I had the opportunity to meet Joyce Banda, Malawis Minister of Foreign Affairs and a truly incredible woman. She founded the Zomba orphanage through her Foundation for Better Education, but life wasnt always easy for her. She was in an abusive marriage until she took her three children, left her husband, started a garment manufacturing business, and then inspired other women to free themselves from abusive relationships, poverty, and injustice. She overcame many challenges and is now a successful leader and role model, especially to the children who now have nutritious meals, education, and a safe home because of her orphanage.
I am still in awe at the warm welcomes we received at every site. The kids from the orphanage and the nearby townspeople were eager to greet us on Thursday afternoon the students even prepared a song for our visit. I was honored that our simple visits are time for celebration.
After the orphanage we drove for three hours to Mvuu Lodge, or the Place of Hippos, where we spent two nights on safari. Ive always wanted to go on a REAL African safari, and this was exactly what I imagined only better! I saw elephants, warthogs, hippos, crocodiles, bushbuck, and impala, just to name a few. Warthogs snorted by my door as I tried to fall asleep, geckos tried to sneak into my room, and I was almost eaten by a rhino (OK, thats a bit of an exaggeration)! Our jeep got stuck in a ditch, and we couldnt get a signal on the radio or cell phone during a dusk ride through a gated area where rhinos live.
My two nights on safari helped me realize I am not a wilderness girl. I couldnt fall asleep at night because the animals were so loud, and I screamed when I saw lizards in my room. I loved the baobab trees, though. They are the biggest, most beautiful trees. And at night, the stars were magnificent as they sparkled above my head, another reminder that I am only one in such a huge world.
Tonight is my last night in Africa, and while I am excited to see my family and sleep in the comfort of my own bed, I know I will miss Malawi.
For more information about Americans for UNFPA, go to americansforunfpa.org/getinvolved
Click below to read previous travel notes from Michaela:
A Trip of a Lifetime
Mice for Lunch
Women's Health in Malawi