Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Mr. Joe Nkhula
He turned to look at a slender-bodied woman coming our way. Suddenly, there was an inexplicable twinkle in his eye as he smiled affectionately. “Look at that beautiful dark woman”, he said. She was indeed the essence of beauty. A true Bantu princess. Gracefully donning her Chitenje drapes, she made her way into the bakery. “She is my wife”, he stated matter-of-factly. “She is also a member of this group, but who would know?” He quizzed. At that moment, I was confused. What does this imply and what is all this leading to? I pondered.
“Our hearts burn with so much passion in the things we do”, he continued as he became more animated with each expression. “We also visit and provide support to those who are reluctant to access critical health services. He then pointed to a brawny man in his mid-forties. “Look at him, now a vital member. Who would know that he initially lived in secrecy and isolation? His fear was so overwhelming that he even shunned visiting the hospital to access critical health services. During those days, he would angrily censure us for our visits.”
At this moment, I was impatiently hanging on to his every word. He could sense my undivided attention. The Chef’s timer set off. “Two more minutes!” he exclaimed. Three women standing nearby began to make preparations for the removal of a new batch of scones from the oven. The sweet scent of the hot scones filled the kitchen and flooded outside into the surroundings. This slightly sweet and yeasty aroma smelled warm, like a hot cup of Mzuzu Coffee on a very cold day.
“Business is good”. He beamed with pride. “The bread and scones in our shop over that counter will all be finished in under five minutes. It was not so long ago when we heard that there was a CorpsAfrica Volunteer in our community. A few months down the line, we had the bakery business while she went back to her home.” “Who is now ripping the benefits?” He quizzed. “Under her facilitation, we planned every inch of this bakery and built it from the ground up, with our sweat. We learned so much from CorpsAfrica.” I could sense his immense gratitude.
Realizing that he had been distracted by the timer and the wave of customers, he leaned forward in his chair and looked straight into my eyes. I met his gaze squarely for what looked like an eternity. “I am HIV positive”, the Chef unequivocally stated, “and so is every member of this group. Until now, you didn’t know, did you?” He quizzed as he laughed lazily. I didn’t. Reclining in his chair, his face lit up as the corners of his mouth turned into a full smile. “We live well. Most importantly, we are generating some income from this bakery. What could one ask for?” He ironically quizzed again. More capital injection, I silently thought to myself.