RPCV Janet Littlefield has built an orphanage in in the village of Chigamba to shelter, feed, and give medical care to homelss children
Janet Littlefield first went to Malawi as a Peace Corps volunteer after she graduated from Skidmore College in 1998. She was assigned to teach in the Ntaja region in the small, landlocked African nation tucked between Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia. While there, she funded the education of an orphan almost her age name Shaibu Kaliati, who today is the director of the Little Field Home, named by the staff in honor of its founder. Littlefield sends the money, Kaliati oversees the orphanage. Littlefield guesses so far the investment into the orphanage has totaled $15,000.
The orphanage is impacting more than just children in Malawi. This summer, Janet Littlefield brought four teenagers from the academy with her to Chigamba for a month-long trip that affected the students and fortified her mission. "It changed their lives going there; they think differently," Littlefield said about the students. During the recent trip to Chigamba, the four Hebron Academy students slept on the cement floor of the home along with the children, living without electricity or running water. They taught seminars on nutrition, AIDs, goat husbandry and health. The group was met with singing by the villagers.
Littlefield, a science teacher originally from Union, started the home in 2003 with money she donated from her teaching salary and from fundraisers. Since then, the orphanage has grown from 20 children to 56. They are cared for by a staff of 14 teachers and workers. An international AIDs charity called Avert reported that in 2005 more than half a million children in Malawi had been orphaned by AIDs. By 2003, roughly 14 percent of the country's adult population had been infected with HIV, according to data from the United Nations Development Programme. Read more.
Greg Dorr describes Peace Corps stay in Malawi at Camden Public Library
Dorr said that the sheer joy of the work he does is that there is no schedule or itinerary. “I get up in the morning and am free to do whatever I want that day. It makes you extremely motivated. More than that is almost too complicated to describe, but remember it does take some time to boil water for tea first thing in the morning and, without electricity, night comes early (6 p.m.), so you’re limited to what you might want to read or write by kerosene lantern. I’m greatly enjoying writing letters with my Cross fountain pen.”
“From my village to the nearest town of any size is a 20-mile ride in the back of a pickup truck. I’ve counted 47 people in the back of that truck with me. I was holding on to the rollbar with only one foot inside the truck body, as were the two people in front of me and the two behind me. I’ve never traveled on the paved road from Mzuzu to Lilongwe (the capital city) without passing a couple of overturned vehicles. Every vehicle is loaded with passengers. It feels like just a matter of time before you’re going to end up in the ditch,” he said.
The Tumbuka are a handsome, proud, friendly, gracious, engaging people, he said. “Greeting is nearly mandatory, so we foreigners refer to a Malawi traffic jam as the delay you experience where ever you go in having to exchange greetings, handshakes etc with everyone you meet,” Dorr noted. “I’ll often go for a walk with my violin, that way I can play music and not have to be speaking all the time to all the people I meet, and they enjoy the Irish jigs and reels immensely,” he said. He said he is unaware of any melody instruments in the community, outside of his violin, but drumming is everywhere. “Groups of boys seem to be either drumming or playing soccer. And singing is ubiquitous. People walk the path past my house on their way to their gardens singing. At night groups of people gather and sing and dance to the most exotic drumbeats. The absence of electricity seems to contribute to community cohesion. You don’t have people sitting in their individual houses starring at a small lit screen, not speaking to each other.” Read more.
Speech by President Bakili Muluzi of Malawi: American Peace Corps Are Best Friends Indeed
Let me begin by extending to you all a very warm welcome to the residence as we celebrate 40 years of Peace Corps volunteerism in Malawi. This is a great day to you as well as to us Malawians because it marks the spirit of sharing and solidarity that the United States of America and Malawi have enjoyed together through Peace Corps Volunteers over the years. It is indeed now 40 years since the first group of Peace Corps Volunteers came to Malawi as part of President John Kennedy's commitment to nation building in developing countries in 1963.
I invited you to come here today for me and the entire Malawians society to experience the joy in solidarity with you that 40 years have passed since the first group of Peace Corps Volunteers came to Malawi. Today I want to congratulate you all and express the gratitude of the government of Malawi and my own, for entering into relations of friendship with us for the good of our two countries.
I congratulate you because it is always the young people with the spirit of self-help and discipline, concern for others and their aspiration who pioneer to a new era. It is the young people who are the engine for reform, whether it is Nicole Nelson teaching at Chikangawa Community Day Secondary School in Mzimba or Emily Petersen working at Tulonkhondo Health Centre in Mwanza. I cannot therefore underestimate the remarkable contributions Peace Corps Volunteers have made in Malawi during the past 40 years.
Moreover, it is my ardent desire that the Peace Corps Volunteers should expand their programmes of activities to include teacher training, agriculture and vocational training. These are very pertinent areas for this country to achieve sustainable development. I am aware that this would require an increase in the financial resources usually made available to the Peace Corps development assistance programme. Certainly, Ambassador Meece will look into his request with the necessary authorities in Washington.
I am also aware that as Peace Corps you live under difficult conditions in the rural areas and that your wages are small but you do worthwhile work. I thank you most sincerely for all the sacrifice and efforts of walking together with Malawians and placing your individual skills and talents at their service to shape a better Malawi.
Let this be a day of celebration as well as a day to reaffirm our commitment to work hand in hand in the development of Malawi, and strengthen the good will and mutual understanding existing between the citizens of our two governments. Read more.