Sewing Update 2016

January 22nd, 2017 by Conor Brady, Communications Officer, MCV Board

Below is an excerpt from Nettie Graulich’s Annual Report on the MCV Sewing Project.

By Nettie Graulich


picture of Sewing Teachers and Trainees

Nettie Graulich and the Sewing Team at MCV

What a great first week we had in Blantyre. Ayami forgave me for oversleeping that first day, after a 30 hour journey, but then we were off on a shopping spree for fabrics and supplies for our project. Over the years we have developed a loyal group of friends in the business world in Blantyre, always ready to help us with finding sources for the materials we need.

The craft items we make have become a major part of income for our business. We use the zitenje, colorful cotton prints, and the only manufacturer in Malawi had a great supply at this time. So much fun, we bought yards and yards. The heavier cottons in ethnic prints had not been produced for more than a year now; we really need those fabrics. Maybe some shopkeeper had some stock left; we did not give up and asked everywhere. Finally it was: “let me give my brother a call”, and there it was, this brother had bought up the whole stock when the factory stopped producing. We hit the jackpot! We take the minibus home with Stefano; he runs a daily round trip service from MCV to Blantyre. We arrange to go to all the places where we have made our purchases and they fill up the whole floor under the seats as well as all the space in the back. At the bus station I am greeted by “Hey baby”; they remember “the azungu” (white lady) from previous years. I love the lively scene, all the vendors and the hustling for passengers that goes on. When the minibus is full, we take off. All the passengers are sitting with their feet up because of all our baggage. The trip is four hours, but nobody complains; it is the Malawi way of travel.

How exciting to see all the kids in the program again. They are all wearing a shirt they have designed, proud of a uniform, proud to belong. Many text messages are coming in from our kids now working in South Africa. What a welcome! All the machines are humming, the kids are sewing and a happy chatter goes on. Ayami works on layout and cutting, James is teaching, and I am working out new pattern designs. Yes, for the next 3 months I am home.

The Sewing Room at MCV

The Sewing Room and Students at MCV

Power outages

The training of new students starts on treadle machines. Using those machines and being able to do basic repair on them is very important, since that is what they will be using as tailors in the village. At the workshop they move on to the industrial machines, which are much faster. These special machines give a professional finish – quality work that our project is known for. We can really produce a lot in one day. This year our big problem is electricity; it is very unreliable and now is off for many daytime hours. The kids bring all the treadle machines out on the porch and the sewing continues. The charcoal iron is put into use. The girls cut small items that need hand cutting; all the leftover pieces of fabric are cut into sizes for patchwork. It is quite a scene working outside. The sales of our products and the labour charges for the work- clothing and uniforms are what pay the wages of our kids; we need to have a good daily output. The cutting is done in quantity in a layout at least one inch thick, but again that needs electricity. I am off to Blantyre to look into generators, meanwhile Ayami borrows a unit to try out at the workshop. We find that the capacity has to be very high in order to run the industrial machines. The MCV director, Felix Chirombo, has been involved in the whole process and suggests that we buy the diesel fuel and they will run the large MCV generator as needed. We immediately put this to the test and $25 of diesel gives us 6 hours of power. Meanwhile MCV has power as well, so we all benefit. This is affordable only on days when we really need the production going. Another problem temporarily solved!

Fabric sold out

Going back for more zitenje fabric, we find a very small stock on the shelves; the only Malawi manufacturer has run out of chemicals for the dyeing and has no idea when it will be available again. Ayami runs to the bank and takes out the money to buy the whole lot. Better to have the extra fabric supply, we cannot risk running out. Our next big sales are to several groups of high school students from England, doing summer projects. We sell many of our craft items and make shirts and Happy Pants, they love to choose the fabric and have the pants custom made for them. With cash in hand, Ayami goes to the big fabric market in Lilongwe (four hours away), the zitenje there is imported from Tanzania. He comes back with loads of beautiful fabrics and our kids cheer. Three weeks later the Lilongwe market burns down. No colorful fabrics available anymore! This is doing business in Malawi, you never know what hurdle comes up next; it keeps us on our toes. Our stuffed elephants and hippos have become a great seller, something as simple as finding the stuffing for that becomes an adventure.

Ayami supervises trainees hard at work.

Ayami supervises trainees hard at work.

Subject: You are amazing!

Ayami the manager, now with the sewing project for 12 years, keeps everything running all year long. I love working with him, I learn from him all the time. He never gives up and is a wise and caring person. This exchange between my son Ian and “his brother from another mother” says it all.

