Monday September 10
Hands-on volunteering in the village was a major goal for this solidarity trip. Due to the dry conditions at the farm, we could not work the land as hoped. However, the newest project at Makupo is the building of the Chilanga Community Clinic to serve the surrounding community. Under the auspices of the local church, most of the funding has come from the students at a private school in Montreal – Royal West Academy School. Doug Miller brought plans with him on this trip. These plans had been drawn up and donated by a progressive Montreal architect and the OPSEU group agreed to start clearing the land set aside for the clinic.
Darlene Kaboni working with Chief Makupo
Samantha Payne hoes the dry earth
Amy Mackinnon hoeing the dry and dusty earth
Mary Cory tries out a different kind of hoe
On Monday afternoon we bathed after our dusty work and went into the nearby town of Kasungu to visit the Malawi AIDS Counselling and Resource Organization (MACRO). Katherine Nashile is the Administrator and she gave us a brief history of their organization.
MACRO was one of the organizations set up to fight the spread of HIV/ADIS in Malawi and their goal was to “provide quality HIV Prevention and Treatment Services”. They were created under the umbrella of the National AIDS Commission and funding comes from the UN Global Fund set up at the G8/G20 meetings in Kananaskis, Alberta 8 years ago, specifically to deal with malaria and AIDS. Canada has recently withdrawn its funding to the Global Fund, a decision that angers as we continue to witness the dire need in Malawi. This group travels around the region to remote rural areas, providing counseling, testing and referral services, challenging work in areas with low levels of literacy and poor living conditions. After the Global Fund began to provide Anti-Retro Viral drugs for distribution in countries like Malawi in 2005, the rate of HIV/ADIS has been reduced substantially – almost halved according to Ms. Nashile and her staff.
One of the main successes in the treatment of HIV/AIDS in Malawi has been the struggle to reduce the stigma and discrimination against those with HIV/AIDS. Before, especially in rural areas people with HIV/AIDS were chased out of their villages if they were known to have the disease and discrimination in employment was widespread. A massive educational program has lessened this stigma, making it easier for people to come forward for help. Now of course, there are still many challenges such as a sudden shortage of devised used for testing blood samples at MACRO. Normally people would be lined up to get into the clinic, but instead today it was almost deserted. As we shook hands with MACRO staff, a poster on the wall confirmed their philosophy: “Trust your counsellor to provide you with testing in complete confidentiality. Get tested today!”
Colourful cloth in the Kasungu Market - a must stop on the way back to Makupo