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A HUGE thank you to all our donors who made Brenda’s motorbike possible!
The SAFE staff in Malawi expressed a need for Brenda, our Field Supervisor, to have transportation to the rural villages in Malawi. Now Brenda can train, monitor and evaluate the progress in our villages. And since a picture is worth a thousand words, here is the result of your generosity:

Beads & Solar Cooking

Makungula was simply humming!….and lots of singing, as the women worked and were trained, they made up songs about what they were learning and about us as facilitators…one would sing out the message in Chichewa; then the whole group would chime in on a chorus.

A friend from Napa Valley came with her husband who is doing dental training in Lilongwe…and we had made arrangements for her to teach Solar Cooking.  Claudia is a certified chef–Paris and has done TV and writing; lovely Christian and done some projects for the UN….so she had researched and made templates and brought necessary materials to get us started. Mary and I went to Blantyre Packaging and bought 3′ x 4′ carton board and  special glue to adhere the heavy duty foil. !0 of the women made the solar shields.

Then, Claudia had asked if she could bring a potter friend!!  YES!….you know how I have always wanted to try a bead-making activity with the village women–it happened!!!  Teri, the potter from Napa, was great…taking 10 of the women and having brought tools proceeded to get them making clay beads of all shapes and sizes….how to make them uniform, smooth and possibly ‘marketable’.  Each of the women brought clay they had dug from their villages so we have many different hues…and when they are fired they will have more colors as we will throw cow dung, different barks and leaves in to get various colors and designs.

The Makungula Organizing Committee were wonderful!  They dug the pit for firing and helped set up.  You all can be so proud of the villages you support….as they were all so committed to a successful training and possible income generating from the beads and better nutrition with no deforestation from the solar.  We worked all together from 8AM to 5PM for 2 days….our SAFE driver picking up all the women along the highway as they had walked in from their villages. Then, we supplied a ‘tea break’/refreshments and later a lunch of grilled chicken which all were very happy with.

But the joy for me was to see the JOY of the LORD in all involved–At the conclusion, with prayer and tears, we left with the facilitators giving a solar ‘kit’ and pot to each village, wooden spoons and pens.  They all know how to do the ‘cooking’—as Claudia set up 4 solar shields…but God didn’t give us sun….so all will test their kits in their villages. ( This is our cool season….really cold for us and so we had to be all bundled up…then, huddled in front of our fireplace upon our return to our home.)

But, the women were all VERY motivated to use the shields and black pots we gave them (the latter was an ‘experience’!….as Mary and I couldn’t find black pots necessary for retaining the heat; but, Claudia, Teri and I went to our open-air Zomba market and had a boy make us 12 pots of galvanized steel sheets, then had a local man paint them black the night before the training.  Can you believe?!?  It was really God providing as the boy had them made by 4PM the same day….good, sturdy and with a lid for $4.00 each.  Its Africa!!!  There are ingenious and creative people who use what they have!!  Since there is no fire, but the heat comes from the sun….the painted pots worked!

As for the beads—the 10 ‘bead-makers’ didn’t take any ‘breaks’—so motivated and some were local ‘potters’ and before we knew it….they were making flower pots from their local clay…they are lovely and when dry will be fired in the pit.  AND—we have hundreds, no thousands of clay beads!!  Teri took some back to Napa where she will use commercial glazes to get various colors and designs.  She is so interested that she wants to help us with the marketing if the firing is successful.  This could be the income generating activity (IGA) we have needed for village women…..pray with us!  To dream of a small electric kiln, we could really make lovely colored beads….but God knows where this will go!  As for the ‘way forward’, as we say in Malawi.

Mary and I worked all day yesterday on a proposal in to the Irish Aid organization who are calling for efficient village ‘stoves’ to reduce the smoke inhalation and deforestation….sooo, isn’t God’s timing great! ?!  We will use all 10 villages in our proposal, plus training in Kachindamoto and northern villages.  We envision a ‘multiplication’ effect with those trained, each training 4 more in their villages….and with 4 series of trainings, we could have over 5,000 women trained to use solar energy!!! Yea!…and Yea, God….for the sun!

So, pray with us that the Lord will give us wisdom as we put our proposal together,,,,it is due June 30….and that it will be granted.  If we get the grant, we would begin right away with trainings, continuing until March 31, 2014.  The village committees, gogos, SAFE Youth and preschool caregivers in all of our 16 projects will be the ones to make it successful….so do pray for ‘vision’ and ‘commitment’ by the villages…..and success as they solar cook!

What a joy this week has been….I took the 2 gals to Blantyre to the bus for Lilongwe where they fly to the States….they were in tears and said this had been a high-light of their lives…..wonderful to see how God uses each of His own in their uniquenesses and talents!!!

SAFE Haven is up and running!

Team Malawi 2012 traveled last summer to bring supplies and create “SAFE Haven,” a place for local children to hang out and learn! Here is a photo of the neighborhood kids enjoying the SAFE rec program! God is good!

“Like cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a distant land.” Prov. 25:25

This time last year…

This time last year  the “Ark,” now SAFE Haven, was being built and painted by one of our Malawi mission teams.