Brother Ayami, Good morning!

This is Ian, Nettie’s younger son in Florida. My mother recently shared with us your latest email and pictures from the day you purchased the many bags of maize. That was incredible and will be such a blessing for the families during the hard times of the drought. I just wanted to take a moment to let you know that my wife and I are SO impressed by your leadership, planning, and accomplishments with the sewing project! Nettie talks about you and praises you all the time and you should know how much she truly appreciates and loves you. We hope you continue to be a blessing for the project, your employees, and all their families for many years to come. We look forward to hearing more stories and seeing more pictures of the great things you are doing for MCV and Malawi! God bless you!

Sincerely, your “brother from another mother”,
Ian Graulich


Thank you so much my brother. You know what brother, we are so blessed for having our beloved Mum. I born with little heart ♥ some how, but My Mum Professor taught me so many things that’s why I manage to be called a blessing in our project. Thanks once again to you brother and those who are supporting us. Otherwise it would have been too difficult for us to handle all the challenges we are going through in our training school project. May God reward all of you. We can dream comfortable when we make people smile. The attached pictures are some of our boys and girls smiling after making their lives better.

Ayami (your African Brother)

Read Nettie’s full PDF report here.

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Felix Chirombo Named Paul Harris Fellow

December 27th, 2016 by Conor Brady, Communications Officer, MCV Board

Missed the 2016 MCV Newsletter in the mail? Read it here on the blog. Read more stories from the newsletter here

MCV Director Felix Chirombo

MCV Director Felix Chirombo

In Felix Chirombo’s office at MCV, one wall is covered with banners from Rotary clubs that have collaborated with MCV for more than 15 years. Among them is longtime partner, the Rotary Club of Palmer Alaska.

Recently, Palmer Rotarians recognized Felix’s contributions to MCV by naming him a Paul Harris Fellow of The Rotary Foundation. Paul Harris Fellows are recognized for their service in making a difference in the world. As Executive Director of MCV, Felix has been an example of the Rotary motto, “Service Above Self.” Congratulations to Felix for this well-deserved recognition, and for his ongoing efforts for the children of Malawi.

Rotary Banners in Felix's office

Rotary Banners in Felix’s office

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Treasurer’s Report 2016

December 21st, 2016 by Ruth Nighswander, Treasurer, MCV Board

Missed the 2016 MCV Newsletter in the mail? Read it here on the blog. Read more stories from the newsletter here

Although our official thank you to donors is written in the receipt by our bookkeeper, we thank our supporters throughout the year! You all have helped with the many needs of our orphans and other vulnerable children: education, housing, health, clothes, food and clean water.
We receive student appreciation and follow them as they graduate, get, jobs, give back to the community and send thank you notes to donors.
You can be proud of your contributions. You are truly helping many children in the 38 villages served.

October 1, 2015 – September 30, 2016


Direct Public Grants            $14,815
Direct Public Support        $173,786
Other Types of Income             $146
Total Revenue                     $188,747


Supporting Services

 Business License                          $50
 Bookkeeper                             $4,800
 Tax Preparation                         $750
 Bank Fees and Wire Costs       $626
 Insurance                                 $1,408
 Newsletter & Thank You’s      $3,791
 Supplies                                      $196
 PayPal Fees                                $722
Website Fees                              $217
 PO Box Rental                           $348
Total Supporting Services       $12,907

Program Services

 Grants                                       $55,100
 Designated Funds                 $84,435
 Orphan School Tuition         $21,050
 Total Program Services        $160,585

Total Expenses                     $173,492

MCV Foundation has no paid staff and our board members pay all of their own expenses. As the activity statement above indicate, 92% of last years expenses were invested directly in programs and support in Malawi.

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Village Outreach: The Heart of MCV

December 18th, 2016 by Mary Pomeroy, MCV Board Member

Missed the 2016 MCV Newsletter in the mail? Read it here on the blog. Read more stories from the newsletter here

Catherine Shabani (left) who joined in 2005 and Florence Kondwani (right) who joined in 2002  have both been providing care and support in the villages served by MCV for
more than a decade.

Catherine Shabani (left) who joined in 2005 and Florence Kondwani (right) who joined in 2002 have both been providing care and support in the villages served by MCV for
more than a decade.

The heart of MCV is with our Village Outreach Coordinators, Catherine Shabani and Florence Kondwani.

Florence learned resilience at an early age when she became an orphan herself at the age of three, losing both parents on the same day in her home of Dedza. She and her seven siblings were raised by varied aunts and uncles, mostly separated from each other. 
Following completion of secondary school, she took a Community Development course and began her life-long work in social services. She  has coordinated and developed many HIV/AIDS education programs for  individuals, groups and organizations.

She lost her husband when her daughter was two years of age. Florence kept her spirit going by giving to others, continuing her efforts in community awareness programs. MCV paid for Florence to further her education in a one year social welfare training course. She learned specific skills for child protection and family reconciliation, as well as increasing her knowledge in early childhood development, gender equality and women empowerment.

Catherine’s early childhood with her seven siblings was in Zomba and Mulanje. Following secondary school, she became trained as a Health Surveillance Assistant. In her first job with Save the Children she supported pregnant women, encouraging pre-natal care and distributing condoms. She assisted on home deliveries and supported newborns to ensure they received vaccinations and proper nutrition. She also provided education about HIV/AIDS. She then worked with a project distributing bed-nets and encouraging their daily use, followed by a number of years with a Community Health Partnership project, funded by USAID. Here her duties continued with the support for the health of pregnant women and child nutrition, now encouraging mothers to go to hospitals for their deliveries. She would also take chlorine to people for safe water and disease prevention. Further work with Safe Motherhood and Hands in Hands continued her ongoing education in the villages for safe and healthy lifestyles. In the course of all this work, Catherine raised her seven children, mostly as a single mother. Her resilience matches Florence’s.

The combined skills of Catherine and Florence allow the Village Outreach program for MCV to be strong and focused, providing education and support to orphaned and vulnerable children and their families. Their skills are used daily in visits to the 38 villages in the catchment area for MCV. The bars of soap they may provide are like bars of gold. The people in the villages await their visits. They are dedicated  to help the people in this small area of Malawi live a better life. They are empowered women, sharing their lives and opening their hearts to those who appreciate their care, support and resilience. Catherine and Florence are truly the heart of MCV.

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Light and Empowerment

December 15th, 2016 by Elizabeth Usovicz

Missed the 2016 MCV Newsletter in the mail? Read it here on the blog. Read more stories from the newsletter here

Teachers pose with their certificates after completion of the SEE Program Training. Teams of two will implement a new after-school program in MCV area primary schools during the next year.

Teachers pose with their certificates after completion of the SEE Program Training. Teams of two will implement a new after-school program in MCV area primary schools during the next year.

“You treated us as equals, and you did it with love.”

This comment from Gladwell, a primary school teacher in Mangochi district is perhaps the greatest gift I received in working on the Student Empowerment and Education (SEE) Program at MCV in April, 2016.

I led a three-person Vocational Training Team to MCV, as part of a grant from the Rotary Foundation. The SEE Program project was sponsored by the Rotary Clubs of Limbe (Malawi) and Kansas City Plaza (Missouri, USA). Working in cooperation with MCV and the Light Foundation, the project installed solar lighting and study resources in schools and trained primary school teachers in an after-school program designed to empower children, especially girls, to stay in school.

Gladwell shows off a new Solar powered light.

Gladwell shows off a new Solar powered light.

We worked with ten primary school teachers. Together, the teachers and trainers collaboratively reviewed the curriculum for the program and the teachers refined it so that it was culturally and age appropriate for their students. The teacher training took place over five days.
While the training was taking place, The Light Foundation installed solar panels at eight primary schools with assistance from MCV staff members Vincent and Austin. Study materials and desks constructed by the MCV Carpentry and Joinery program were also installed at the schools.

The participating teachers received certificates of completion in their SEE program training, and officially took ownership of the program in a ceremony officiated by MCV Executive Director Felix Chirombo. Over the next school year, teams of two teachers will implement the after-school program in five of the primary schools serving villages in the MCV catchment area.

Malawian children, especially girls, face several challenges along their path to an education, including early marriage, teen pregnancy and HIV/AIDS. In a country where the World Bank reports average annual income of about $255 per capita, tenacity is more than an admirable trait. It’s a survival skill.

The SEE Program focuses on empowering girls to stay in school.

The SEE Program focuses on empowering girls to stay in school.

Multitasking: Village girls learn how to multitask from their mothers, walking barefoot several times a day from the village water pump with 70-pound buckets of potable water on their heads, babies on their backs, and another child or two by the hand. I saw village girls supervising younger siblings while pounding maize, herding goats, and trying to get homework done. These girls exhibited a tenacity that humbled me.

