By Leah Malimbasa, a freelance storyteller.
For the past month, I’ve been supporting World Vision on their exciting child journalism project to help children in Malawi learn how to write. For me, children’s ability to tell stories from their heart, in their own way, language and to audiences of their choice, is something I’ve happily done for 'the orange' since I was requested to help.
But three weeks ago, things changed.
As Tropical Storm Ana hit Malawi, I was requested by World Vision to tell stories of children who could not tell their own.
As I was starting off to visit children whose lives had been turned upside down by the disaster, my supervisor warned me to brace myself for upsetting encounters. I thought I was mentally and emotionally prepared. But it turned out I wasn’t even half ready.
While the people I met across the districts and villages had different names, their stories were identical; all intertwined in tales of fear, loss, grief and hopelessness. While all of the people I met lost something, I’ll for long remember two stories that reminded me the fragility of life, and how our lives can change in just a blink of an eye.
Down in Chikwawa, the epicentre of damage, a man, desperate but brave, went out in search of higher ground to save his family. Sadly, he never returned. The family believes he was washed away by the storm-induced flooding and died, leaving behind three children and a widow who has lost all means of provision. His body is yet to be found.
But there was more.
Like the other communities, when Cyclone Ana struck in Neno district, a father, son and daughter saw their houses and livelihoods reduced to ruins. Steven Sumati (44) is partially blind. His daughter, 24-year-old Faggy, has serious sight problems too. Maliko, his 27-year-old son, has been blind since his 12th birthday.
After their houses collapsed, all in one go, the family spent the night alert, standing on a veranda of a cracked house of their relative for whole night, with their children. How they found their way in the deafening, yet scary, depth of the night is a mystery they can’t tell.
“It must be God”, says Faggy, “What else can we say, my sister?” Faggy asks me, smiling as she tends to her child.
As they speak about God’s goodness, my heart sinks deep. Not that I don’t understand God’s goodness, but how He shows up every time we are in need, even when we don’t call upon his name. He is always there, faithful in all seasons and for all reasons that give Him all the glory.
As I left this house, driving back with my friends to Blantyre, I kept praying, in the words of Saint Francis, that God makes me an instrument, to bring faith, light, peace and hope through my stories. I hope to touch people like you, so that by reading this, in a world riddled by disasters, you remember Faggy and her family and help them at their greatest point of need.
The storm is over but the void left will never be filled.
Malawi was hit by Tropical Storm Ana in January 2022, affecting more than 950,000 people in a handful of districts in southern Malawi. I was glad, therefore, a few days ago, to hear that World Vision is providing relief food in Neno district; home for Maliko, Faggy and Sumati.
Today, incessant rains have brought in more flooding, rendering many helpless. And every day, since that first day, I pray that Faggy and her family find champions to help them through the darkness, and help them be reminded of how much God still loves them dearly, even in the midst of their disaster.
Leah Malimbasa is a Freelance Storyteller from Malawi. She has been supporting with on-the-ground coverage of the Tropical Storm Ana Response by World Vision in Malawi.