Rain, Rain…

We’re still doing rain dances here. Every time the weatherman forecasts another storm coming through, there is a collective intake of breath… a community wide inhalation like, “Oh! Maybe this will be the one to get us out of drought!” And then the weatherman inevitably says, “This is not going to be enough to get us out of the drought.” He’s such a Debbie Downer! So, we keep praying for rain. And when the rain comes, we don’t grumble. The inconveniences of rain boots and umbrellas and flooding roads and massive puddles… they are all born with a determination, a stalwart fortitude to bear through this “necessary evil.” The hills are green at last. The stream beds are flowing again. Local ponds are full and wildlife is finding water. We’re not out of the drought, but with each rain we are sighing relief.

 

And on the other side of the world, the rain won’t stop.

 

Toward the end of 2014, CompassioNow took on the support of another medical mission outreach program, that of Passion Center for Children’s Community Health Network in Malawi. And this rainy season in Malawi has not been good. Heavy flooding from the incessant downpours has caused countless homes to collapse, displacing thousands of persons and families. According to Eric Sythoff, director of the Passion Center, “In Zomba alone approximately 24,000 households have been displaced and are now living in schools, churches and health centers.”

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Sythoff explains further, “Right now we have children sleeping in the open because their homes are severely damaged. At least four houses (that we know of right now) from our Passion Center extended family have been destroyed and many houses need plastic sheeting and more grass for roofs to prevent further damage from rain, as well as doors and windows to keep the rain out. Also, treated drinking water is a major need as the government is concerned with a cholera outbreak due to poor sanitation and water source contamination. There are still households we can’t get to because roads and paths are blocked, which leaves people in our area who need clean cooking/eating utensils.”

 

On Feb. 3, the Passion Center staff joined with other relief agencies to provide supplies for displaced families. The PC staff went to the Namachete Primary school along with the Zomba District Disaster Committee to provide emergency relief care packages. “This school is in a remote area, hosting many people who have been displaced. We are working on identifying and helping those in our area. We have a number of pastors from our Passion Center Pastoral Ministry living here as well as one of our Community Health Network groups serving here.”

 

“The care packages were filled with: 5 kg bag of beans, 20 kg bag of Maize flour, 1 liter of cooking oil, 2 kg of salt and 1 roll of plastic sheeting for damaged homes. While they were going from each designated camps that housed those that have been displaced, they noticed more houses have collapsed due to another heavy thunderstorm. The disaster committee identified the following challenges: 1. lack of bedding, 2. lack of mosquito nets (classrooms don’t have any windows to keep mosquitoes out), and 3. lack of cooking utensils and storage buckets for water.” Sythoff further reports, “During the distribution, our staff prayed with individuals and shared the Gospel message in which 17 individuals gave their lives to Christ. As our team was returning to the Passion Center, another heavy thunderstorm hit and more houses gave way to the downpour.  We haven’t received reports of cholera outbreaks yet and we won’t know the extent of crop damage until the rains subside, but people are already preparing for these problems.”

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Immediate needs are as follows:

“The District Disaster Committee have identified the following challenges and need urgent supplies based on the living conditions of the displaced people:

1.  Lack of bedding (blankets and foam mattresses)

  1.  Lack of mosquito nets – this increases the risk for malaria because the classrooms do not have windows to keep mosquitoes out; the presence of more standing water attracts mosquitoes which carry the disease, increasing the likelihood for deaths from malaria for the young, sick, and elderly people.
  2.  Lack of cooking utensils and water storage buckets – many lost everything in the floods.
  3.  A critical need is fortified porridge for children under 8 years old.”

 

Please visit the Passion Center for Children website to make a direct donation, or visit the CompassioNow website to donate to medical relief for the children and families around Zomba.

Adding Malawi

Due to the generous gifts of our donors, we are thrilled to announce that CompassioNow is adding the Passion Center for Children in Zomba, Malawi, to the list of clinics we support. For nearly 10 years, the Passion Center has been actively “rescuing, redeeming, and restoring” children, widows, and communities. According to Eric Sythoff, President of the Passion Center, “The Passion Center provides food, shelter, medical care, clothes, & access to education to over 250 orphans. We are focused on the Whole Child, in the Whole Community for their Whole Lives.”Group-of-young-Kids-626x469
Our connection with the Passion Center began last year when we partnered with Rock of the Foothills Lutheran Church in LaVerne, CA, to ship donated medical supplies to the Passion Center.

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This coming year, we will be supporting the Community Health Network Project. Currently, the CHN supports the 137 surrounding villages through trained Community Based Groups of villagers eager to provide healthcare and education. Sythoff explains that since its beginnings 5 years ago, “the simple training in basic First Aid, hygiene and sanitation has now blossomed into a well trained & respected Network of Care for thousands. Additionally, most HIV and TB sufferers are too weak to travel to get their medicines. Our network is entrusted to bring these patients their medicines, provide updates on their condition and transport them- as well as other emergencies- via bicycle ambulances.”

The Community Health Network began when “Austin Chisuse, one of our Passion Kids came to us and asked us to train him and a few villagers who wanted to serve their fellow villagers in the area of Health Care. Mr. Chisuse is himself HIV+ as are many of the 40 CBO volunteers. In Malawi about 73% of the population lives in rural areas, it is in these rural areas that health care and health supplies are deplorably lacking. Since that initial request, Austin’s Community Based Group (CBO) has grown by 3 more and these CBOs provide sometimes the only Health care available to thousands of villagers.” The Passion Center provides training, supplies, and oversight for the Community Health Network.

Another way we are hoping to come alongside the Passion Center is through the purchase of newer bicycle ambulances to serve the surrounding villages. Sythoff explains, “Over the past three years we have provided the community groups with up to four Bicycle Ambulances of the older design. When we provide a Bicycle Ambulance we give them training on how to use and maintain them. We stress the important role the Bicycle Ambulances play in caring for the weak and sick, but we make it clear the use and maintenance of the Bicycle Ambulances is now their responsibility. The first one was given to Austin Chisuse’s CBO, and they used it all the time, transporting patients daily and sometimes twice a day. This group maintained their Bicycle Ambulance until the pedal crank actually broke.”

Buffalo Bicycle Ambulance

Since that ambulance broke, the Passion Center has been raising funds to purchase a newer design of the bicycle ambulance. Two have been purchased to date. Sythoff explains, “We keep one of the Bicycle Ambulances at the Passion Center in the event a child or person from the surrounding community needs to get to the Hospital or Clinic and there is no vehicle or driver around. Another Bicycle Ambulance is in use with Austin Chisuse’s CBO. This one is used extensively. Both of these Bicycle Ambulances are of the newer design, which is made stronger and more suitable for the village roads and conditions.” By providing more bicycle ambulances to the other CBO groups in other villages, we can improve the quality and speed of health care to the villagers there as well.

We are thrilled to be offering support for this network and to be bringing healthcare to more of the “world’s least served.” To learn more, visit http://www.passioncenterforchildren.org. To donate directly to CompassioNow’s work, visit http://www.compassionow.org.