June 20

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My Own Version of “The Kindness Diaries”

“In the end, only kindness matters.” – Jewel / The Kindness Diaries

The Kindness Diaries is a regular television program in Travel Channel. Leon Logothetis, the host of the show travels around the world using his vehicle named “Kindness 1” and fully depends on the kindness of people to survive. Amazing stories around the world from different people can be witnessed on each episode and it’s all about KINDNESS.

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KINDNESS 1. Leon Logothetis felt the excitement after his vehicle had been repaired by good people in one of the episode of the program. Photo taken from Netflix.com.

 

It was that day…

It was Sunday 17th June 2018 when I was scheduled to depart from Blantyre City to Neno District where my NGO Partners in Health (PIH) was operating. The place was between 2 to 2.5 hour-drive from the city. And it was like a roller coaster ride!

The driver from the NGO picked me up at the hotel around 1:30 in the afternoon. We drove back to Chileka International Airport to pick up another PIH staff – a doctor from the main headquarter. But it was only around 3:30 in the afternoon when he arrived and we immediately proceeded to our destination.

The first hour of travel was fine. We used the national road towards Neno District. But the remaining time was different. Imagine an off-road trail for 4×4 vehicle in a mountainous area that you need to take for 1 hour or more. I saw different kind of picturesque scenes: a safari-type of environment (but no lion, tiger, elephant, giraffe or zebra lol), a gentle river which the vehicle crossed (it’s summer so it’s fine but not advisable to cross it during rainy season), steep up and down trails with rocks, the mountain which was very close to the road and the people living on the area who were busy with their afternoon stuff and waving their hands to us.

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FINE AFTERNOON. PIH vehicle crossed this river during our travel to Neno District.

 

We arrived at the Pamthuzi Guest House around 6:00 pm. It was already dark that time since the sun usually set at around 5:30 pm. We were welcomed by 2 caretakers of the house, who used to guard the area as well. It was a bungalow-type house with six rooms and two bathrooms with shower. Each room contained a single bed with mosquito net, table, chair and closet. The kitchen was equipped with micro wave oven, refrigerator, gas stove, sink, table good for six persons, bread toaster, utensils, coffee, bread, cereals, oil, soy sauce, vinegar, salt, pepper, tomatoes, eggs and water dispenser. The good thing about the house was a table outside to stay in to relax and watch the surroundings.

Fast forward on 18th June 2018.

An Act of Kindness

I woke up early to prepare my breakfast and get ready to head on the office. But I did not know where the office of the PIH was. I heard from Sylvia and my housemate that it was five-minute walk only. But on which direction? North, East, West, South? My housemate went out earlier and I did not notice which direction he took. Now you’re going to witness again the kindness of the Malawian in the next paragraph. Please continue reading 🙂

In that morning, there was a lady cleaner in the house. It was part of service provided by PIH in the guest house every day. I asked her where the hospital was. Unfortunately, she could not speak English but she understood my question. So, she pointed out where the hospital was but I could not see it. I was standing outside the house, looking on the direction where the hospital was and trying to figure out how to go there. It was like around 3 minutes thinking how should I proceed. Suddenly she was trying to get my attention by waving her hand and putting it into her chest area. It was a signal that she was going to accompany me to the hospital personally. I was deeply touched by her act of kindness. I was thanking her so many times to show that I really appreciated her effort of bringing me at the hospital. After that she went back to the house to continue cleaning it.

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FIRST MORNING IN NENO. This is the typical road in Neno District where the PIH is located. No concrete road can be found here. At the back is the Neno Hospital.

 

The Office: Abwenzi Pa Za Umoyo (APZU)

Few hundred meters away from the hospital is the office of Partners in Health (PIH) or locally known as Abwenzi Pa Za Umoyo (APZU). It’ a non-profit organization based in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. It works globally to bring the benefits of modern science to those most in need and to serve as an antidote to despair. It has also other programs in Haiti, Peru, Mexico, Russia, Navajo Nation, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Lesotho.

PIH started in Malawi in 2007. It was supporting the Ministry of Health (MOH) to serve a catchment area of 165,000 through 12 health centers and 2 hospitals in partnership with sister organization. APZU was in Neno with an office in Lilongwe for Partnership Officers and Non-Communicable Disease Technical Assistant.

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It was great but not so busy day on my first day in the office. Great because I met a lot of people who were cheerful and full of energy. But I could not recall all their names. Not so busy because it’s only my first day. Not so much work to do yet. Just started reading the finance manual or finance process and of course observing what the people were doing. It was a warm welcome by everyone especially in the Finance Department. They already prepared a table for me as my work station.

The morning was more of introducing me to different departments by the HR officer. Configuring my laptop. And again, observing what’s happening in the office. I also had a good chat with some good people. In the afternoon, an orientation meeting had been conducted by the same HR officer to provide me insights regarding the organization and some of the policies. I then continued to read the finance process and raised some of my concerns as well to the HR and Admin officers. They were both willing to help me address my concern immediately. It’s like they wanted me to really experience that PIH and Malawi could be my new home – which of course it was.

After office hour, the finance manager accompanied me to the nearby market place to show what could be found there. It was only beside the hospital. He was more willing to show it to me during lunch time since it was already dark that time when we went out to the market place. I just bought the prepaid load for my local sim card to call a restaurant to deliver food for me at the guest house. Yes, there’s a restaurant nearby which delivered food for everyone.

It was great day indeed. The people, the culture and the experience were amazing. It’s not a fast-phased environment but time was fast if you’re spending it with awesome people. At the end of the day, indeed, only KINDNESS matters.