Daphne Meredith ’74 - Trip to Malawi with CARE Canada
Last summer, a group of six women, including Crofton House School Board member Nancy Gallini, alumna Maria Chung ’75 and myself travelled to villages in Malawi to see CARE Canada at work. All of our travelling party had donated time and funds to support CARE’s work to transform the lives of women and girls in one of the poorest, least-educated countries in the world. CHS is a strong supporter of CARE Canada through its participation in CARE’s Walk in Her Shoes. During this March event CHS students and alumnae walk 10,000 steps along Vancouver’s sea wall in celebration of International Women’s Day.
It was the trip of a lifetime.
For a week, we travelled some three hours each day from the Malawi capital, Lilongwe, to the villages, first on hair-raising single-lane highways, then on bumpy, pot-holed paths meant only for bicycles. I still tear up to think of the crowd of women and children dancing and singing in harmony to greet our small bus at the first village. We danced with them into the village centre, with them carefully guiding our arm and hip movements to make our rhythm a little smoother. They told us that the words of the songs related to what they were learning about nutrition and sanitation through CARE.
The villagers themselves explained how they were changing as a result of CARE’s work. Firstly, overcoming their suspicion of healthcare workers and allowing them to monitor the growth of their babies. But also learning basic sanitation, how to keep water clean, how to grow home gardens, store vegetables through the dry season and cook food from diverse food groups. Malnutrition in these villages has been eliminated, cholera and typhoid have been greatly reduced, and the girls are spending much more time at school.
Perhaps most impressive were the testimonials of the women running their own Village Savings and Loans Associations where women control the funds, invest in new businesses and reap the impressive profits. In one case, an initial investment of less than $1 grew to over $180 during the fund’s life! Women-owned businesses are raising these communities out of poverty.
As a sign of solidarity, the women of each of these associations celebrated their success and their identity by wearing the same gorgeous skirts and headscarves. And, while there are no doubt gender tensions, the smart men were beginning to see how they could prosper - by seeking funding from the women to build their own businesses. Nice power shift!
Seeing the Malawian women and girls with our own eyes, hearing their voices, dancing with them, holding their babies — we understood in a more tangible way how our support for CARE is having a big impact here. Life changing for them, yes, but also for us!
Tuesday March, 5 at 10:57AM
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