Update from Charlotte Day: Wheel chairs that came in the container, given by Free Wheelchair ministry –20 of them were given at Makungula. Also small fuzzy blankets were given to each of over 1,000 village preschoolers! Praise God!
Support was given to over 1,500 gogos so that they could buy fertilizer for their maize ‘gardens’.  The land is so poor, that for a good harvest of their staple food, commercial fertilizer is needed. The government gave subsidy coupons to the poorest of the poor, which included the gogos (grandmothers) with whom we minister; however in order to get the 2 –110# bags, they needed the funds. This, plus money for seeds from the Gogo Grandmothers of USA.  It is really a ‘hand-up’ and not a ‘hand-out’ as they can sell the extra and they give back harvested dried maize to the preschools for the children’s feeding program.  If they have a good harvest, their ‘widows mite’ of the maize they give, collectively, provides enough dry maize to grind and make porridge for the 5 day a week, year long orphans and vulnerable children feeding for the whole year!
Photo:  lf. to rt.-Tiffany (new Project Coordinator), SAFE driver, Brenda, Ben (Director of Finance)

School Supplies for The Students in Malawi

‘the shoreline’ school supply fundraiser

Knowing that Malawi is a very poor country, and the Why Wait? program is in desperate need of help, the SAFE Board Education Committee held a school supply fundraiser. We asked families at ‘the shoreline’ church to donate supplies like markers, pencils, crayons, and notebooks. About a month before the local schools began, there was a table a church containing these items. Items were priced 5 for $10, in order to raise a substantial amount for SAFE’s Why Wait? For two consecutive Sundays, supplies were sold and an amazing total of $1,587 was raised! We were extremely thankful for the success and God’s provision over the event and the Malawian people. 
We had communicated with SAFE staff in Malawi prior to the event to ask what supplies they needed most, and the answer was Bibles. Bibles they would use for the Why Wait? curriculum to teach the young adults that they are special and that God loves them. 
We hope that this will be the first annual event and we will be able to continue at ‘the shoreline’ church next summer and hopefully expand to other churches as well. Since most families only earn about $1 a day in Malawi, the success of the fundraiser proved its worth with very minimal effort. It only took a few days to organize the event and two Sundays to sell all of the supplies.

The First Blog Entry!

Posted by Will and Claudia Gaston.

Subject: Our visit to Malawi May 2010.

During our visit to Malawi we got to see many examples of the work that SAFE-Africa is doing.  There are projects going on in villages to help grandparents who are raising their orphaned grandchildren; preschools for young children have been funded, feeding programs established and their teachers have been trained; and there is a life skills curriculum being taught in many schools, which includes an AIDS prevention component.   

We went to several schools where we toured the facilities, watched several aspects of the life skills training, spoke to teachers and administrators.  There are great statistics verifying that dropout rates and teen pregnancy numbers have been lowered in schools where the “Why Wait?” curriculum is taught.  The premise is to teach the children that they are special and their lives have value.  A few of the schools were comparable to what we might see in inner cities, but many had no books, very few teachers (one school had 8 grades, 980 students and 4 teachers) and were grossly overcrowded.   The children were very respectful, excited to have visitors, genuinely enthusiastic about learning and happy.

In the villages, we were often greeted by singing, dancing and hugs from the grandmothers.  They usually gave us gifts of bananas, tomatoes and peanuts and in one village, they cooked us lunch.  They made crafts to be sold in the US to help raise funds and, as with the school children, they displayed great joy in spite of their humble circumstances.  One really amazing event that we were part of in a village was when a 17 year old girl who is raising her younger siblings (their parents died) was given a house built by a nonprofit group.  She was brought to the group’s attention by SAFE-Africa; she had been living under a tree and some of the villagers sometimes let her stay with them when it rained.  It was another highlight to see the keys to a brand new (very modest) home handed over to Flossie one of the first days we were in Malawi.

We also visited several of the preschools and youth centers supported by SAFE-Africa.  Some of the buildings were funded by our group, all had feeding programs, trained teachers and lots of adorable kids.  Some of the older children performed drama skits for us and we were always greeted warmly. 

When we visited the hospital, we went to the malnutrition ward – very touching.  And we briefly toured the pediatric ward, where families were lined up outside, sitting in the dirt, awaiting access to the hospital.   We also toured the “kangaroo ward”, where premature babies were swaddled tightly against their mothers’ chests to simulate being in the womb while they gain weight and get healthy.  This eye-opening part of the trip was one of the many places where we felt more than grateful for the blessings we often take for granted here.

The physical conditions in Malawi are extremely poor.  Most homes do not have electricity or running water.  In neighborhoods in the city, the electricity goes out several times a week.  A “market” is often simply piles of used items in heaps on the ground on the side of the road.  Only a few roads are paved and the dirt roads are very rocky and full of deep holes.  It is not uncommon to see women with small children washing their clothes in streams on the side of the road.   We saw lots of women are walking along the roads everywhere carrying large buckets of water or maize, laundry or even logs on their heads.

The other conditions we observed included people who are, without exception, smiling, happy, joy-filled, welcoming, generous and hard working.  We met countless people who spend the bulk of their time helping others and trying to find solutions to the problems and poverty in Malawi.  These people were in the airports, on our planes, in our hotel, at the game park; they included teachers, nonprofit employees, volunteers, medical workers, missionaries and retired executives.

We very much appreciate the prayers, encouraging words, thoughtful or funny emails and kind understanding of our friends and loved ones.  It made a huge difference and cheered us up when we needed a boost and we will be forever grateful.    Thank you and we hope to be able to return the favor someday.