A few years ago, I wrote about the Nambuma Boys Primary School in the Archdiocese of Lilongwe, Malawi. Thanks to generous donors to the Pontifical Mission Societies (TPMS), the school had just built two new classrooms. Father Francis Lekaleka, Archdiocesan Director of TPMS in Lilongwe, urged parents to "support children in their education and in their spiritual life." Father Francis also encouraged his students to be generous with each other, just as other others around the world were generous with them in supporting the construction of the new school building.
The excitement was writ large on the boys' faces as they toured the new block of classrooms, made from concrete block and brick. It was quite an upgrade from the straw-roofed, reed-walled structure they had been using. The students now have the opportunity to develop the gifts God gave them in a proper school.
They'll need that extra boost in Malawi. It's a country where more than half the country lives in poverty, ranked 174 out of 189 countries on the UN's Human Development Index. 80 percent of the population depends on agriculture, making the economy particularly vulnerable to weather crises.
In March of 2023, Cyclone Freddy barreled across the Indian Ocean, travelling 5,000 miles, hitting the island countries of Madagascar and Reunion, before turning and hitting the African mainland. Cyclone Freddy lasted a record thirty-eight days.
It dropped six months' worth of rain on the southern, most densely populated area of Malawi, in just six days triggering mudslides and floods that killed more than 1,200 people and displaced over 650,000. More than two million farmers lost their crops, which equates to more than half of the farming population. It may be years before the land is able to yield crops due to the loss of topsoil. It's estimated that 1.4 million livestock were drowned, starved, or lost.
Archbishop George Tambala of Lilongwe said at the time, "Faced with this tragedy, people have not lost faith and hope. The faithful are coming to Mass even more than before the tragedy caused by the cyclone. They seek comfort from our priests but most of all they offer themselves to help others. I have discovered how most people care about being supportive of one another. There are families sharing what little they have; women joining together to cook food for those who have nothing."
On December 6, I'll be a member of a TPMS delegation who will meet with Archbishop Tambala before we head to the devastated south. There, we'll offer our solidarity in faith, pray with those we meet, and deliver aid that you -- our donors -- have so generously provided.
Please pray for Malawi as they struggle to recover.
- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.
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