This year too a group of young Roman university students spent part of their holidays in Blantyre, Malawi's second city, with children welcomed into the DREAM center for fighting against AIDS. And they told us their beautiful summer:
"We were welcomed like in a big family with affection and friendship by many people who every day live and spread the spirit of the Community of Sant'Egidio in Malawi.
Even in Blantyre, as well as in many other African cities the DREAM program is active. In a country where it is often difficult to have running water and electricity, the DREAM center is an oasis of excellence, point of reference and hope for many. At the DREAM center no detail is neglected, but what makes it unique is not only the professionalism but also the friendship and affection of many activists who take care of each patient spreading a message of hope for the districts of Blantyre.
Every day our activists cross the streets of Blantyre to visit and to look for all those patients who fail to reach the DREAM center. In these two weeks we joined them in "home care".
During one of these mornings we met Owen, an HIV-positive child of 6 years, but she seems much less because the disease does not allow him to grow up like other children of his age. We walked for over an hour to reach his village. He lives with his mother, who is also HIV-positive, and sister Joan, who fortunately was born healthy. The father is not there. He abandoned the family when he discovered that his wife had AIDS.
We are greeted with great affection and much amazement. It is not normal that the whites go to visit the sick here in Blantyre. They make us sit on a mat. At home, a small house of brick and mud, one-room, there are neither beds nor chairs and then the place where guests are received is outer space.
He was in hospital for over a month, so he could not go to the center. Even now that he was sent home he is still sick. In his eyes we see the suffering and at the same time a call for help.
It was good to see him after a few days in the nutritional center in Machinjiri. There every day more than 800 children eat and we know that the activists will take care of him and help Owen to regain his strength.
The Community has always chosen to put the periphery in the center. The nutrition center John Paul II is located right in one of the most remote and poorest areas of the city and has become a symbol of hope, rebirth and confidence that a better future is possible for everyone, starting with the children.
Every day a nutritious meal is guaranteed to all children, but in addition to food there is much more, each child receives the love and care of the activists. For younger children there is also the kindergarden. It was really great to see realized the dream of our friend Roberta: kindergarden dedicated to her welcomes many children and Junia, their young teacher, with a lot of professionalism follows them day after day, teaching them to read, sing and be together in friendship.
In these two weeks we met very many children, we have made with them the School of Peace. After a moment of shyness, children are welcomed with joy and great desire to learn our activities, many of them no longer wanted to quit school, you could not get them off the boards even when you set out to go play ball! At first, even the most simple things like color, sharpen a pencil, write their names for them were new and difficult trials, we realized how many children had never held a pencil and had never seen the colors, but day after day, together we were able to do much.
Each group of children has created some beautiful posters that were presented to the other during the final party. They were all very proud and when we attacked them on the walls of the center they did not stop to look at them and bring friends to watch as if we were in a museum in front of the great works of art, and after all, it was someway true...
In this short time many friendships were born. Chisomo, 9 years old, visually impaired, greeted us every day singing a song that we had taught him the first day, "all together, all friends, let's go to the school of peace, let's join together".
Hallo my friends! It was the greeting that many children addressed us. Mercy, a 11 year old girl, wrote a letter to each of us before we left. In every letter there was always a promise and a recommendation. The promise that she would have never forgotten us and the recommendation not to forget her and to return soon to spend with her and other children unforgettable days like the ones we spent together..
Very moving was the visit to the reformatory of Mpemba where the Youth for Peace in Blantyre often go. There live about forty children aged 6 to 14 years. Children are often accused of very serious crimes. You do not know what they are guilty, but the reformatory, paradoxically, is often a way to save their lives. In their village they risked being lynched.
In their eyes there was the desire to be children, to have someone to consider them as such. We organized a great football match and other games together and this made them excited! They did not stop thanking us and we promised to return soon for another great tournament!
Thinking back to the moments spent together, we realized that the love that we have given is not even comparable to all that we have received! We started with a great desire to come back to find our friends together and spend many more beautiful days and unforgettable!"