Emotional roller-coaster days with Madalitso Mbendera
"When I asked one lady what she liked about this place, she told me that she enjoys the showers so much she tries to take them 3 times a day and I could relate!," Madalitso Mbendera.
MALAWI: Towards the end of January 2022, Tropical Storm Ana hit east Africa, with heavy rains causing flooding and mudslides in Madagascar, Mozambique, and Malawi, killing a number of people in its path, with reported wind speeds up to 100km per hour.
In Malawi, Tropical Storm Ana has so far killed more than thirty people and affected about a million people, according to the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA).
One person has been chronicling her days as she, together with many others, tries to lend a helping hand to the flood victims.
Meet Madalitso Mbendera!
Here are is her story, verbatim….
30 January 2022: Off she goes!
Emergency deployment for the floods in the southern region...in case you are living in a bubble, the situation on the ground in the affected areas is not great... if you can find it in your heart to offer any assistance within your capacity, please reach out to the organizations coordinating the efforts, for support...there are young boys and girls, women, men, and babies currently homeless, hungry, and in dire need of immediate support...
31 January 2022
Despite all the challenges, these ladies in Phalombe still showed up for their hustle...Now that is what I call resilience
1 February, 2022
Storytime, as the sun in the Lower shire, continues to do its thing and fry my face
Had an impromptu photography lesson with a fellow woman who kept staring at the camera in fascination. We decided that she could practice her photography skills with me. Show-off that I am, I chose to display my riding skills on her bike and have her take pictures of me.
As soon as I got on the bike, I realized my mistake that the grounds were not the smooth surface that I am used to. I didn’t anticipate just how slippery it would be, that her brakes had a mind of their own, that there would be too many people refusing to get out of the way and just too many dips and ditches everywhere.
But I had a large audience of kids that I was trying to impress and the cheers had already started, so I had to see it through. After a few laps and close calls, my ‘fear of death’ adrenaline couldn’t take it anymore.
I got off and went to check the pictures she had taken. There were none. She had forgotten the important part of our lesson, to press the shutter button…
A few more pointers later, she was ready and told me to get back on the bike...This was when I remembered that I was the adult here and should not fall for such ‘peer’ pressuring things.
Decided to humble me and just safely pose with the ‘hater’ bicycle. She took lovely pictures, and the camera was not even set on automatic. My cheering squad of little people decided I wasn’t cool anymore and abandoned me for the drone flying guy, who stole all the shine for the rest of the day...
With all our interaction, it was easy to almost forget that this is a woman who has lost almost everything to the recent floods. That some of my little cheering squad are children with no homes to get back to. Life has been hard and cruel. They need food and safer homes. There is poverty. They are hungry. They need psychosocial support, financial support, etc…
But although these are challenging times, let us also try to maintain the dignity of fellow Malawians as we bring to light all the devastation brought on by these floods. Just like most of us would prefer to not be captured in our most vulnerable state and look so hopeless.
That ‘face’ we show to the world, even when things are falling apart in our lives. They may have lost so much, but let us allow them to keep their ‘poise’ as we highlight their despairs, because sometimes, that is all you have when life is beating you down…
3 Fenruary, 2022
I slept past midnight trying to compile content on the recent floods. I thought I had it bad, until I spoke to other colleagues, who worked throughout the night until 7 in the morning.
Being on the ground, makes you appreciate the dedication of those working to help others.
Security officers spend sleepless nights protecting people in camps, going to dangerous places to rescue and save lives.
District and community workers in waist-deep waters, trying to capture the needs of hundreds of households.
Community members open their less spacious homes to give refuge to the people who lost their houses, whilst those with nicer, more spacious modern houses turn the other way.
People with no savings to their name, somehow pulling a few resources, buying ‘ufa’ and whatever ndiwo they can afford for people they are not related to.
Yes, there are gaps and challenges. We keep hearing stories of people refusing to relocate; how unprepared we seem to be; how it feels like some do it for individual gains; how the ‘ubuntu’ way feels almost non-existent nowadays.
But we have unsung heroes and angels sacrificing their wellbeing and comfort, with no anticipation of financial gains or being dictated by ‘what’s in it for me?’
Their names will most likely remain unknown and their efforts unacknowledged. Their presence in a room will not trigger standing ovations.
If you are an unsung hero, doing so much but remain unseen, we see you; we thank you; we support you, and may you be Blessed.
5 February 2022
This is one of the Evacuation Centres that offer temporary shelter for up to 300 people at a time. The separate rooms for the men and women are spacious. They have beddings, cooking utensils, chairs, and food in their storage for the first nights as they wait for relief items.
They have running water, solar lights, clean toilets, grounds for kids to run around and play, energy-efficient stoves, a nice big kitchen, and trained camp workers to ensure things run smoothly.
When not in use, they hire out the rooms for weddings, charge mobile phones, and that money is used to keep the place running. (This made me smile)
When I asked one lady what she liked about this place, she told me that she enjoys the showers so much she tries to take them 3 times a day and I could relate! I then told her that singing in the shower is even better. She replied that she doesn’t own a radio, so she doesn’t know any songs.
I asked her, “Ndi zakwaya zomwe simumazidziwa?” and I got her there. Then she changed the subject and claimed “uli ndi nkhope yochenjeletsa iwe”. I asked her, “yofatsa nde imaoneka bwanji?”.
At the end of our chat, I told her “Ndapita ine, kasambensoni shower yanuyo”. They all laughed, and I enjoyed my 2 minutes of fame thinking I must be that funny. (This made me chuckle)
They are all there because they have no homes to go back to, and the centre is offering some temporary shelter. It is not home, but it helps. (This made me hopeful)
We then drove to one of the women’s houses that collapsed during the storm. She’s a mother with young kids and a baby. Now, being a new mother is hard enough.
I cannot imagine having to do that, after losing everything and not falling apart. She tried hiding her tears when she narrated what had happened. I cannot imagine how traumatic it was, reliving it all. (This made me sad)
But leaving without the ability to just wave a magic wand and fix everything is hard. Leaving and knowing her house is still gone, swallowing that ‘saviour complex’ that makes you want to make rushed emotional promises you wouldn’t be able to fulfil.
It is hard seeing kids that are the same age as yours in such situations, which leaves you wondering why the world is this unfair. It is hard to ignore the guilt as you go back to a warm bed. Singing in the shower does not quieten all the unanswered ‘whys.
This is where the faith waivers a little. Where praying sometimes feels like an easy way out, there to help you sleep better at night, with the thought of, ‘I have prayed for them all’ (This made me cry).
And then you hear of people with so much money…more money than they will ever need…a tiny fraction of which, could help save and change so many lives. (This made me angry).
Just another day of an emotional rollercoaster!