June 28, 2002 - Daily Messanger: NPCA Award Winner Chakunga Sibale is seeking to raise awareness and funds for children orphaned by AIDS in Malawi

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NPCA Award Winner Chakunga Sibale is seeking to raise awareness and funds for children orphaned by AIDS in Malawi

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Chakunga Sibale is seeking to raise awareness and funds for children orphaned by AIDS.*

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Chakunga Sibale is seeking to raise awareness and funds for children orphaned by AIDS.

CANANDAIGUA - Chakunga Sibale and Canandaigua resident Kevin Denny are separated by thousands of miles and vastly different cultures but each wants to bring food, medical care and education to the children orphaned by AIDS in Sibale's local district in Malawi, Africa.

Ultimately, they want to bring the villagers hope for a better future.

Sibale, 42, who directs the Malawi Children's Village project he co-founded with Denny in 1997, received the National Host Country award from the Peace Corps Saturday in a Washington, D.C., ceremony for his work there. Sibale lives in the village of Nesanga with his wife and three children, and runs a clinic central to the program.

Through the project, Sibale serves 3,000 African children in 37 villages in the Mangochi district as the primary medical officer. He has eight years of medical training and specializes in women's and children's health, but since his home country has no medical school, he cannot earn the title of medical doctor.

Nearly 1 million Malawian children have been orphaned by AIDS as of this year, according to government officials. AIDS has been mainly heterosexually spread in Africa. In some areas of Malawi, as many as 40 percent of adults of reproductive age are HIV positive.

"An entire generation of productive workers have been lost," said Susan Wilkins of Canandaigua, who is a board member for the project and returned April 1 from her first visit to the villages.

About a third of those orphaned may contract AIDS from their mothers. Aged grandparents carried most of the strain, some caring for as many as 14 orphaned grandchildren at a time, she said.

Sibale, two nurses and Malawian volunteers from each village distribute food, clothing and medicine to the orphans and village families who take the orphans in, relieving the strain. Now, a grandmother may only care for four or five orphans while other extended family members or villagers care for the rest, Denny said. The program's annual operating budget is $40,000, which translates to about $20 to care for one orphan per year, he said.

Compounding needs this year has been a devastating famine from flooding, accompanied by cholera.

With the help of the Canandaigua Rotary Club, the Finger Lakes Regional Rotary district and a sister Rotary in Arkansas, the program was able to distribute $60,000 worth of emergency maize and seed to orphans and caretakers.

Because maize reserves were depleted already and distributions were only enough to survive this season, villagers will experience back-to-back famines, Wilkins said. Despite that, she was still shocked the villagers could be thankful after life-threatening conditions.

"They have an adaptability and resiliency that all peoples can benefit from," she said.

The next long-range goal is to train villagers in irrigation. The Mangochi district is on the southern tip of Lake Malawi, which runs nearly two-thirds the length of the country. "It's a shame to see a country like Malawi having no food when there is a huge lake and good resources," Sibale said.

Goulds Pump in Seneca Falls donated a 15-horsepower submersible pump in 1997 and six villages now have begun irrigation. Sibale will visit Goulds Pump again next week seeking further assistance.

Because Sibale, Denny and others have earned the trust of district village chiefs, the program is finally beginning to realize its potential.

"What keeps us going is a tangible sense of community," Denny said. "Regardless how devastated by AIDS, poverty, lousy government, or lack of rain, the extended family is still there."

Sibale will be honored at a gathering Saturday at 5:30 p.m. in a Canandaigua home, and is available until July 9 for speaking events. Call Denny at (585) 393-1627 for more information on the reception or speaking engagements.

Visit www.friendsofmalawi.org for further information on the Malawi Children's Village project. Tax-deductible donations can made to "Malawi Children's Village" and mailed to: Treasurer Garry Prime, 20 Pond Park Road, Hingham, Ma. 02043.

©Daily Messenger 2002

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