Zomba Hospital. I imagine this type of trip would be impossible in the UK for all sorts of Health and Safety type reasons. The trip included the chance to see the special baby-care ward where mothers act as human incubators, carrying their premature babies kangaroo-style bound skin-to-skin on their abdomens; in groups of five we also watched pregnant mothers being examined with ultrasound; two students had their arms put in plaster and then cut out again. We were lucky that four of the doctors are parents of children at the school and hosted the visit very well.
Of course the visit showed the hospital in a positive light, the children unaware of the almost Dickensian conditions of the older wards which have not yet been upgraded or knocked down. At other times we have visited friends from our church who were admitted, finding them sharing a bed with another patient, with the room on the floor between the beds being used for others. Whilst there is a long-term plan for development and refurbishment of the hospital, the need far exceeds the current capacity of both facilities and staff. In Malawi development happens, but the pace is exceedingly slow.
Malaria kills thousands of people each day across Africa, luckily I have survived with tlc from my husband, and access to good medecine and doctors. Tomorrow my sister and her family arrive for a two-wek visit, hopefully accompanied by substantial amounts of healing chocolate.
Bye for now, Liz