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Donna Power wants to get water to Malawi children as COVID-19 threatens fatalities on two fronts

Learning faces: Kindergarten played an essential role in school-readiness, which prepared the children for the rest of their lives.

JESUS prayed even more earnestly when He was in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane – that detail held a lesson the world could learn from the global COVID-19 pandemic, Project Kindy founder Donna Power said.

She said people were more empathetic to the pain of others when they were in pain themselves, never more so than Jesus praying for the world in His agony.

The pain facing Australia was job loss, loss of family, isolation, and hardship because COVID-19 had impacted the way Australians lived their lives.

In Malawi, where Mrs Powers’ charity helped fund 11 kindergartens attended by 847 children supported by the Canossian Daughters of Charity, the impact of coronavirus or even the prospect of a lockdown posed catastrophic consequences.

A non-government organisation successfully lobbied for a seven-day postponement on President Peter Mutharika’s proposed three-week lockdown in a country that had 33 cases of COVID-19.

That week’s reprieve was quickly coming to an end.

“Our first priority is to get water locally into our communities,” Mrs Power said.

“You don’t have access to water in Malawi.

“(People) walk one to three hours a day to fill up a tub of water, carry it back on their heads, back to their homes.

“If the nation is sent into an imposed lockdown, there will be a lot of confusion around those walks.

“They will be either banned or made more dangerous because people will be reluctant to go on those walks.”

Five of Project Kindy’s 11 communities had wells to get water, but six did not.

“So we are desperately trying to raise funds to ensure a simple well is installed at those six locations and these wells are simple – they’re a really long pipe into the deep, down to get that water under the ground and they just have this one simple lever that you pump and out comes the water out of the tap.

“That would ensure they have water for washing, handwashing, for cooking, for drinking – basically for keeping alive.”

Without adequate healthcare or social safety nets like Centrelink, COVID-19’s direct and indirect impacts could last far longer in Malawi than Australia.

News reports and government reports showed COVID-19 fatalities increased among groups of people who had co-morbidities.

Games: Children stand in a circle holding hands at kindy.

Mrs Power said the Malawi population already had health issues like malnutrition, no access to clean water, waterborne disease or other diseases like HIV or malaria.

“I am very concerned that we need long term solutions in place and the very first one that’s smashing us in the face at Project Kindy is access to water,” she said.

Mrs Power had been in close contact with Canossian Sister Joanita, who told her last week about six-year-old Evance Faluka who lived with his mum in Katundu village and went to Holy Family Kindergarten.

Evance’s father abandoned the family and left them destitute, while Evance’s mum sold small amounts of bananas to feed her family.

Mrs Power said the sisters had been “the hands and feet of Jesus”, as they had found Evance isolated by his poverty, without clothes or food, and coaxed him to come to Kindy with a simple offer of a free lunch every day.

Evance was “extremely shy” when he was brought into the community.

Mrs Power feared a 21-day lockdown would mean Evance’s mum would have no one to sell bananas to and the family would go hungry.

The sisters were delivering food to Evance and 55 of the poorest families with children at the kindies but Mrs Power said they needed more help.

“It’s unimaginable poverty,” Mrs Power said.

But she said because COVID-19 was a global pandemic, people might be more empathetic to those who were suffering.

“And it’s Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed more earnestly because he was in agony and when humans are experiencing pain, we have more empathy for others,” Mrs Power said. She was hoping people would respond in greater numbers to the needs of the world.

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