Malawi at a Glance
THE WARM HEART OF AFRICA
Malawi, the nation at the heart of Miqlat, is a small nation in the south eastern region of Africa, bordered to the east and south by Mozambique, by Zambia to the west, and Tanzania to the north. The country boasts a population nearing 18 Million within its 118,484 square kilometers, and is divided into three regions, and further into 28 districts. Nearly 30% of the country’s surface area is covered by the water of Lake Malawi, a secret gem of beauty and home to fish more varied and bio-diverse than any other fresh-water lake in the world. 85% of the Malawian people live in rural areas, most of whom are farming their ancestral land in villages without electricity or running water. There are small towns, or trading centers, scattered throughout the country that function as government, commercial and cultural hubs for the different districts. Malawi has recently begun experiencing an urbanization surge as more young people graduate from high school and move to the city for access to a wider range of opportunities. Lilongwe, the capitol situated in the central region, Blantyre, in the south, and Mzuzu, in the north, are the three major city centers. Miqlat serves communities in Thyolo and Chiradzulu Districts, located just south of Blantyre.
Nicknamed the Warm Heart of Africa, Malawi is home to people who are amazingly quick to welcome and eager to serve. Though the country has been in the bottom 20 of the UNDP’s developing countries list for many years and in 2016, was labeled by the World Bank as the literal poorest country in the world, there is a generous cultural mentality of grace, peace, and hospitality. Even if one has very little, that little is enough to be shared. Many have heard of the orphan crisis throughout sub-Saharan Africa—In Malawi, until the coming of western missionaries, “orphan” was an unfamiliar term as all children belonged to the family and the village, and the family belonged to all children. Therefore, even in the event of the death of parents, children were very rarely left entirely to themselves. This being the case, most of the children at the Miqlat Hope Centers currently reside with aunts, grandparents, or older siblings. However, this creates added burdens for people in poverty who are already having difficulty caring for themselves. Family bonds shape much of the framework of Malawian lives, both in the village and within the cities. Successful family members are nearly always found to be supporting younger siblings or other relatives through school and bringing gifts of food, finances, and presence to aging grandparents..
Unfortunately, though the cultural narrative is one of generosity and community, Malawi is plagued by rampant corruption which has derailed the economy and caused dramatic inflation over the last ten years. The economic and political difficulties have combined with the AIDS pandemic and underdeveloped health care resources, regular natural disasters such as droughts and floods, and lack of a stable infrastructure, to land Malawi in its current place of poverty. 45% of the population is below the age of 15 and only 23% of all adults have received education through high school. Child marriage remains common in rural areas, with 29% of women giving birth to their first child by age 19 (married or unmarried). The difficulties facing the people of Malawi are many and could easily lead to despair and frustration, but there is tenacity and ingenuity in the people of the Warm Heart.
Our Centers are located within an hour’s drive of Blantyre, the economic hub of Malawi. Blantyre is home to our administrative staff and most of our Miqlat students who have graduated from high school and progressed to a college or vocational school program. Built and developed to be the capitol city in Malawi’s early days of independence, Blantyre is nestled in the mountains of the southern region and is known for its open clean streets and its cool, fashionable people. A friend once compared the relationship between Blantyre and Lilongwe, the nation’s current capitol, to the relationship between San Diego and Los Angeles in California, USA. Though overly-simplistic, this comparison adequately describes an amicable but competitive relationship between the people who call each city home, the sizes of and distances between the cities, and the variation of pace and attitude.