I feel like a failed college mom.  Our schoolgirl started classes this week in Malawi.  The problem is that she started a full week behind her classmates.  She didn’t have what she needed.  Her uniform was not ready.  Her school shoes had not yet been purchased.   She also needed a few things as simple as lotion and soap.

IMG_2683Our office wired the money for school fees and uniforms a long time ago, but communications a world away is not always crystal clear.  In fact, information between languages and continents is rarely clear, or timely.  People usually give up.  Conversations a half a world away are interrupted by time zones, spotty internet coverage and language barriers. It is often just not worth the trouble or the expense. But this time it is worth every minute of slow-motion English and each dime spent.  This time, it’s about trying to literally put school shoes on one girl’s dream of becoming a nurse.

Blantyre, the city where the Joyce Banda Foundation School is located, is a cooler climate than her home by the lake.  So, I thought she might need a new blanket for her dorm room.  Sure they have blankets in Malawi, but your bed at boarding school is pretty important. I still have the quilt mom sent for my bed at boarding school in the 7th grade.  That blanket, made for me by a women’s group in Fayette, Alabama, felt like home base.

So, I found a blanket on clearance at Target.  It is that unbelievably soft lightweight furry fabric, the kind people in America use to snuggle up with on the couch.  The warm gray blanket cost less than $20 to buy, but it was too expensive to mail. The first shipping quote we got from DHL, the company that can find her school with no street address, was over $500.  No kidding.

Therefore, Amanda helped me find a smaller box and a plan B.  We took out the blanket and sent some barely used tennis shoes and new socks instead.  She needs them for sports at school.  My own daughter wore these shoes about three times and then abandoned them in bottom of her closet.  They are great shoes and our girl will seriously love them!  We also sent some pens and pencils, some chewing gum, and some underwear – all things you need to start school the school year. (Ok, maybe not the gum!)  It was a tiny box that weighed under the 20 pound flat rate limit.  USPS shipped it for the bargain price of $80.

Once she saves up her allowance and finds her way around, our girl will be able to find everything she needs in Blantyre – like notebooks and laundry soap.  But since she got off to a bumpy start, waiting in her dorm while everyone else went to class, we thought a care package from America might brighten her day.  She will get her “new” shoes and pencils 6-10 days from now.

Remember how it felt to be the odd one out?  Think about moving from the country to the biggest city you have ever seen and beginning a new school. Now picture that without a cell phone to call your home. Pray for the school uniform to be ready and for a new friend to help show her the ropes.  Pray for kind and patient teachers.

Dreaming out loud of becoming a nurse sure sounds like a great idea when you are standing in the dirt in your own front yard.  In actuality, this dream takes a lot of courage.  Girls can’t afford to get cold feet.

School Shoes