Donations to Blantyre in Malawi
Just over 18,000,000 people live in Malawi with a 45 million population boom expected by 2050. Children form the largest part of the demographic profile with approximately 66% of the entire population being 24 years of age. Although there have been big improvements in child health over the years, there remains an infant mortality rate of approximately 43 infant death per 1,000 live births with a 2016 estimate of approximately 1 million people living with HIV/AIDS, children included. TB, Malaria and malnutrition also remain highly prevalent in this setting.
These staggering figures together with the sheer beauty of this country and its people were the reasons I decided to embark on a one year sabbatical as a volunteer Paediatric Radiology Consultant at the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) as from November 2017. My main objectives were to provide stable clinical service provision and a heavy focus on radiological educational activities until at least mid 2018. The overall lack of access to general resources such as clothes, basic hygiene products and educational material within and outside of the hospital was striking the first time I visited this country in 2016. It was this observation that led to the impressive fundraising effort led by the Maltese Association of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in collaboration with MaltaPost. Through this much valued fundraising effort 12 big boxes packed to the brim with all the above items together with numerous toys were received by consignment in Blantyre in Malawi on the 8th of March 2018.
In the ensuing days I had the fun task of distributing the donations to the children in the six paediatric wards at QECH including the nursery and wards for the malnourished and oncology patients. The mothers and the children were so immensely grateful for the goods and so taken by the kindness of the donations. A resounding ‘zikomo’ filled the ward – this means ‘thank you’ in the local language, Chichewa. A lot of the soaps were also donated to the ward in charge nurses for the patients and doctors to utilise at the sinks in the wards.
Some of these items were however also donated to a Malawian registered charity that is called STEKA. STEKA was founded in 2007 by Godknows Maseko together with his wife Helen. STEKA houses children who are either homeless living on the streets in Blantyre and children in vulnerable situations. There are currently about 60 children (of all ages, infants to 20 year olds) all living under one roof! Godknows and Helen run this home and provide stability and a loving and caring environment for these special children in need. Godknows is also currently in the process of building a ‘vocational centre’; a centre in which these children will be taught skills that will put them in a better position when seeking jobs. Godknows is also quite the entrepreneur, sewing by night to raise some income for the considerable costs he is faced with to feed and educate the children, to maintain the big house and to keep the vocational centre plans on track. Really, they are both two of the most inspirational and dynamic people I have come across. After many frequent visits to STEKA it was clear that they too would benefit from the generosity of the donation. Hence, a package of some of the clothes, soaps and toys was also delivered to STEKA. The excitement and gratitude from Godknows and his children was incredible. https://stekakids.com
The boxes also contained many donated books. While some of these have been distributed to the play areas in the paediatric wards, and the more advanced books will be donated to one of the local schools which I am sure will be incredibly excited at the thought of having access to such a wide range of varied content which they can use during lessons.
I have been fortunate enough to witness the gratitude and happiness elicited by the donations sent over to Blantyre by the Maltese Association of the Order of Malta, made possible through the kind collaboration of MaltaPost. I only wish I could somehow transmit these emotions to you all. I am confident that this donation will make a huge difference to the amazing children, in terms of general wellbeing and education. The children of Blantyre in Malawi will remain forever grateful to the Maltese Association of the Order of Malta for these donations.
I wish to conclude by once again extending huge thanks on behalf of all the medical team, patients and the STEKA Residence.
Paediatric Radiologist Consultant Volunteer
Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital
Blantyre – Malawi
Paediatric medical ward – after distribution of soaps and toys.
Boxes arrive at the local Post Office in Blantyre Malawi.
Youngsters inspecting the contents of the boxes
Ward sisters, parents and young patients in the Paediatric oncology ward.
At the STEKA house with a few of the children having received some of the toy donations.
Godknows Maseko, founder of STEKA can be seen on the right