|By Admin1 (admin) on Thursday, July 17, 2003 - 9:10 am: Edit Post|
Malawi RPCV Tom Vitaglione volunteer at Malawi Children's Village in Mangochi
Malawi RPCV Tom Vitaglione volunteer at Malawi Children's Village in Mangochi
African AIDS agony transcends nations' borders
By PAUL GRONDAHL
Copyright 2003 Albany Times Union
LILONGWE, Malawi -- There was a moment, perhaps a dozen years ago, when there seemed to be some hope for the nations of sub-Saharan Africa.
The world was on the brink of economic expansion. The geopolitical climate was shifting away from the confrontation of superpowers. Resources once allocated for war preparations, it seemed, might be channeled into economic development.
But then so many of the nations of Africa began a death spiral into the worst global pandemic since the Black Death. And America didn't seem to notice.
It shouldn't have come as a surprise. The United States had ignored Africa through most of its modern history. For a while during the Cold War, Washington put the continent on its strategic chessboard. But after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, U.S. policy-makers again lost interest in Africa.
And that was when the scourge of AIDS struck the continent.
AIDS is the major killer in sub-Saharan Africa, more than the region's other scourges -- war, civil strife and famine. The United Nations reports that 75 percent of the 40 million people with HIV live in sub-southern Africa.
For the price of a movie ticket and a Coke for the 1 billion people who live in the First World -- the industrialized, wealthy nations -- the march of AIDS through sub-Saharan Africa could be slowed to a crawl.
But we seem not to care that much about places few of us have heard of and even fewer could locate on a map. Take Malawi, for instance. Why should we care about a small country in southeastern Africa, one of the poorest nations in the world?
Unlike other African nations, Malawi has no oil, no diamonds or gold, and no other valuable resources that a First World nation might wish to exploit.
Malawi resides in the Fourth World -- so desperately poor and in such an utter state of collapse that it doesn't even qualify as a member of the underdeveloped Third World.
The five-year, $15 billion aid package to fight AIDS that President Bush signed into law last month will help 12 African countries. Malawi, so small and insignificant, is not among them.
Bush embarks today on a five-nation tour of Africa, where he is likely to promote the administration's pledge to combat AIDS.
There are some lifelines of hope here. Individuals, organizations and churches have seen the need, and they are acting upon it.
In reaching out to Malawi and other places in Africa, ordinary Americans are making extraordinary sacrifices. Some have dug deep into savings. Many have donated food and clothing. Others have given up vacation time or taken a leave of absence to teach orphans, to build schools and to ease the suffering of the dying. All of them retain hope in the transformative power of one.
They are planting seeds of redemption in a continent parched with despair.
"Returning to Malawi is like coming home again," says Tom Vitaglione, a Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi from 1964 to 1966.
That's where he met his wife, Frances. She worked in tuberculosis control. He was assigned to an agricultural project.
The now-retired couple from Raleigh, N.C., made their third visit to Malawi in March. They volunteered at Malawi Children's Village in Mangochi, which serves more than 3,500 AIDS orphans in 37 villages in the southern region.
The Vitagliones and other Peace Corps veterans helped start the program, which villagers run on an annual budget of about $70,000 in donations from Americans. It provides medical care, food, clothing, education and financial support for orphans, in the care of guardians, and on-site emergency housing for the most destitute.
"We're here as a compassionate presence and to help in any way we can," says Vitaglione, a former North Carolina children's health official.
"This place gets into your blood," says Frances, who has remained in contact with the Kumsindas, a Malawi family she worked with in a tuberculosis program in the '60s.
At a March 9 ceremony in Malawi marking the 40th anniversary of Peace Corps volunteers there, President Bakili Muluzi thanked the returning humanitarians, saying, "You are playing a crucial role as we battle HIV/AIDS."
Malawi Children's Village was the brainchild of Kevin Denny, a psychiatrist living in Canandaigua and a former Malawi Peace Corps volunteer. He developed it with Chakunga Sibale, a medical worker in Malawi.
Denny makes frequent visits to Malawi to coordinate the program with Sibale. He stresses that the needs of children orphaned by AIDS are growing.
Also making a March visit to the Malawi Children's Village compound was Bill Schmidt of Kansas City, Mo., a Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi from 1967 to 1969 who worked on a child malnutrition program. Schmidt worked closely at the time with Henry Kangunga, a physician's assistant who works with the orphan program.
"I'd kept in contact with Henry over the years, and it was wonderful to be able to reunite with him at Malawi Children's Village," says Schmidt, who is also a physician's assistant.
Schmidt and his wife, Cindy, spent a week among the orphans representing the Rotary Club of Kansas City, which raises money for the orphans.
Other Americans are at work in the impoverished southeast African nation of 11 million people.
Jim Judd, a bald, lanky, 77-year-old missionary from Macon, Ga., hasn't lost the twang in his voice or the Christian zeal in his heart after 47 years working in Malawi.
"When I came in 1956, it was just bush. There were no paved roads. I was the only white man around," says Judd, who started a Church of Christ Bible school in the village of Mzuzu.
Judd and his wife, a nurse, raised their five children in the bush of northern Malawi. The work has summoned all his skills as preacher, certified engineer and lawyer, and his doctorate in psychology. A son, Jim Jr., is helping his parents and opening another Bible school.
"We don't make a big thing about it. We just do what's needed to help the Malawians," said the elder Judd.
|By Anonymous (220.127.116.11) on Wednesday, August 29, 2007 - 10:26 am: Edit Post|
APPLICATION FOR A JOB AS A VOLUNTEER
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OTHER NAMES Dalitso Dzili
DATE OF BIRTH 18th September 1980
MARITAL STATUS Single
RELIGION Christian (Bornagain)
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