A mission trip to Malawi, Africa has given Tom Glatt Jr., owner of Glatt Consulting, a new perspective.
“The reputation of the people in Malawi as the warm heart of Africa is well deserved,” said Glatt. “Whether we were in a big city or in villages where there was no water, the friendliness of the people went far beyond expectations.”
Glatt recently wrapped up a weeklong trip, where he was part of a team to support the Chuluchosema Church, a local school orphanage that helps educate children who have no one else.
“George, the first student, who was the inspiration to build the school, was homeless and living in the streets and now will be graduating soon and is going to a university,” said Glatt. “You have no idea what a huge accomplishment that is. There may be a lot of money pouring into Malawi, but very little of that makes it to the villagers. It’s mostly an agricultural society.”
He said his days were filled with activity, ranging from helping negotiate a partnership agreement between the church and the village to distributing blankets to homeless children and getting updates on various church projects.
As part of the trip, Glatt stopped by the Blantyre center, which functions as a school for children the community has decided are most at risk. Those under age five receive a meal and those over five receive attention and life skills education. The organization that runs the center also supports savings groups consisting of 10 to 15 women.
“They get together and contribute to a common pot, because they have no capacity to save enough by themselves. And it’s the women, who are viewed as more responsible, who manage the money,” said Glatt. “It’s a concept that rang true from slums to successful farming communities. There were good strong communities where they created the equivalent of credit unions and banking. They’d sit in a circle take out a wooden box of account numbers, and like Round Robin they’d call out numbers, and people would contribute what they could. Resources are pooled so credit lines can be made available to depositors. It was incredible to see how as a community they took care of one another.”
He said the overall experience was filled with little moments like that. For example, tea is a huge crop in Malawi and pickers on the field make a few cents per kilo of tea picked. Glatt was invited by a church elder, Willard Simuja, to share meal in his home, which was 700 square feet and housed six people. Glatt said by Malawi standards he’s considered well to do.
“Willard is a farmer. And we ate cassava, ground nuts, rice, greens and chicken for lunch. It was a very generous meal made on my account, and I imagine they don’t normally eat as much as we did that day,” said Glatt. “The biggest takeaway for me has been that we tend to judge people’s standard of living by applying our own experience, and I think we miss key things about life–like supporting what’s truly important. Their sense of community, commitment to each other has taught me more about human connectivity and interaction.”