Almost six months have passed since our group of six went to Malawi. It has given me time to reflect on our journey and the things we accomplished there.
The purpose of out trip was to share our knowledge with the students studying optometry at Mzuzu University. The optometry program is five years, with classroom and clinical instruction, and costs approximately $ for the entire program. Not an insignificant sum! The students were bright, engaged and enthusiastic. We conducted lectures on a wide range of topics and assisted in the outreach clinics there. We also visited their clinical space and optical department at the local hospital. The donations of equipment, frames, lenses and books were greatly appreciated.
One of the things that left a lasting impression was the large number of Malawians that could benefit from optometric care and the determination and drive of the students to accomplish even a fraction of what is needed. Although the university was not as well equipped as those in North America, the quality of the optometric education and the way the students took pride in what they were learning was first-rate. We were privileged to play a small role in their development and hope to continue our assistance in the years to come. These students will face challenges ahead, but we feel hopeful for their success.
Another thing that left an impression was the spirit of the Malawians. Malawi is called the warm heart of Africa and this was very evident. The children were cheerful and curious, and the adults were friendly. There was always a smile and a wave from the city to the countryside. Over three quarters of the population are aged 29 or less, so it is a very young country. We spent some time with a group of children at an orphanage, many being HIV positive. Even though they had lost their parents and life was challenging, they enjoyed playing with soccer balls and tarps and included us as well. They were well-mannered and polite, which speaks to the compassion and care the adults gave them.
It was an amazing trip, one not to be forgotten.