Malawi – Hope for Life

Italians Express Faith in Africa

Agape Italia staff member Haswell Beni has been doing community development and evangelism in his homeland Malawi for the past six years.

Over the last 6 years, a broad network of volunteers and partners in Italy who share our vision of carrying out sustainable community development projects in Malawi has been established. This network includes individuals, churches, organizations, and associations who all share a common vision and take responsibility for promoting the project.

Although on the surface, this project is mainly a way for Europeans to help Africans, but Haswell has another goal, namely to give Italian participants a new perspective on how the Christian faith can be an active part of one’s everyday life and can motivate people to love and serve others.

In preparation for last summer’s trip, more than 1,500 people were exposed to the project through announcements in partner churches, promotional events, recommendations from staff members and project ambassadors and other personal contacts. The final project team consisted of 12 volunteers and two leaders. All participants completed training in sustainable development practices and had Malawian cultural orientation prior to the trip.

The work in Chasolo has grown through key partnerships with local leaders and through our sustainable development approach. The 2015 project proposed the involvement of 15 village chiefs as well as local health officials; however, in the end some 32 villages were involved in the project – an increase of 120%! Such a close partnership between civil and government leaders was a clear and important sign of local ownership of the project and an assurance of long-term sustainability. The commitment was confirmed by the fact that 100% of the materials were sourced locally with the involvement of village leaders and residents.

During the trip, about 400 people were exposed to the Christian message and Agape’s WIN-BUILD-SEND approach for personal evangelism. Additionally, participants were involved in Bible study and media outreach. Various seminars for adults and children were held in the community on topics like health education, leadership development, nutrition, environmental protection and cultivating a personal faith in Jesus Christ. More than 3,000 people had an opportunity to watch the Jesus Film, a biography of Jesus based on the Gospel of Luke. As many as 1,300 indicated interest in knowing more about the Christian faith, and our group was able to meet with a few people who had additional questions.

The main goals of the project were to oversee the building of a clinic and the drilling of a borehole for a well. The clinic planned to serve people living in an 8km radius, mainly pregnant women and their babies. The borehole would provide a source of clean and safe water for the clinic and the community. A local Malawian company drilled the borehole and trained the local villagers to carry out maintenance of the water pump – an amazing feat for these villagers.

Despite challenges with local permits and government regulations and although local planning permission required changes in the size and scope of the building, a good foundation was laid during the trip, and the basic structure of the building was completed in January 2016 when the roof was put on.

The number of village chiefs involved increased over the previous year, and for the first time 8 different churches from 7 denominations all joined hands in the common cause of building a clinic for the local population. The fact that everyone worked together enthusiastically and without a sense of competition was a wonderful blessing that transformed the work experience.

But transformation did not only happen in Malawi, the Italian volunteers returned home as changed people, with a new enthusiasm for their faith and a desire to share what they had experienced with others. One volunteer even organized a photo exhibition to share her experiences in Africa with others and raise awareness and funds for future work.

Project Leader Haswell Beni explains, “The work in Malawi is certainly not complete. Work will continue with tubing, wiring, and plumbing, plastering and painting, putting windows and internal doors, etc. Once we help the local villagers purchase the basic furniture, the building will begin to run as a clinic as well as a dispensary, a surprising, last minute addition to the plans. As the work continues, we look forward to being involved and seeing continued partnership among village leaders and residents to ensure that health services will be available to the community in Chasolo for many years.”

Here’s an illustrative video of the work being done in Malawi: