'God is making a difference through our hands' - Archbishop visits community projects in Malawi
Friday 7th October 2011During his visit to Malawi, Archbishop Rowan Williams was able to see some of the inspiring work done by local church groups in the country.
At All Saints' Church in Thyolo and Mackenzie Church in Mchenga, the Archbishop observed permaculture projects which help rural people grow the food they need on their own land. Agriculture is the backbone of Malawi, and the methods being taught and used at permaculture projects help to renew the soil and manage water resources efficiently. Kitchen gardens, once established, provide food for the table, and families are able to start their own businesses with fruit trees and animal husbandry initiatives such as a goat project that the Archbishop visited in Mchenga.
The Mothers' Union is very active in projects such as these, and there is a particular focus on vulnerable women who often care for several AIDS orphans. The Mothers' Union also runs a Literacy Development Programme which has gone from strength to strength since it was launched in 2000. One of the programme's key methods is the use of discussion, as adult learners find they have a wealth of knowledge and experience even if they have not had much education. Women are now using their newfound skills and confidence to work together to improve the conditions of their daily lives.
While he was at All Saints', the Archbishop also met with nursery school children and an HIV support group, and helped out with a feeding programme. This project provides food for around 90 adults and 100 children Monday to Friday, and serves Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Evangelicals, 7th Day Adventists, Baptists and Muslims. Many of those fed are elderly, and many have HIV/AIDS.
During the afternoon the Archbishop said:
"When I visit other parts of our Anglican family, it is for me very important to go and see what happens in a parish in a local community, and to learn what it is that our church is capable of doing.
I believe that a church is always a group of people making a difference. The church makes a difference to each of us in our hearts and in our hopes. The church is a place where we become different people. But the church is also a place that can make a difference to people around, people of all faiths, all denominations, because God's love is the same for each and every one of them. And when we try to serve our neighbours, it is God making a difference through our hands.
In my visit this afternoon, I have seen many wonderful examples of how the Church makes a difference. I have heard already about the permaculture project. I've seen here what is done with the elderly, with the very young, with women who are HIV-positive, and I've seen how this makes a difference. It brings heart and hope to all those who live around this church. I thank God for the difference you are making, that God is making, through your hands."
The Nchima Trust Centre
The Archbishop also visited the Nchima Trust Centre in Thyolo. The Centre was set up by the Nchima Trust to support and facilitate activities for the local population, and was built on land leased to the Trust free of charge by the Nchima Tea and Tung Estates. The Nchima Centre is currently used by a group of craft workers who transform recyled paper into cards, mobiles, pictures and other items. The Archbishop saw a papermaking demonstration and learned that the Trust provides business advice and support, and sells the products on its website. Besides the papermaking project, the Trust also holds literacy classes, and is in the process of planning and developing a variety of agricultural projects.
Archbishop Rowan in the papermaking workshop at the Nchima Trust Centre, Thyolo, Malawi