I just got off the phone speaking to Dan Shulters. He’s in Malawi now and about to go to bed. It’s early morning here and mid-evening there. The sun sets year round in Malawi at 6:00pm. Life begins early, before the intense heat of the day sets in. The rainy season is now on its way and this will bring new challenges with leaky sheet metal roofs and ants seeking refuge in houses. Dan gave me the full update of his current status which I am sharing below.
Well, I haven’t really had a chance to settle in yet. I hit the ground running. We’ve been rebuilding homes, repairing and replacing roofing to prepare for the rainy season, assisting in hosting American visitors, visiting local chiefs. Since I’ve been back we have seen, in addition to the normal health issues, more serious injuries than I’ve seen here before. I’m realizing just how great the need is and how ill equipped we are over here. There is a baby that received 2nd and 3rd degree burns and full thickness burns covering his back. He was left untreated for five months. A young girl broke her leg. The bone jutted out as well. We have also had a “gogo” (grandmother or grandfather) with a broken ankle and a 13 month old with a broken arm. All we can do is provide first aid to prepare them for transportation to the clinic and pay for their medical costs. At ten dollars a day, that adds up fast with limited funds. For the baby I used some of my EMT training to apply a gel and secure a full bandage to cover their back, but with no anesthetic available it is tough to do anything more than just that and pray.
Dan, what is needed to be better equipped for these types of situations?
Medical First Aid Trauma supplies. These recent incidents have opened my eyes to how poorly supplied we are to face any serious medical need. Even as this is being typed, another foot injury is at my door. As I stated above, the cost of sustaining assistance is not doable with our current funds. At some point there will be a time that I will have to say “no” to someone needing medical help as things become more financially dire. I do not want to see that day come.
The first article was great for sparking interest and creating awareness. I felt overwhelmed to discover even some friends that I’ve been telling for the last three years what I’ve been up to had no idea until it was published what it is really like over here. I went to coffee before I left and a guy recognized me from the pictures and handed me a $20 and said, “God Bless.” Conversation and local curiosity increased. Yet as wonderful as all of this is, the need is still greater. Action is what Malawi needs.
What can we do to help support you?
The most immediate need right now is medical supplies. Not just bandaids, but bandages and splints and antibiotic wound dressings and other serious first aid supplies. A drop off will be available at Dan’s Shoe Repair for the donation of these items to transport them to Malawi in March. A wonderful, yet time sensitive, opportunity has been offered as well. Because we were not able to raise enough money to pay for the drill pipe needed, an anonymous angel has made an offer to match up to $3000 for donations made toward the drill pipe for the water well rig. This is crucial to get the pipe into the container along with the drill rig. If it does not make this container it could be a year or more or possibly never for it to arrive so we can begin drilling wells. The urgency for this offer is that it expires December 20th of this year for donations to be matched.
Can you give us your wishlist?
Wish List Items – Accomplished
Bore Hole Rig for Wells
Wish List Items – Needed
Well Drilling Pipe ($6000 with shipping)
Vehicle to transport Well Rig in the bush (est. $4500)
First Aid Trauma Supplies
Purchasing our storage and headquarters in the village ($4000)
Motorcycle for quick village transportation ($1500)
Yes. The owners of Bloomsbury Coffee above Bloomsbury Books in downtown Ashland have kindly offered up their gallery wall space for us to display some of the African art we bring back to sell. The month of December we will have a selection up all month long for sale. The rest of the year and in December we sell miscellaneous paintings, prints, jewelry, fabrics and wood carvings from Malawi at Dan’s Shoe Repair next door. Bloomsbury Coffee has also volunteered their shop for the evening of February 22 5:30-8:30pm for “Coffee, Tea, and Malawi” while I am back for a visit to talk about what we are doing in Malawi. We are inviting the public to enjoy a variety of Malawian coffee and teas with a sampling of chocolate and pastries and a silent auction to support Steps4Malawi.
What does your day-to-day look like?
Typically it starts at 4am with the hustle and bustle of village life and African birdsong. Visitors locally or from surrounding villages start to show up around 5 or 6am ranging from visiting church leaders, people needing medical help, or others looking for assistance. Wednesdays and Saturdays are market days so I spend those days going to market to get much needed supplies. The day-to-day varies. It can involve visiting churches in surrounding villages, or doing repair on the homes of those in need, visiting people in their homes either to see what they need or just visit for the sake of their friendship. There is one widow named Teresa who is in her 90’s (and still gardening barefoot year round) who loves to just sit and visit and I appreciate her hugs. Other days can be spent assisting Wendy of chidubahrising.com with the school, feeding program, assorted repair needs, or just taking care of goats. Basically in Malawi you can plan all you want, but you never know how your day is going to go.
The rainy season starts about mid-November and typically goes through March. What’s it like? Well, it rains a lot. Everything becomes green and beautiful, and you spend a lot of time in the mud. You learn how to dry your clothes indoors, but happily the sun does still shine most days. This is why we’ve been very busy since I got here fixing roofs and repairing homes. I had a lovely surprise when I got here. The second day I was home I discovered that my own roof let in more water than it shed. So my own roof was one of the ones we repaired. I also discovered that when it rains the ants come out by the millions. I finally had things dried off and found a spot to put my bed that might be dry if it rained again, and at 1am I woke up covered in ants.
When you say hot, how hot do you mean?
While the temperature may not be hotter than Ashland in the summer, the sun is intense. And it eats everything in its path. With a UV index double or triple that of the UV found in Southern Oregon, you find a lot of people sitting or standing in the shade of the mango trees.
One-time donations are always appreciated. But some people are choosing to make it part of their monthly routine. Tax season is upon us and your donations can be tax deductible.
Yes, Steps4Malawi is a 501(C)(3) registered with the IRS nonprofit organization. As such, your donations are tax deductible. Talk to your tax advisor for clarification.
Dan, thanks for catching us up to speed and for all the work you are doing.
Thank you, Shields. The LocalsGuide has been an incredible help and we love your support.