October 2021 Iris Malawi Update
Family dynamics are continually changing, especially when your family includes 60 young adults. We have seven family homes on our base, including one home for young women who will soon be moving on to independence. Each family has joy and sadness, laughter and tears, depending on the day and the coming and going of young adults.
We presently have 30 young people who attend secondary schools throughout Malawi. They are boarders, meaning they come home for holidays but are away for significant times of the year. You can imagine that this creates some serious challenges for parents and younger siblings. When the older family members are away, younger siblings spread out and take up more room. When everyone returns, space is more limited. Some little ones who have migrated to bottom bunks have to climb ladders again. There is a general shuffle as everyone finds their place again.
This happens in the adult world as well. This last year, two of our key leaders passed away suddenly. In the wake of their deaths, we struggled to grieve and to find our way forward. Peter Nkhoma left a huge gap in our community. We took a careful look at our team and found three people to cover his work. We have appointed Ganizani as our Operations Manager, Patrick to oversee the children’s homes, and Lamek to oversee the farming. We also needed to appoint a new house mum in Girls’ 3 after the death of the beautiful Ruth Kofi. Rejoice joined our family in May 2021. The family is shuffling as we all find our places.
[Some of the Iris moms from left to right: Fanny, Joanna, Rejoice (who recently joined the team), and Mary.]
Sickness comes to all families and the Iris family is no exception. Foster and Phoebe, house parents in Boys 1, showed great compassion as they spent weeks in various hospitals caring for Andrew after a terrible spider bite. There is no quick fix for this kind of tissue damage, and the whole family has suffered with Andrew. With many hospital visits, several operations, and lots of love and support, Andrew is slowly recovering, 9 months after the bite.
While we were caring for Andrew, one of the community boys (whom we know well) came to our base to recuperate from surgery. Moses was attacked by a crocodile 10 years ago and lost the use of both legs. He has suffered an ongoing infection got 10 years. After an operation to remove a metal plate, our Iris family rallied around Moses to care for him. It was wonderful to see our young men in particular love and support him, with tutoring, prayer, dressing changes, meals, entertainment, and friendship. Of course, Moses makes it easy with his incredible attitude and brilliant smile.
Though schools were closed for much of the last year, we were finally able to run a women’s bible school class from July 12th to August 6th. We had 30 women attend the class and they had a wonderful time together. For most of these women, coming to Bible school means not cooking and carrying water and firewood for the first time in their lives. It is a wonderful opportunity to listen and to grow and focus on something more than daily living. Strength is found as stories are shared.
[Women’s Iris Bible School session in July 2021]
The Iris Primary School weathered school closures with creativity and ingenuity. Many students re-entered the classroom further ahead because they received some individual tutoring from Iris's siblings. Because our class sizes are relatively small, students and teachers can be back in the classroom with masks and handwashing stations in place. We are thankful that Covid-19 seems to have had little impact on our rural community.
One of the joys of this last season was having Enida home. She was one of the first girls to ‘come home’ to Iris in the early days. Since then, she has passed through primary school, secondary school, and the Malawi Institute of Journalism. She got a job placement in Bangula with our local radio station for the last four months of her training. We spent many evenings playing scrabble and talking about her story of the day, and the challenges of starting in the workplace.
[Chim and Thandy were married on July 24, 2021. Thandy grew up at Iris (in Bangula), and now lives and works in Blantyre.]
Yes, Iris families continue to change as the kids grow up and move out, and eventually establish their own families. We now have six couples (where one partner is an Iris graduate) who have made it through their first year together, and we are so proud of them. Commitment to family is unusual in our region. We are grateful for their deep roots and firm faith, nurtured through years of laughter and tears we have shared.
[The Iris feeding program continues to support the elderly who are in desperate need of food support. Here they are receiving maize flour that they carry home in their cloth.]
[Children receiving food during an Iris feeding program in Dande Village.]