Monile mose, we are now in the fourth week of our placement and time is flying by.

Last week the team went to visit one of our adopted sick patients, Lucy. After chatting with Lucy and her family, we asked whether there were any household chores that we could help them with. As it happens all that needed doing was to fetch the water and so we set off up the track around the back of their house with a collection of buckets.

Upon reaching the bore hole all the volunteers took it in turns drawing water – a new experience for the UK volunteers! Once the buckets were full there was only one thing for it, to carry them back Malawian style! Walking back to the house we caused quite a stir. The sight of the team with buckets of water balanced on our heads surprised many of the women we passed. For many of them this was the first time they had seen mzungus (white people) and young men fetching water. It was certainly an experience and we were all quite pleased that we managed to keep, almost all, of the water in the containers.

On another visit to see Lucy the team offered to help farm her crops of maize and beans. It was surprising for many of the team how tiring farming is, particularly with the sun beating down on us. Lucy and her family watched on in amusement as the team worked away to shouts of: ‘Is this a weed?’, ‘What about this’, ‘No, they’re beans’, ‘No girls, stop! That’s not a weed!’ After a couple of close calls requiring Andy and Newton to intervene for the sake of the crops and a lot of hard work we were able to sit back and admire our hard work.

Another one of the sick patients that we work with, Mary, has a number of challenges. For two years now she has suffered with an eye problem that is so severe she is unable to open one of her eyes at all. Despite multiple trips to the hospital, it seems that the medication she was given wasn’t helping her at all, causing her great worry and frustration. Alongside this problem, Mary’s main carers are her parents – however, Mary’s mother is old and has extremely painful legs which make it difficult for her to walk. Upon one of our visits the team were concerned to see that Mary’s eye was showing no improvements from our last visit.  The team soon realised that we had the ability, the time and the means to take both Mary and her mother to Mzimba District hospital in the hope that they might receive treatment to improve their respective conditions.  A trip to the hospital might seem like a simple task but for many people living in the villages in Mzimba transport to hospital can prove a major issue with many having to walk for miles to reach the hospital. In Mary’s case the journey is 14 kilometres over a hilly, rocky terrain, prone to flooding during rainy season. The trip turned out to be a success and Mary was prescribed new drugs which we really hope will improve her condition.  We’ll keep you posted on her development!

Mary’s family were so grateful that they gave us a chicken as a thank you.  Katie and Becky wanted to name it but weren’t allowed to for fear they would become attached. The group has yet to enjoy chicken for dinner! One of the most moving moments of our placement so far was as Mary got out of the car to leave.  She said as she shook all of our hands, ‘Thank you so very much, but only God will be able to truly express my thanks’. We were amazingly overwhelmed by her gratitude that something so simple and easy could mean so much to someone. It's little things like this that have humbled the group whilst also making us realise how much our work here can help people.

Blog written by Andy Ndovi and Becky France

Photo 1: Katie, Becky, Hiliwona carrying water with Lucy's sister.

Photo 2: Weeding

Photo 3: The team with Mary outside her house. Front L-R: Mary's neighbour, Becky, PLWHA volunteer, Mary's mother, Kondwani, Hiliwona. Back L-R: Katie, Newton, Mary, Mary's little boy, Simon, Mary's dad.