Sending love to Malawi

A kindhearted dad from Carlanstown near Kells who has started a campaign to help orphaned children in a poverty-stricken part of Malawi says witnessing the conditions that they are living in is "heart-breaking."

Derek Gaffney and his wife Jean, a native of Malawi have pledged to support a feeding programme called "Amatikonda" meaning "They love us."

This programme helps feed over 400 kids, the sick, the elderly and others unable to survive on their own.

This is close to the family’s heart as the people in need are mostly from Jean’s mum Margaret’s local area that she still lives in called Chigumula Township in Blantyre and her village of origin Kapichi in Thyolo District.

Margaret Limbani is part of this small feeding group that at the moment can only come up with enough funds and resources for one nutritional meal for each person per week.

For some, this is the only real meal they get as they have to survive on their own for the rest of the week.

The group's resources and volunteers are also wearing thin. Now Derek and Jean want to help the people of the area and are hoping to raise 2,500 to support them.

Derek with wife Jean and son Cayden now 4.

Speaking on why this is so important, the Carlanstown man said:

“People who live in this rural part of Malawi don’t have the infrastructure and services that we have in Ireland. Jean’s mother lives in an area where the water is rationed every day, you might only get two hours every day to use it.

“When we went out first and saw how people were living there, we just wanted to help them.

“Since Jean and I met we have been contributing every year for extra meals to be added at Christmas time. And plan to keep this as an annual tradition.

When we started doing this the feeding programme was able to provide 2 or more meals per week which at the time seemed an extreme shortfall of what would be needed,

“But now to even get back to that for some of those kids it would be a blessing.

“This is part of not only Jean’s heritage but also the heritage of our four-year-old son Cayden.”

Local volunteers contribute a lot of time and some money to keeping this feeding programme alive but they cannot do it alone as Derek explains:

“The volunteers have their hearts in the right place and give what they can, but their valued efforts are currently falling short.

“Some of their main contributions are to teach and to grow crops in their gardens or rent small plots to either use for food products or to sell to raise money, as well as animals like goats and chickens for meat and eggs, they would sometimes use the proceeds of buying and selling miscellaneous items.

“In a place like this it can be very difficult or nearly impossible to raise funds from events, activity fundraisers etc as most people are already in poverty.”

Derek says his first visit to Malawi was a shock to the system witnessing how people were living in poverty. He added:

“My first trip there was an eye-opener, to see how people were living there really made you appreciate what you had at home. Its like what it was like a hundred years ago here.

“It’s like stepping back in time but bringing technology with you. You see someone carrying water on their head while carrying a smart phone in their hand!

“There was a lot of children begging which was heart-breaking to see.

“The people are so friendly, Malawi has the nick name, the warm heart of Africa.

“They have to make their money to live day to day in the market buying and selling things, they do try and use their own resources,but it is very difficult to get ahead. In Malawi you are either very wealthy or very poor. If they could get more volunteers, it would increase what they could do.

“Government funding always runs out and the value of the currency over there is very bad

“Somebody’s house over there in some of the villages would be the equivalent of a garden shed over here with no windows or doors.

“Some people work twelve-hour days for the equivalent of one euro a day.”

To donate to the cause search “Help feed over 400 orphans in Malawi” on GofundMe.