The Blanket Distribution Ceremony
June 20, 2007

Posted July 27, 2007

In early 2006 United Church of God ladies in the Pacific Northwest made 220 high quality blankets for the LifeNets Orphan Care Centre in Balaka, Malawi.

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The blankets all had individual designs and were made for daily use by the orphans who especially need them during the colder season that comes in June and lasts until August.  Our shipper lives in Toronto, Ontario and specializes in shipping to Africa. The blankets did get there, but the process is complex and there were some hitches (in Africa there there ALWAYS hitches).  They arrived in Balaka after the cold season.  We felt is was better to to wait to distribute them during the 2007 cold season when they were most needed. 

For the summer of 2007 LifeNets sponsored three young adults to work at the Chizeni clinic that cares for the orphans. The blankets were distributed on June 20, 2007 while they were there.  I'd like to share the eyewitness descriptions of Jennifer Myers and Phil Myers (no relation to one another) of the event.  Lots of photos are included below.

From Jennifer Myers:  Description of the Blanket Distribution Ceremony:  This was quite the experience.

I had no idea what to expect or what I would experience, but the ceremony took me on a ride of different emotions.  As we arrived, the ambulance was quickly surrounded by children eager to greet us.  The muffled sound of singing became strong and clear as we exited the ambulance and we were immediately caught up in the welcoming song and dance expressing the excitement of the day.  I was able to take a step back to take in the experience.  I heard the beautiful voices of those singing.  And though I was unable to understand the verses as they were in Chichewa, I knew it was a song to welcome us, a song of thanks.  I watched as Phil and Aaron found themselves in a crowd of children all reaching their hands out to hopefully get that one hand shake and that smile from the foreign visitors.  Dr. and Mrs. Chilopora were enthralled in conversation with those around them, possibly discussing the dayís events or just catching up.  We shuffled to the chairs that were set up for us, all still trying to greet all of the people we could.  The ceremony was ready to begin.

Jennifer Myers

We took our seats.  While looking out into the crowd of faces, we listened as one by one, the leaders of the village stood up to welcome us and to thank those who made the blankets and for us for our visit.  Of course, Dr. Chilopora had to explain to us what each one was saying as it was all in Chichewa.  As I sat there and listened, I couldnít help but be in awe that I was there in that very moment, in Malawi, surrounded by beautiful children and wonderful leaders, getting ready to pass out blankets that a group half way around the world made for children they have never even met. 

The last speaker shared his thanks and explained how the distribution would work.  Several of the men retrieved the blankets from the ambulance as Dr. Chilopora opened his book of names.  One by one the children approached us as their name was called.  Some knelt to their knees as they received their blankets, others shook our hands and smiled and walked proudly away with their very own blankets.  As more and more blankets were distributed, the crowd began to look like a sea of colors as the colors from the blankets stood out brightly.  It was beautiful! 

When the last name was called, the crowd began to sing another song of thanks.  They began to dance, and I couldnít help but get swept away in it.  How often do you get to experience such a moment?  I canít even begin to share my thanks to that group of people who reached out by making the blankets, by showing kindness and love.  The smiles on the faces of the children, the guardians, and the leaders were proof that they felt that love. 

From Phil Myers Travel Blog (see his entire TravelBlog)

Today was the LifeNets Blanket Distribution Ceremony. There are two groups of orphans associated with the clinic. One group comes each Thursday to cook and learn, and is comprised of around 30 orphans and their caregivers. The other group is funded by LifeNets and doesnít visit the clinic each week. There are more orphans in this group.

Phil Myers

The drive to the village took 20 minutes from Balaka. As we arrived, a throng of approximately 250 people surrounded the car and began singing. Upon exiting the car, I was immediately surrounded by singing visitors. They were welcoming us in song through a traditional Chichewa jingle. The spirited crowd finished its song and sat in a semi-circle enclosing a straight row of 12 chairs. The chief of the village welcomed us formally and Dr. Chilopora, Mrs. Chilopora, Aaron, Jennifer, and I sat in five of the arranged chairs.

The ceremony commenced with a prayer given by one of the orphan caregivers. The chief then said a few words and yielded to Dr. Chilopora. His comments were in regard to health and proper use of the blankets. Then the distribution began. Dr. Chilopora called the orphans names, and Aaron, Jennifer, and I handed the blankets to the orphans.
The orphans receiving the blankets were five years old and younger. Some were so small they could barely hold the blankets. They were all very happy to receive them. Once the final blanket was handed out, the chief thanked Dr. and Mrs. Chilopora and the ceremony was concluded with prayer. A parting song was offered by the grateful crowd. We said farewell to the chief and filed into the ambulance. The shouts of thanks and the multiple waving hands slowly disappeared behind us as we drove off.    
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