In 1999 three people sat in the home of a small businessman in Madisi, Malawi discussing the medical needs of the nation. Two were Malawians and two were Americans. Mr. Lambrguski, now deceased, had invited the guests to the house for an evening of friendship. Little did he know what would develop from these discussions. In a matter of weeks the American portion of the team, Richard and Suzi Stephens were back in America forming the Malawi Project, and Napoleon Dzombe, a businessman in the lumber business was in the capital city trying to locate a contractor who knew how to build a hospital. One year later the building was complete and the Malawi Project was shipping 40-foot trailers filled with medical equipment and supplies that would make the building a hospital. The goal was for the hospital to become a not-for-profit medical facility that would serve the needs of the poor in Malawi.
In 2000 the Malawi Medical Council approved the opening of the first building for giving outpatient care to the community. A disastrous famine interrupted further construction on the second building until 2005. In spite of the interruption patient care continued and in 2005 the facility qualified to begin offering inpatient services.
In 2004 the Malawi Project supplied the funds to construct a large medical warehouse near the hospital in order to supply Blessings with its medical needs and to extend a supply network into every region of Malawi.
By 2006 the Malawi Project had supplied the funds to complete the second building of the hospital, as well as to fund a stand alone surgery center and an additional medical supply building for expanding the medical supply network.
At the end of 2007 the facility had moved from dependence on the Malawi Project to full independence to function on its own.
In 2003 Napoleon Dzombe, a small businessman from the Dowa District sat across the table from Richard and Suzi Stephens of the Malawi Project discussing the growing problem of orphans in Malawi. At first the team discussed establishing a small 30 bed-ward in Blessings Hospital for the care of AIDS orphans. Later the plan was modified to become group houses that would not be confined solely for children who were ill. The idea grew, and by February 2004, construction had started on shells for 24 group homes.
Later in the year John Blanchard of the 100X Group, and members of a mission team from the Landmark Church in Montgomery, Alabama arrived and with them came a number of resources including the funding to expand the project. By the end of the year all 24 houses were under roof with the first house nearing completion.
In February 2005 with the completion of the first house, the Grand Opening attracted nearly 3,000 people that included nearly 2,000 orphans who lived in the Lumbadzi area. The children gave the house its name of Mphatso or “Gift House” by the children themselves. They saw their new home as a great gift. One boy described it this way, “I moved from a village and into a mansion.” For the first time many of the children had real beds, bedrooms and dressers for their clothes. In addition to a home they would now be able to receive heath care, as well as the opportunity to receive an education. On the opening day nearly 3,000 people attended the ceremony marking the beginning of Mtendere. Nearly 2,000 of the attendees were orphan children from the area around Lumbadzi.
Today the groups from Montgomery fully maintain and manage the village. After the incubation period this program is now functioning independent of support from the Malawi Project.
It has been said that every cloud has a silver lining. If this is true then the silver lining to the disastrous famine that struck Malawi in 2001-02 might be the creation of a food plant that is processing and feeding large numbers of orphans, widows, and needy people long after the severity of the famine has been forgotten.
The famine of 2001-02 brought with it a new awareness of the nation of Malawi as members of the Malawi Project sought financial and food aid assistance to the starving masses. A number of international agencies responded and the Malawi Project and members of the Blessings Complex in central Malawi teamed up to help to fight the hunger. One of the results of the new awareness was the fact that Feed the Children, Universal Aide Society, Nourish the Children, Healing Hands International, and the Malawi Project teamed up to find ways to fend off starvation in Malawi. After discussions with Nourish the Children, as well as with other agencies the decision was made that Nourish the Children would fund the major portion of the cost for the construction of a food processing plant in Malawi. The plant would not only feed the hungry, but would also support the local economy in giving employment, and in the purchase of the raw commodities from the local agricultural market. In February 2004 ground was broken for the Madalitso Vita Meal Food Plant near Blessings Hospital. In just 9 months the facility was completed. Over 3,000 people attended the Grand Opening, an event that marked the beginning of processing and distributing food to help feed the poor.
As an incubator of such programs the Malawi Project has completed its involvement in the Madalitso Vita Meal plant, and the plant is now fully operational without the need of funding from the Malawi Project.
