For Christmas part of the present from my parents was this story and a hand carved pen from Africa.
"This gift has a story. This is my friend Lucy Kandioni from Malawi, Africa. I met her last summer in Lethbridge.
I emailed the Relief Society sisters in our ward in Lethbridge and asked if anyone would be interested in helping me put together some baby bundles for the maternity ward in the Lethbridge Regional Hospital. My daughter-in-law, Erin, was working on the maternity ward and told me that the nurses had had to go out and buy stuff for a needy new mom who had absolutely nothing to take her baby home in—not even a blanket. She told me that they used to have a service group provide bundles for situations like this, but that for some reason they had stopped providing them. We decided to fill the need.
I got a response back from my friend Tisha. She said, “Perfect timing! I have a friend visiting here from Malawi, Africa and she’s used to spending all day everyday serving others. She had just asked Tisha if there was something she could do to help others while she was here. Tisha told her about our baby bundle project and it was just what she had hoped for.
Lucy joined the Relief Society Sisters that came to our home to make baby things. While we worked she told us how she came to be in Canada.
Tisha’s brother, Tate, was a missionary in Malawi. While there he met Lucy and saw all that she was doing to help orphans of aids victims in her country. He was so impressed with what she was doing that he promised himself that when he got home from his mission, he would return to Malawi to see how he could help her with her work.
After completing his mission, Tate returned to Africa to see Lucy. When he arrived he found that Lucy was very ill and could not be treated in Malawi. He decided that the best way to help her with her work was to help her get the treatment she needed to get her back to health so that she could continue to care for all the children. So, he returned home and enlisted his family’s help to raise the money for a plane ticket to bring Lucy to Canada. She arrived in June, 2008.
Tate arranged with doctors in the area to treat her at no cost. While Lucy remained in Canada to regain her health, he also arranged for dentists to do all her dental work for free, and an optometrist to test her eyes and provide her with glasses. He wanted to have Lucy in the best possible shape to continue her work.
When Lucy had found out how much the plane ticket to bring her to Canada was going to cost she had asked Tate to just give her the money to help the orphans instead and let her die. All she could think about was how much it would help them. But of course, Tate said no. He told her it was too important to keep her healthy so she could continue to work to provide for the children. It took quite a while before Lucy was convinced to accept the offer.
When Lucy had her eyes checked and was prescribed glasses, she asked for the money instead and said she would get by without glasses and the money would help the children. Again, the doctor refused saying that she would be able to do her work to look after the children better if she could see good. Everywhere Lucy went while she was in Canada she did everything she could to get as much money to help the kids as she could.
It was during Lucy’s recovery that I had emailed Tisha and Lucy came to visit. While we sewed baby things, Lucy told us about her life in Malawi. She told us about her family, her day to day life, and about running an orphanage to care for the children. We also learned that when Lucy came to Canada she brought no belongings with her except the clothes on her back. She wanted every bit of luggage space to bring things to sell here to raise money for the care of the orphans. She had hand carved nativities and Noah’s ark full of pairs of animals, beautiful necklaces made from local seeds, note cards with photos of the children on (Tate took the pictures), key chains, letter openers, and many other little trinkets that locals from Malawi had made. I bought a number of beautiful things.
I returned to school in September and thought that it would be great for the kids at our school to meet Lucy and learn about her work. I called and asked her if she would be interested in coming and talking to the kids. She was delighted to, so a date was set.
Lucy had several things that hadn’t been sold yet and she brought a number of treasures that Tate had brought home with him, including a Malawi flag. Lucy met with each class and told us about her country and her work.
She explained that long ago there was a lot of fighting in her country and there was a lot of bloodshed. That is why there is a lot of red on their flag. But they ended the conflict, became a peaceful country and have been ever since. She said they are very poor, but a very happy people.
The peace in their country is something that has become an important part of their culture. Even though every country that surrounds them continues to have war within, Malawi continues to be a peaceful country. Many people in surrounding countries escape to Malawi for refuge during periods of political unrest, revolution and war. They understand that they are welcome to stay in Malawi until things settle down in their own country as long as they live peaceably. When the turmoil is over and it’s safe, they return to their own homes.
Lucy told us that aids has taken many lives, especially parents, leaving many children orphaned. She noticed that many of the people who were better off were taking advantage of the orphans, treating them like slaves and keeping them from going to school. This upset Lucy a lot, so she decided to see if she could do something about it.
She went to her government to find out what she would have to do to register as an orphanage. She did what was required and became the director. Lucy’s orphanage doesn’t have a building. There was no money provided to build one and the people are too poor to come up with the money for materials to do it themselves. .
So, Lucy’s orphanage takes in an area of 12 km by 16 km. Most of the children are looked after by older ladies whose families have either died from aids or grown up and caring for their own families. She meets with the ladies at ‘meeting places” like by a big rock or a certain tree. Lucy travels the area on foot everyday to check on the kids to make sure they are going to school, to see that they are all well and to find out if there are any needs they have that she can help provide.
Lucy showed us a picture of a 13 year-old girl with a baby on her back. She asked the students who were thirteen to raise their hands. She turned to one of the thirteen year old girls and asked, “What do you think it would be like if your parents died and you were left to raise five brothers and sisters all by yourself?” She went on to explain that that is what happened to this little girl. It was hard for the junior high students to imagine themselves in her position.
While Lucy was explaining her life to one of our Junior high classes, the kids asked if she had a car. She said no. She asked one of the boys to stand up on a riser in the library. He did. But when he realized that she was going to put him on her back, he said, “No, no!” Lucy is a very small lady and he was afraid of hurting her. But she insisted that she did this all the time and reassured him that she did this all the time and it would be fine. He very reluctantly stood on the riser. Then Lucy laid the trunk of his body across her shoulders and draped one arm and one leg on either side of her front so he could hold him securely. She then carried him around the room, saying, “This is how I get sick children to the hospital.”
A junior high student asked what she did when she needed a rest. She replied that that was rather difficult if there wasn’t a stump or something nearby to get the child to stand on. She said it wasn’t so bad carrying the child once he was on her back, but getting him back up without something to stand on was very difficult.
She explained that she asked the government to give her a bike so she could use it to get the kids to the hospital when they were sick. But the government said no. She asked one of the junior high boys to stand up on a riser in the library, saying she would show them how she got the kids to the hospital.
Our junior high students were absolutely shocked. We all looked at each other and had the same thought at the same time. “We can get Lucy a bike!” So we told her right then and there that we would get her a bike. She was so grateful!
When the kids went to leave the room, Lucy started hugging them all and saying over and over, “Oh, thank-you for my bike, thank-you for my bike! God bless you, thank-you for my bike.”
Lucy had one hundred and thirty children included in her orphanage. But the government took a bunch of the older ones and put them into trade school to give them training to provide a way to earn a living. She has seventy-nine children now.
Lucy came to visit the school twice and both times we could see that she is a woman filled with love. She’s like a kid magnet. The kids hugged her and hugged her. She clearly had a huge impact on them. The second time she came we got the camera out and asked who wanted their picture taken with Lucy. We took a ton of pictures. The kids were anxious to have a remembrance of Lucy—some of them begging for ‘just one more’, just one more’!
Lucy returned to Malawi the first week of October. Again, when she got on the plane she had her suitcases full. But this time they were full of things she had purchased for the children at garage sales while she was recovering form her illness. She took nothing but the clothes on her back for herself.
We had several fund-raisers and very quickly raised the money for the bike. Lucy will be sending us a picture of her on her bike as soon as I get a disposable camera to her.
The students in my class will be writing letters to some of the orphan children in the New Year.
I made some arrangements with Lucy before she left. I told her that if she could send more things from Malawi, we would sell them for her and get the money directly to her. This way there would be no middleman taking more than she would get for the kids. At the beginning of December, we received a parcel from Malawi mostly full of pens like this one. There were a few other items like batik artwork, elephant tail bracelets, seed and metal jewelry, etc. So, this is a gift to you and to the children in Malawi. Most of the money spent on this gift went to help look after the children and the rest (except for shipping) went to local artisans from villagers who live near Lucy. They bring the things they make to what they call a career market that’s similar to our farmers markets and Christmas’s bazaars.
If possible we hope to continue to sell things that are made by people near Lucy’s home to support them in supporting themselves. And it will also support Lucy’s gracious work with innocent children who are born into such sad circumstances that were not of their doing.
I still have a large number of pens to sell and we will be getting hand carved wooden nativities and more batik artwork during the year. If you want help Lucy’s cause you can purchase them for $12.00 plus postage or you can make donations by sending them to me and I will get them directly to Lucy—every cent of it. Or if you want to purchase any of the things we bring in during the year, just let me know. I can email you pictures of what we get.
Meeting Lucy and spending some time with her has made me so much more grateful for how blessed I am to have been born in Canada and to live in the favorable circumstances I do. All of us need to remember how blessed we are and give more of the abundance we have to those who are less fortunate—whether in our own local community, our own country or those in our global community.
May you continue to be so blessed and so prosperous as you are. May you be generous in giving to those who are less fortunate. May you have the kind of happiness that the poor in Malawi have. Happy is the heart that gives! Merry Christmas!"
--written by Dixie Davis, December 2008
What a wonderful gift from my momma. And if all goes according to plan, my mom and I are going to take a trip to visit Lucy in Malawi next summer. I am so excited as I have wanted to go to Africa since I was young. I want to do some fundraising for Lucy. We'll see as the year progesses as to what exactly I can figure out to do. Perhaps donating something sewn or a photo shoot.