Hope Is in the Details: A Story from Malawi

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Ntchisi, a district located in the heart of Malawi, is among the most vulnerable places where World Relief works. Forty percent of the population lives on less than $1 a day. Most people make their living as farmers, but the difficult conditions they work against make for poor harvests and profits. Preventable diseases like malaria and diarrhea are common here, but healthcare facilities and doctors are extremely few and far between. Some say Ntchisi is a place to drive through – but not to linger in for a visit.

But this is precisely what World Relief Malawi intern Stephen Blazs did. Once he was able to take a closer look at a village in Ntchisi, he noticed small signs of transformation despite the deep injustices that existed.

Much of his role over the summer was to develop new ways to monitor the progress of World Relief programs. But one day, he set out from the office in the capital city to visit a “model village” in Ntchisi. Here, World Relief volunteers and staff worked to improve the health of mothers, orphans and vulnerable children younger than five. Because of his studies in public health at Johns Hopkins University, Blazs understood the magnitude of the vulnerabilities of the region, but he could also see the signs of hope and progress that the untrained eye overlooks.

In this village, children wore shoes and socks hung from clotheslines – displaying the purchasing power families had built from joining savings groups. Clean pots and pans sat out to dry, preventing germs from spreading at the next meal. Yards were dotted with latrines and hand-washing stations, protecting the entire village from water-borne illness – and reducing the chance of having to travel to a distant health clinic.

“It was encouraging to see an example where community development was working,” Blazs said upon his return to the US. Thanks to the commitment of volunteers who share life-saving health lessons with their neighbors, lasting changes were taking root in this village and many others in three other districts across Malawi.

Interested in learning and standing with the vulnerable through a hands-on internship? Check out World Relief’s domestic and international opportunities today!

Stephen Blazs is completing a Master of Science in Public Health degree through Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. As a World Relief intern, he developed monitoring and evaluation tools for various health and social development programs in Malawi and Mozambique.