CBOS and CB-no’s
For the record, satellite internet is pretty cool.
Today was a very contrasting day in terms of the two projects we visited. After a bit of a late start we ventured north from here at the Flametree Lodge towards Nkhata Bay, through a HUGE rubber tree plantation, to a place called Nkhwali. There, CPAR and the National Aids Committee (NAC) had funded a community based Community Based Organization (CBO) (welcome to our world of acronyms) which in turn funded projects such as teaching preschool children and orphans, along with providing items like sewing machines and wheelchairs to people with disabilities. CPAR no longer funds the program, it is all operated through membership fees and other donors. Although the school and small mill where maize was turned into flour and subsequently food for the school children, a short drive up the road, we met a young, pregnant woman (20) with a disability that did not allow her to walk. The CBO seemed to be proud of the fact that they had allowed her have access to a wheelchair as well as a sewing machine to use. What we questioned was how a wheelchair would be practical around her house. The terrain immediately outside of her house was severely sloped and rocks would make getting around on wheels almost impossible. The intention is there, just not expressed in the correct manner, I at least, felt. The sewing machine was also donated, however, the young woman did not know how to use it after having it for a year, nor did she have any thread or fabric to use if she did. I found this rather peculiar, that these issues could have been overlooked.
The afternoon was a welcome change from the morning. We were all a little shaken on how the first CBO was operating and what their objectives were. (Click here to see a satellite view of this village) A well organized community welcomed us graciously, and each member took their turn introducing themselves, and describing for us what role they serve in the organization. There was a department which looked after the many orphans (in fact, we encountered another community dealing with a funeral), a department in which youth led, a department that helped HIV positive members with support, and others. The HIV group was especially interesting for me, because in so many parts of Africa, having an HIV positive status is a stigma; shunned by other members of the community, and forced to live a life of isolation. This was a welcome sight. The community had many impressive programs, and we could easily tell they worked for it. Many members had more than one duty or responsibility.
Today was an up and down day for me or rather down and up, and I believe Lauren and Jill felt the same. It was very interesting to see the many differences between a well run organization and one not so much. I think the afternoon community is an example CPAR can use to promote Community Based Organizations, and show other community how effective they can be.
Tomorrow we depart for Mzuzu, a city in the north central region of Malawi, meeting more of the communities which have started CBO’s. I can only hope they are in as good of shape as the one which we saw today, and not stuck distributing inappropriate goods like the one we visited in the morning.
So long Chintheche, but we will be back…