I asked Bob Robinson to share a little about Esnat and her children he met last year in Malawi during our March Mission Trip to Malawi, and why he decided to help them after their mother died of AIDS last summer:
In March 2008, I traveled to the sub-saharan country of Malawi. I went because I heard they had 1,000,000 orphans out of a total population of just over 13,000,000 people due to the ravages of Hiv-Aids, malaria, dysentery (no clean water), and just grinding poverty (a lack of food, shelter, medicine, clothing, housing, and education). So why not go help as many children as I can in this national pandemic, I thought.
Once in country, I learned that the 3rd leading industry after farming and fishing is coffin building. In fact, they teach the children to build coffins as a trade to earn money. So in effect, you have children burying children. 270 people die every hour of every day due to the highly preventable causes noted above. For example, I talked to a 17 year old boy who told me his mother died when he was 6 years old due to an infection from a cut on her finger. A tube of Neosporin could have saved her life.
They call Malawi the “Warm Heart of Africa.” I found the people to be gentle and gracious of nature, and grateful for the little they do have and the little help they do receive. They live on less than 1.00 a day and average one meal a day. The women who are the primary caregivers feed the children 1st, often going without food themselves. On a visit to an orphanage school called FOMCO, I met two sisters named Lute and Rose Banda.
The very first thing I noticed as they talked to me about their father who had died of AIDS in 2002, their mother Esnat who had AIDS, and their three month old brother Happy who was HIV positive was the blank and desperate look of hopelessness on both their faces. As the girls told me about caring for their mother and brother, hauling water and fetching firewood I felt sadder and sadder.
Lute and Rose (5 and 9 years old respectively) took me to meet their mother Esnat. The four of them lived in a rented two room (less than 100 square feet) mud brick house with big holes in the roof thatching, with a pail to catch the rain, and their few belongings neatly placed or hung on the wall. Esnat told me about her deceased husband, her own health issues, about Happy’s father who had deserted them when things became too hard, and her fears for her children should she not survive. I listened and just tried to be with them for a few minutes hoping my presence might give them a little hope. I gave her a little money, hugged her and the kids, and I left.
Later that night in my room as I prayed out loud for Esnat and her children and wrote about them in my journal, I started to cry some very painful tears. I spoke to God, “I just can’t leave here and do nothing to help that family God, I just can’t”. They seemed to symbolize all the hardship, pain and loss I had seen in Malawi up to that point. The next morning, I went to see Dennis Singini (CitiHope representative) to ask if he could help me help the Banda family. I gave him money for them and I have been sending them support money ever since. I know that it would have been physically, emotionally, and spiritually impossible for me to leave Malawi without helping.
In July, 2008 Esnat died. The children went to live with their grandmother and are doing well. I have only told a couple of people that I’m helping Rose, Lute, and Happy. This has felt like a covenant between myself and God who has called me to serve, and talking about it would some how break that covenant. This is why I’m just writing about my experience now. People have asked me, “Why go to Africa to help when we have so many in such need here?” And that is a fair question. I tell them that there are so many government and non-profit /charitable programs and organizations available —a huge safety net here. The difference for the people of Malawi and so many other 3rd world country’s is that we are their safety net.
I ask you to look at the pictures of Esnat, Rose, Lute, and Happy, talk to your God, look into your own heart, and see where you are being called to serve.