Malawi diary - Jayne - June 2007

Day 1

The start of a very exciting trip to Malawi. We were here for two reasons, firstly, to go to the village of Kanyenda, the village that became so close to my mum's heart. and the home village of the nurse, Otilia Kang'ombe. Secondly, to start the business of Forever in Malawi. The three of us, John, Richard Davies and myself, had no way of knowing at the outset, that we would experience permanent personal changes.

After much planning, we were finally on our way. The 13-hour flight finally came to an end with us landing in Lilongwe, the capital city. The first surprise was that South African Airlines had lost all our luggage, the second that Malawi's winter was actually very chilly. I realised that I had packed all the wrong cloths (in the lost luggage) - oh well, out of my control now.

Otilia and husband Christopher were waiting to pick us up and whisk us off to the Sunbird Capital hotel, where we had scheduled about 50 minutes to check in, change clothes (now irrelevant), and then go straight into our first meeting. When we got to our room, I suddenly realised that the projector, along with all the connecting cables, was in the luggage that had been lost. Oh joy, we had about 100 people coming to a Business Presentation, and we looked like weary travellers and had no equipment! Never mind, we would find a way to overcome the challenge. By 6pm the meeting room was filling up. There were people who had come to see us from all over the capital - most of them had walked! I was soon to understand that cars were for the minority, not the majority. Everyone walked. It might have been a mile, it could have been five, but they had walked! I was just lost for words.

The meeting started with John speaking the QLS A4 format while I wrote on a flip chart. Not ideal, but the audience were excited and we had a fantastic response at the end, with people wanting to join there and then. The cost of the Combo box was 54,000 Kwatcha (the local currency), which was the equivalent of about 7 months average income in Malawi, yet it didn't seem to stop them. Some promised to come back with the money the next day, and some registered and said they would have to wait for a month or two. But the excitement was high and the need for Product and Business was obvious. Just as we were about to finish the evening, a lady asked if she could have the microphone. She had arrived late, looked very dishevelled and during the presentation had kept nodding off. A bit reluctantly, I gave her the microphone and she started talking, quietly at first, but what an impact! She was a farmer and had been working hard all day on her land, ploughing, howing and digging by hand. She had then walked for 2 hours to come and meet us, as she wanted to tell us of her experience with Forever's products. She had a very elderly and sick aunt living with her in the village. The aunt had very bad leg ulcers, and was so ill that she had trouble walking and infection was beginning to set in. The hospital was many miles away and was expensive, so her aunt had not had the best treatment. A friend had given her a tube of Aloe Gelly and she had started applying it. By the time she got to the end of the tube, her aunt had no infection, less swelling and inflammation, and was able to walk a little. She finished her story with, "God bless you for coming to our country" and left to start her 2 hour walk home in the dark. We were all just speechless and humbled by what we had just witnessed, but it was to be the first of many incredible stories.

After the meeting, we went to Otilia's home for supper. They made us feel very welcome and had prepared a lovely meal. The house was very simple, small and spotlessly clean. We very quickly realised that it was a huge thing for them to have us back to their home. We ate and talked about the hope for Forever to be a huge success in Malawi. Christopher shared some facts - the population is only about 12 million, with the vast majority very, very poor, and living on the equivalent of less than 50p a day. Only 7% of homes have electricity or running water. Mind blowing.

By now we were well and truly ready for bed, knowing that we had an early start in the morning. The week ahead promised to be memorable, but none of us could even begin to guess, by how much.

Day 2 >>>>

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