Tradition: According to a United Nations Development Program background paper on Malawi, 47 percent of girls finish standard 8 – the equivalent of the 8th grade. Family influences, the tradition of early marriage and teen pregnancy can easily discourage a girl’s plans for the future.

Role Models: I met dozens of girls who told me they aspired to become businesswomen, doctors, nurses or accountants. Most had never had an opportunity to meet women working in those professions. The village girls who succeed in getting an education are the future role models for other village girls.

My experience this past year has given me a global perspective on the value of girls’ education. With tenacity, encouragement and the support of MCV and its donors, it’s my hope that the girls of Malawi will reach their aspirations.

Zikomo to:
The Rotary clubs of Limbe and Kansas City Plaza, Steve Huff of the Light Foundation, fellow trainers Bill and Cindy Schmidt, Felix Chirombo and the MCV staff – and especially to the extraordinary teachers who now guide the SEE program.

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Samama Village Profile

December 13th, 2016 by Conor Brady, Communications Officer, MCV Board

Missed the 2016 MCV Newsletter in the mail? Read it here on the blog. The Article below was written by Mary Pomeroy and Frances Vitaglione. Read more stories from the newsletter here

As longtime donors know, MCV is NOT an orphanage. It is a village- based orphan care project. This means that aside from the infants living temporarily at Open Arms – next to the MCV campus – the orphans and other vulnerable children supported by MCV live with their extended families or other care givers in one of the 38 villages in MCV’s catchment area. Our “Village Profiles” series is designed to give our readers a bit of the flavor of each village.

Samama houses can be seen in the distance from the main road.

Samama houses can be seen in the distance from the main road.

Samama Village is laid out flat between the road to Mangochi and Lake Malawi. Being close to the road has advantages. It is easy to get there (except in the rainy season when being low and flat means ankle deep mud.)

Samama boasts a full primary school including a two classroom block with Headmaster’s office and two latrines, all built by MCV. When last year’s solar light project installed a light in one of the classrooms, the workers came back at night after the first day’s installation to see if the light was working. They found the classroom already full of students studying!

Of the 42 orphans in Samama Village, 36 are school age.  MCV supplies school uniforms and five are on scholarship at Gracious Secondary School at MCV.

The village economic base is fishing and subsistence farming, with two irrigation schemes supported by MCV with 25 farmers participating.
This past year MCV also provided 24 bed-nets to mothers with infants to help prevent malaria.

The Samama Village headman is Stefano Mwaliwa.  His two Village Volunteers are Mike Msosa and Moses Jere. (Note: There are two Village Volunteers in each of the villages supported by MCV.) Since the beginning of MCV, almost 20 years ago, Mike has been an MCV Village Volunteer. He particularly notes the assistance provided in the areas of education, health and food security.

Mike says he has benefited personally through increased knowledge (MCV  has a monthly training for volunteers) and incentives such as bicycles, tires, and monthly stipend.

Samama is just one of the 38 nearby villages that continue to benefit from the association with MCV and from your generous donations.

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Gracious Celebrates Ten Years

December 10th, 2016 by Conor Brady, Communications Officer, MCV Board

Missed the 2016 MCV Newsletter in the mail? Read it here on the blog. The Article below was written by Jesse Kwiek and Vincent Sisya. Read more stories from the newsletter here

Gracious Students at work

Gracious Students at work

The idea for Gracious Secondary School began in 2000, when 15 orphan students, each of whom was sponsored by MCV to learn in government schools, were unhappy with their learning conditions. They wanted a school with qualified teachers and enough learning materials to obtain a good education. The students expressed their concerns to the Village Volunteers and MCV staff. They bought the concept. Fundraising for the construction of  a classroom block started immediately.

  In January 2006, Gracious opened its doors with five teachers, and one class of fifty students. Today, ten years later, Gracious has fifteen teachers, six supporting staff, and it offers instruction in Form one (grade 9) through Form four (grade 12). Each Form has two streams, each with an average of sixty students per class.
Gracious is a member of the Independent Schools Association of

Malawi (ISAMA) and is registered with the Ministry of Education of Malawi. 

Aligning with its mission to serve orphans and other vulnerable children, MCV currently provides school tuition, lunch fees, and school materials for 124 orphan students.
The results from the school have been nothing short of outstanding. In 2015, 86% of Gracious students passed the Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE), far exceeding the 55% national pass rate. This success has not gone unnoticed. Mr. Stanford Mangani, the Chipoka Village Volunteer and the chairperson for all Village Volunteers, shares the following:

“The school brought hope to all villagers because orphans and their children are able to get a good education which shapes their future. We are grateful for the school, and as a community, we will continue to take care of it.”

