21 September 2018
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Warmth from Japan

Written by  Chimwemwe Njoloma
Emma, second from left holding her blanket. -Pic by Chimwemwe Njoloma Emma, second from left holding her blanket. -Pic by Chimwemwe Njoloma

Lilongwe, August 8: The morning coldness bites hard, cracks her lips and shakes her body. As she folds a tattered piece of bedding that resembles a blanket, her pair of hands shivers while at the same failing to cut words out of her mouth.

This is how Menia Thamison, 68, has endured the most part of this year’s chilling weather. All this because she had no proper blanket to cushion her from coldness.

“It has been hard to live through this year’s cold weather,” said Thamison, a resident of Nthondo Village in Traditional Authority (T/A) Khongoni in Lilongwe.

Apparently, that has been a perennial challenge over the years.

Every day she wakes up at 4am. Her first duty is to make fire for an old sickly man in her house in order to keep him warm and beat the anger of the chilly morning.

Lack of proper beddings has always exposed the two to the harsh conditions of the winter season. But now that is no longer the case.

An initiative called Japanese Blanket for Africa (JBAC) has come to their rescue by providing them with appropriate blankets to beat the cold weather.

JBAC is also an organization working with the Malawi Red Cross Society (MRCS) in supporting needy people with distribution of blankets.

Thamison is one of the beneficiaries and cannot hide her relief spawned by this kind gesture.

For years, her family sought solace in wrappers because they could afford to buy blankets.

“I am the breadwinner, my husband has been sick for some time to illnesses related to old age,” said Thamison who sells thobwa, a local non-alcoholic brew, for her family’s living.

Her small business generates income that is only enough for bringing food on the table than buying other necessities such as blankets.

There are five people in their family, all in need of proper blankets. With the woman as the only beneficiary to the donation, it means that four more are still helpless.

“I plead to other well-wishers to come and help the others who missed out on JBAC donation,” Thamison said.

Among the beneficiaries in Khongoni were the elderly and children as young as five years old.

Emma Joseph, 5, was in the company of her uncle and her face was shiny with excitement as she waited for confirmation as a beneficiary.

“I am happy that I have received the blanket. I will start using it today,” said Joseph.

The Malawi Red Cross Society (MRCS) together with JBAC have been friends to the needy through blanket distribution since 2001.

MRCS Secretary General, McBain Kanongoza said the idea of the blanket distribution across the country came with the people of Japan who said they would love to be collecting blankets in their country and donate them to needy people in Africa.

According to Kanongoza, the quantity of blankets for distribution has doubled from around 8,000 in 2001 to more than 19, 000 in 2018.

“We are happy that the initiative continues to touch lives of many vulnerable people regardless of their religious or political affiliations,” he said.

He admitted that their intervention is not huge enough to cover all the corners of the country.

“There are many needy people in Malawi that include vulnerable groups such as the elderly, orphans and persons with disabilities. Our support is not enough to reach them all,” Kanongoza said.

He, therefore, called on other well-wishers to come forward and help to bail out some of these people.

Director for JBAC Kazuhiro Tanaka said the initiative was developed by the Japanese people when they heard stories of how needy people in Africa struggle with the cold weather especially at night.

“We felt it was ideal to contribute something towards improving the welfare of such people,” Tanaka said.

With a total of 19200 blankets distributed in all the 28 districts this year, Tanaka feels JBAC and other partners need to do more in reaching to many.

“Going around, what we see is always heartbreaking because many people are spending their nights without a proper bedding like a blanket to cover themselves.

This calls for sourcing as many blankets as we can to reach to many needy people,” said Tanaka adding that everyone deserves a decent life through comfortability of sleep.

Lonia Samala, 13, finally found her long awaited comfort of having a decent blanket.

Over the years, Samala has shared one blanket with her two siblings and said it is not big enough to cover them all. And now they have extra inches of cover for warmth.

“I will add the new blanket to the one we have at home and hopefully my young sisters and I can finally enjoy some peaceful sleep,” she said.

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