Friday, May 29

Malawi update

Around this time we celebrate the feast day of St Kizito, which commemorates his martyrdom on the 3rd June 1886, together with the 32 slain by King Mwanga II of Uganda.
Today Malawi remains one of the poorest and less developed countries in the world, but its reputation remains “as the warm heart of Africa”.
This year it suffered a contraction in agriculture because of the late rains and some pockets of flooding which has adversely effected 80,000 hectares of cropland. Even so the country expects modest gains in their economy. 

What is a sobering thought is that it is estimated nearly half the population still have to exist on 1 dollar a day. This makes any efforts to help even more essential in ensuring there is a future community buildup of leaders through improved education, who are better able to serve their respective communities.
Recently Fr Taylor wrote to us telling us the scholarship and students support program is running very well and making a real difference. Currently work is underway renovating the local community day school and we are funding the cost of the roof. 
You would be pleased to hear that Fr. Taylor tells us there remains a great spirit amongst the people so that for him it is both an honour and a pleasure to work with them. 
 Click on Malawi Support Group blog link for all the latest photos.

Saturday, May 9


Above are some pictures taken during an enjoyable stay at historic Chiltern and of nearby Beechworth, which are within a comfortable 3 hour drive north of Melbourne.

Chiltern is a small sleepy little historical town between Wangaratta and Albury/Wodonga. The town boasts the childhood home of author Henry Handel Richardson, situated opposite the ornamental Lake Anderson, pictured above. This picturesque body of water provides a home to a diversity of birdlife including three pelicans and is an ideal spot for a picnic or to just to wander around.
The first settlers were graziers but no sooner was the town community established with the erection of civic buildings in 1852, it became swamped by the gold prospectors as rich seams were discovered in 1858.

The population quickly swelled to 20,000 at its height, but mostly by way of occupation of makeshift flimsy dwellings, so there is little evidence to day of this once bustling center. Now the population has 1600 ratepayers but is increasing as young families in search of affordable housing settle in the area which is only a half hours drive to larger centers.
The town has been the location for Walt Disney’s ‘Ride the Wild Pony”, Crawford Productions’ ‘My Brother Tom’ and Revco Production’s ‘The True Story of Spit McPhee’. It is an obvious choice for the filming of period dramas as there is an abundance of historical buildings in the town and any number of walks through the Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park as well as mine sites and a pioneer cemetery.
We made our base, ‘The Chiltern Colonial Motor Inn’, conveniently located near the historical station and a short walk to the town and lake. It was the only accommodation with a pool so I could keep up with a daily exercise routine, to appease a crook back, as I managed to brave the nippy water on three occasions much to the surprise of the staff and some of the guests. However, on the third morning when I began to lose the feeling in my legs after a short time in the pool I made a hasty exit!
We joined our friends who were mostly engaged in walking along tracks during the day for a communal dinner prepared in one of their cabins. It was a splendid three course meal of vegetable soup, steak and kidney pie with cauliflower and white sauce followed by jellied fruit and ice cream. Grace was read out in Latvian, to add a cultural event of interest to the convivial atmosphere. 
A highlight of our visit was an afternoon tea with a long time resident of Chiltern, whose ancestors were the original gold mining settlers and farmers. The old timber house, from where he gave his interesting talk, was crammed with antiques and memorabilia reflective of a grander yesteryear. It was the first timber hewn house in the town. He explained the mammoth scale of gold mining options then from ancestral records which noted an amount of over a million pounds expended in one year to update maintenance equipment for just one mine.  
But as the ore gave out by the early 20th century it soon resembled a ghost town as only those could not afford to leave stayed, to eke out a living from the land and from the few businesses that remained.
Before dining out that evening we also all attended Mass at Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church. We were welcomed as the walking group who could even sing. Our numbers, plus the very small congregation led by the priest were in fine voice as we sang the hymns a-cappella, possible on our part as five of us were part of our church choir. The Telegraph Hotel, the hub of the community on that Anzac Day night, when we arrived, was full to over flowing with children playing pool while their parents propped up the bar, as other locals and holiday makers drifted into the dining room later