LYIT team give 'home help' in Malawi

LYIT team give 'home help' in Malawi

LYIT team give 'home help' in Malawi

A volunteer team of healthcare professionals from Letterkenny Institute of Technology travelled to Africa recently to take part in a home building programme for the people of Malawi.

The group of 14 nursing students and three lecturers from the LYIT Department of Nursing & Health Studies recently spent two weeks on the successful building project.

They visited Mulanje in South West Malawi, where they were part of the ‘Global Village' initiative with Habitat for Humanity Ireland, which provides support and housing for orphaned and vulnerable children.

Speaking about the trip, lecturer Mary Dunnion said one of the major problems in the country was the impact of the AIDS

Mary said: "AIDS has an enormous impact in Malawi, life expectancy is only 50 years and, to date, over one million children have been orphaned, more than half of these from AIDS. An estimated four out of five families are living in sub-standard structures, with little hope of ever being able to afford a decent house. The housing crisis there can mean the difference between life and death."

Student Tricia O'Donnell who was part of the team describes the circumstances. "This area of Malawi is one of great poverty, with many families living in a one-roomed house, with no electricity, running water or sanitation. Conditions in these dwellings are often unhealthy, providing a fertile environment for life-threatening diseases. It's hard to take in," she said.

One of the reasons the LYIT team chose this project was because the long-term benefits of families in Malawi having good housing are far-reaching - it brings greater opportunity for education, improved health and long-term employment.

The LYIT team were tasked with assisting the local builders to carry blocks, sand and water, mixing mortar, building the house /scaffolding and plastering.

It was an entire community affair with local women arriving on the site everyday and everyone mucking in with the cooking and preparing traditional Malawian meals. "It felt like we were part of the village," said Lecturer Philip Corcoran.

"All the cooking was done outside, it's amazing how resourceful these women are with very little equipment or supplies. The children in the villages were also always about and were so excited to see us. We played lots of games with them. The children were so creative, making toys from branches/leaves and footballs from rolled up plastic and cord. We were made to feel so very welcome and received such overwhelming hospitality from people who had very little. It was very moving," he added.

The LYIT team say they were impressed by what a beautiful country Malawi is and how warm and hard working the people are.

Student Melissa Byrne says: "At times, we were amazed and sometimes shocked by the sights we saw there, things like seeing the vast numbers of people living in poverty, many walking barefoot, children with torn clothing, mothers washing young children at the roadside and washing clothes in rivers. It makes you realise how well off we are in Ireland."

"It made us feel truly humbled by the generosity and the sheer happiness shown by the people to us for being there. The country seems so underdeveloped and seems a million miles from life in the Western world."

The team were honoured in a final ceremony marking the hand over of the house to its new owners. Mary described it: "This included African singing, dancing and acting, it was very humbling to see how much effort the Malawi people went to for us. We also visited a completed house recently built by Habitat for Humanity and it was gratifying to see the difference it had made to the family (grandmother and her two orphaned grandchildren) and also the wider community. The biding memory of the trip for the team is the dignity of the people despite dealing with difficult living conditions and circumstances. "

Besides the house building, the LYIT group also found time to visit two hospitals in the area, a local school, a community based organization supporting orphans, and attended Mass in a local church. The Habitat team in-country was very appreciative of the gifts that the group left behind to Habitat Malawi - vital items such as, boots, gloves, nets, clothes and sleeping bags.

Planning for the trip began in early 2009 and a large sum, €52,000 in total, was raised towards this project from students and the team. Those who travelled included: Melissa Byrne, Denise Carty, Anne Coyle, Breda Curristin, Carrie Friel, Stephanie Hegarty, Lydia Fowley, Kate Hilley, Eileen Melaugh, Lynne McDowell, Patricia McGinley, Anne O'Donnell, Lisa Nelis, Selina Sweeney, Philip Corcoran, Kevin O'Brien, and Mary Dunnion. All were very grateful for the tremendous support received from the public, families and friends for this very worthwhile cause.

An information session, display of photographs and items from Malawi as well as the launch of the teams DVD was held in LYIT in November. Considerable interest was shown in the project and enthusiasm expressed to repeat a similar trip. A beautiful hand carved clock which was presented to the LYIT team in Malawi is currently on display in the nursing block at LYIT.

Well done to the students and lecturers in making the trip and bringing true meaning to "home is where the heart is."

To view more photos from the trip visit.

Building hope and homes - one brick at a time. LYIT students and Malawis get to work.