Nthongwe Village, Malawi … In this part of Malawi, remote and removed from the outside world, families live the same lifestyle as their fathers and grandfathers. In the distance, most hidden over the horizon, small villages of thatch and mud structures punctuate the landscape. Nearby ripening stocks of maize surround the villages on all sides. A small dirt path leads off to somewhere, and people walking along it quickly disappear toward unknown places. Many carry heavy loads, and later return empty handed. What they do with these loads is a mystery. Water is an unknown distance away, phones have no, or little reception, and electricity is something only people in the cities and trading centers possess! Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, is 100 kilometers (62 miles) to the east, but Gloria can only imagine it. Lake Malawi is 225 kilometers (140 miles), but she has no expectation of ever experiencing its sandy beaches, or watching waves wash gently against its shore. Gloria has never seen these things; she is confined to her village. Life is hard, survival is a day-to-day struggle, and there is nothing to give her hope of anything different ever coming to pass.
For 22-year-old Gloria these places and views live only in her imagination. She lives with her grandmother Chrissie Kalawa. Chrissie is unable to carry her around, take her to school, or even to fully understand what has taken place with Gloria.
“She lost her ability to walk after she was sick at the age of two-years-of-age,” Chrissie explains. “Because of her problem I could never take her to school. They think she came down with cerebral palsy, and this affected both of her limbs.”
Because of her illness Gloria has faced a bleak and hopeless future, trapped in her tiny village for the rest of her life. This all changed the day Wilson Tembo arrived with a mobility unit. It was for Gloria. It was love at first site! Now Gloria smiles as she moves about, she can imagine her world growing larger. Her grandmother has caught the hope as well, “With this devise I can take her to school,” she promises.
Almost before she could finish, Mr. Mwabilucky Tembo, a special needs teacher, stepped forward to insure everyone that Gloria would be in school. He would be sure of it. As a smile spreads across Gloria’s face she can imagine learning more about the world, and even knowing where everyone goes when they disappear beyond the edge of her village.