Multi-national team sees hope in action



Parachute games are popular the world over!

Creative projects in a daycare centre, visiting children with local volunteers, building capacity of local volunteers, Bible teaching, and games – just your average ten-day visit to a southern Malawian village for a group made up of Australians plus a New Zealander and one from Northern Ireland!

The team, part of an annual programme for short-term workers with HOPE for AIDS, was based in Ngabu, a village about 120kms south of Blantyre. Living, according to one member, in ‘luxurious conditions’ compared to most Malawians – they had beds with mattresses and mosquito nets and flush (albeit squat) toilets! The team was fully involved with the local volunteers in the HOPE for AIDS’ Orphan and Vulnerable Children (OVC) programme centered at the Africa Evangelical Church (AEC).

Five of the team flew over from Australia especially for the two-week programme: they were joined by two SIM Malawi Short Term Associates, Karen Freeburn who has been working with HOPE for AIDS for almost a year and Stephen Trebilco. For the Australians it was an opportunity to come and see some of the work involved with HIV/AIDS ministry, roll up their sleeves and work alongside the Malawian volunteers as they cared for vulnerable children in their community, then return to Australia to share their experiences with their churches, friends and the wider community.

At Ngabu, HOPE for AIDS has about 80 children in its OVC daycare programme and has a team of 20 volunteers and teachers visiting the homes of vulnerable children in the wider community and working in the daycare centre next to the church.

Each day, Monday to Friday, the team started in the daycare centre with Bible stories, games, crafts and songs. It was as much about learning, especially new Chichewa songs, as it was about teaching. In the afternoon the group was split up, one half going with volunteers and Gerald Chinale, HOPE for AIDS’s OVC Co-ordinator, to visit specifically identified vulnerable children, who have lost one or more parent, and their families or caregivers.

Some of these children are being sponsored by HOPE for AIDS to go to Secondary School, others are at various stages of primary school. The goal of the OVC volunteers is to visit each child once a week to see how they are getting on, to share a Bible story, and pray for the children and their needs.

One of the team working with the children

“It has really hit home just how important education is and how much I have taken it for granted,” said Karen Freeburn.

“During our time here we visited one of the primary schools. One of the Australians in the team was a primary school teacher and so she prepared and delivered a lesson. We worked with Standard 7 kids and after we had told them the story we got them to draw a picture from what they had learned. It amazed me to see how much effort and concentration the kids put into drawing their pictures.”

The other half of the group stayed at the daycare centre and made educational toys from materials easily accessible from the local area. The idea was to show the volunteers creative ways to provide new toys and teaching resources. The hope is that having seen this done, they will continue to make such toys for use by the children.

One of the major outcomes of the OVC work in Ngabu witnessed by the multi-national team was the hope that so many of the people who are being helped displayed: children who want to better themselves through education and volunteers who want to help families as much as possible.

“The importance of hope was one thing I will take away from this visit,” said Stephen Trebilco.

“Hope seems to spring up for people when someone takes an interest in them and in what they are doing. All of the volunteers showed that interest in people and the results are there to see. It is an amazing testimony to the work HOPE for AIDS is doing, not just here in Ngabu but across Malawi, and it proves that HOPE for AIDS is very well named!”

To offer support to this initiative please quote by project number ‘96255 HOPE for AIDS Malawi OVC’