It means “the long arm that extends to help,” and it is an appropriate name for the agricultural training village project at Mtalimanja.
The idea for the project had lodged in the mind of Napoleon Dzombe ever since that day in 1971 when he decided to leave school and set out “to save his people.” His people lived in the rural, poverty-stricken area west of the Madisi Trading Center in central Malawi, and the Mtalimanja was where his father was a tribal chief. Watching continual suffering year after year in the poorest region of his nation Dzombe determined he would bring to bear some of the resources from the combined work he and the Malawi Project were doing for his country in order to focus on the area of his youth. Catapulting this idea to the forefront in 2005 were some of the unexpected results that had taken place during the great famine of 2002. He was watching aid groups inadvertently contribute to an ever increasing mentality among the village people of waiting for the aid groups to feed them, while feeling less and less the need to contribute their own efforts to the accomplishment.
“Don’t make us a nation of beggars,” Dzombe had repeatedly pleaded as he and the Malawi Project team traveled from place to place to solicit aid for this impoverished region of Africa. “Incentives,” had become a key word in the aid program solicitations and Dzombe was spending a large portion of his time creating incentive programs with the incoming aid packages. By the end of the first famine, and with a second season of poor crop production coming in 2005, Dzombe watched as many of the villages that had been helped, waiting for the aid trucks to arrive. When questioned as to why they were not doing irrigation crop gardens during the dry season they would respond, “there is no need. The aid people will come and feed us.” He determined that he would create a model village where the visual results of hard work and new farm technologies would set the example for others to follow. The result would be a successful group of independent people working their way to prosperity. He chose the Mtalimanja for a number of reasons. Obviously a major reason was because of his childhood relationship and his family ties. Too it would be at the Mtalimanja where a test program could be closely monitored, supervised, and controlled. And additionally it had been the villagers around the Mtalimanja who had excelled in previous years with the incentive farm programs.
In 2005 Napoleon transferred two large farm tractors that had been donated to him by the 100X Group in Montgomery, Alabama from work at the Blessings Complex and started the construction of an earthen dam across the Little Crocodile River just east of his boyhood home. The dam and the lake that it created would be the cornerstone of the project and his vision of its size would make it one of the largest privately financed agricultural training centers in the nation. With the dam complete and filled partially with water in the rainy season of 2005-06 a shortfall of maize (corn) and soy befell the Madalitso Plant and this brought the attention of members of the Malawi Project and the NuSkin organization. Although the shortfall only disrupted production for about 30 days it was enough to persuade Dzombe, NuSkin and the Malawi Project that measures needed to be in place for the model village as quickly as possible in order for it to insure a continuous flow of raw materials to the food plant. Projections were outlined and proposals were drawn up for a massive farm-training program. With each stroke of the pen the project seemed to grow larger as the team discussed its possible value to the region and the nation. By July 2006 the proposals had made their way to the offices of NuSkin Enterprises, Nourish The Children and Feed The Children. Blake Roney, the President of the billion dollar firm based in Utah made a commitment of thousands of dollars of his personal funds in order to cover the expenses for the first year of the project. Buoyed by his example the distributors for NuSkin again rallied together in order to complete the contribution of needed funds for the five-year program in order to establish the massive training center west of Madisi. With money in hand Dzombe hired five contracting firms to begin constructing nearly 50 buildings needed in order to house the farm families, staff and visiting instructors. These farm families would come to the Mtalimanja to work, learn and live for two years while they learned nearly every facet of agricultural development and farm conservation. During their time at the farm they would save much of the income from raising and selling the products from the gardens and orchards. With this money in hand they will graduate from the school and return to their home areas with enough seed money to begin new and exciting small farm businesses in their areas. In this way the ideas and training from the Mtalimanja will spread throughout the country. With the end of their two years of training this team of 100 families will return to their home areas and a new group would take up residence. The process will start all over again.
By the end of 2006 the work was running well ahead of the five year schedule and University of Malawi, Bunda College of Agriculture had joined hands with Dzombe and the NuSkin family of companies in order to establish the agricultural training center as an example of how Malawians can become self supporting in their food production and possibly establish the ability to begin the export of food commodities beyond the borders of this tiny nation.