Macheka Village, Malawi … In a land where water never freezes, snow is seldom seen, and few will ever experience an ocean gale in icy weather, Wilson Tembo’s explanation of the plight of 19-year-old Patuma Mbwana, is an interesting way to define the situation. “She is the tip of the iceberg,” he says, and somehow, no matter the weather where each of us lives, we know exactly what he means. This young woman who has never been able to walk on two legs is simply one of a very, very large number of young people suffering mobility problems in Malawi.
Patuma lives with her mother in a tiny, hilly village in the Mangochi District of Southeast Malawi. Her legs have been paralyzed since birth, but with a great desire to go to school, she has hobbled along using a cut tree limb. Because of her struggle, and the fact she has been unable to be consistent in her attendance, Patuma is only in grade 2. She would be in college by now were she able to get around as other children do.
Through the cooperation of Action for Progress, the Malawi Project and Mobility Ministries, Patuma was one of eight, from the Districts of Mangochi and Balaka, to receive a brand-new mobility unit. Thanks to the work of these three organizations Pateuma has now started a new life, one where her educational dreams will not be shattered. Shy and a bit introverted, Patuma could only smile, and speak very softly, as she focused on her future, “I will now go to school,” she said.
As Wilson prepared this report, it was evident he could feel the intense need of thousands of other people, so many of them are school-age children, whose mobility problems are keeping them from a productive future. It was then he noted that her situation “is just the tip of the iceberg.”
Can one say, without it seeming to be tongue-in-cheek, that it is a bit chilling to think of thousands of children and adults who are trapped in their tiny village huts for lack of a mobility unit with which to get around?
On behalf of Patuma, and the nearly 1,000 people who have been assisted with new mobility units, the Malawi Project’s Board of Directors expresses our deepest appreciation to Bob and Arla Gabrielse, the volunteers at Mobility Ministries in Demotte, Indiana, and to those who make contributions to ship these units to Malawi. Without you, these people would not be helped.