Although Gracious has excelled, it can still be better. The school currently lacks a dining hall, there is insufficient housing available to the teachers, and with a new curriculum, Gracious needs to buy new books. Mr. Raymond E. Kapito, the Head Teacher observes:

“The academic performance of students is improving every year. However, for the school to achieve its vision, we need your continued support. We strive to make Gracious Private Secondary School one of the best schools in Malawi and to send many of our students to universities and college.”

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Njala Update

December 7th, 2016 by Conor Brady, Communications Officer, MCV Board

Missed the 2016 MCV Newsletter in the mail? Read it here on the blog.  See more articles from this year’s newsletter here

Orphan care givers lined up to receive food support when a similar famine struck in 2005.

Orphan care givers lined up to receive food support when a similar famine struck in 2005.

Hunger strikes almost every year in Malawi. When it comes it is known as the njala season. (Njala means hunger in Chichewa.)
As reported last year, the devastating floods of 2015 wiped out the maize crop. As predicted there was famine starting as early as August a year ago. There was great hope and anticipation of good rains this last rainy season. It did not happen. The price of imported maize skyrocketed and was well beyond the reach of the villagers who live in a largely subsistence society.
You made a difference!
The focus was orphans and other vulnerable children. Last summer (2015) in anticipation of what was coming, you bought 10,000 pounds of maize In addition after the first of this year you purchased an additional 20,000 pounds of maize for the most vulnerable families in the MCV villages. From the villagers in the 38 MVC villages, zikomo kwambiri!! (Thank you very much.)

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2016 Newsletter – A letter from our President

December 4th, 2016 by Conor Brady, Communications Officer, MCV Board

Missed the 2016 MCV Newsletter in the mail? Read it here on the blog. Below is the newsletter’s opening address from MCV Board President Tom Vitaglione. Read more stories from the newsletter here

2016 Newsletter Banner

Dear Donors and Friends,

Twenty years ago, some returned Peace Corps Volunteers and Malawians came together to consider the plight of Malawi. Already one of the poorest countries in the world, the AIDS epidemic was overwhelming the country. Among other problems, there were an estimated 800,000 orphans in the country, and that number was certain to grow. With the social fabric in great stress, the future for these vulnerable children was bleak.

While the size of the problem seemed to preclude successful resolution, the group felt compelled to at least try to do what it could. That decision led to the creation of Malawi Children’s Village, a village–based orphan care project that focuses on 38 villages along the southwestern shore of Lake Malawi.

Twenty years later, the dream continues, with more than 2000 orphans currently being served, and more than 12,000 orphan “graduates” making a difference in villages, towns, and government. Though there was no way to respond nationally, MCV has achieved success in its catchment area, and that is portrayed in the articles in this newsletter.

This success is not happenstance. It would not be possible without the hundreds of loyal donors whose contributions cover annual village-based orphan care ($30) and secondary school tuition ($255). Though small by American standards, these costs are well beyond the reach of Malawian households that have taken in children.

MCV also benefits from a growing number of partners: Open Arms provides rehabilitative care for infant/toddlers; Engineers without Borders (Anchorage) has installed a safe water system; THREEafrica provides tuition support for girls to attend secondary school; a number of American primary school-to-school initiatives support Malawian government primary schools. From its inception, MCV has benefited from the generosity of Rotary Clubs, including: Seneca Falls and Clifton Springs (NY) support for 25 village-based irrigation systems; Kansas City support for malaria bed-nets and a new initiative you can read about in this newsletter; Palmer (AK) support of housing repair; and of course continuous support from the “home” club in Limbe, Malawi.

Finally, the innate resilience of Malawians, in the villages, in the staff, and in the local governing board is the underlying reason for MCV’s success.

We remain ever grateful to the hundreds of you who support them as they continue this noble work. Zikomo!

Tsalani Bwino,

Tom Vitaglione, Board President


Stay tuned to the MCV Blog to read more articles from this year’s newsletter in the coming weeks. 

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MCV in the News

November 30th, 2016 by Conor Brady, Communications Officer, MCV Board

The Work of long time Board Members Tom and Ruth Nighswander and MCV were highlighted in the Alaska Dispatch News Article below.



An Anchorage couple worked decades to help African villagers. Other Alaskans decided to help, too.



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