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18/07/2013: REMARKS BY THE AMBASSADOR OF MALAWI TO THE US, HIS EXCELLENCY STEVE D. MATENJE, S.C. AT THE LAUNCH OF “ASPIRE TO INSPIRE” LONG BRANCH COMMUNITY CENTER, SILVERSPRING, MARYLAND FRIDAY, JUNE 28TH, 2013

 

Salutations:

  • The Chairman of the Board of Aspire to Inspire, Mr Mwiza Munthali
  • Other members of the Board present
  • The Kamkwalala family
  • Members of Staff of the Embassy of Malawi to the US
  • Dear Friends.

 

First and foremost, I would like to thank each and every one of you for being here tonight to witness the launch of Aspire to Inspire, Inc, a not-for-profit NGO and learn about its mission. As we all know, Aspire to Inspire, was founded by Mrs. Viola Kamkwalala. Two weeks before she passed, she called me on the telephone. We had a long conversation on what she aspired for the organization and her passion to give as much as she had received to those who are not as fortunate, especially, the youth in Malawi.

Malawi is a land-locked country in south-eastern of Africa. Most of our citizens are engaged in the agricultural sector, but we have significant opportunities for growth. There are many under-utilized natural resources, but most important among these is the enormous untapped potential of our human resources, especially our youth.

The youth constitute more than one half of our 15 million population. A significant number of them face many challenges including unwanted pregnancies, child marriages, lack of jobs and HIV/AIDS. Left unattended and undeveloped, the youth can become a time bomb ready to explode at any time as happened in Tunisia and Egypt in what came to be known as the Arab Spring of North Africa in 2010/2011. We should not wait for that to happen in Malawi because Malawi is a country of resilient people and of hope.  We hope for a better tomorrow for our youth.

Therefore, I am proud and greatly honored to be here tonight to witness the launch of Aspire to Inspire which aims to “inspire every child to learn and grow” into useful citizens with a sense of purpose and belonging.  But the youth need help. The long telephone conversation I had with Mrs. Kamkwalala before her death, left me in no doubt that she knew her mission for the youth would not be accomplished without the involvement and support of the community.

Indeed, as we say in Malawi and Africa: “It takes a village to raise a child.” This proverb emphasizes the importance of turning the principles of compassion, sharing and cooperating in efforts to promote human development.

What does that mean for us tonight? It means at least two things. First, it means that the caring of the youth is a collective responsibility and that it is not rested in one or two individuals, but in the whole community. Mrs. Kamkwalala knew this very well. She knew that the proverbial “village” consists of those of us, Malawians in the Diaspora, mentoring and sharing our skills with the youth back in Malawi.  That is why she founded this organization and invited some of you to be members of Aspire’s Board of Directors and help steer it forward and fulfill its objectives. I salute you for accepting that invitation.

I must add that the “village” also extends to our American friends and friends of other nationalities here in the US. That is why Mrs Kamkwalala taught Sunday school for eleven years at her church and was presented with an award posthumously by the Montgomery Country Government for her involvement in various initiatives in the County. She also at one time chaired the Malawi Washington Association.

What else does the proverb mean for us tonight? The proverb also recognizes that the relationship between the community and the individual is an important one.  Whilst it is clear that individuals get their identity within a community, it is in the best interest of a community that an individual is developed towards his or her own potential and ability.

Looking at the objectives of Aspire to Inspire, it is clear that the spirit of this great African proverb was enshrined in Mrs. Kamkwalala’s vision, which  was not to give the youth “fish”, but to teach them “how to fish” as a means to self-reliance, and economic prosperity and independence.   Indeed, most African countries, including Malawi, are now moving away from the culture of “donations” and are embracing various tools for turning their vast untapped natural resources into wealth. But we cannot achieve sustainable growth and development unless we can teach our youth the basic skills they need and ensure that they contribute to the economy.

Mrs. Kamkwalala has done her part. It is now our turn to do ours. Therefore, as a tribute to her, I invite each and every one of you to help Aspire to Inspire achieve its objectives. You can do that in many ways: for example, by making contributions in cash or kind, volunteering at its events or mentoring the youth into useful citizens.  You can also make suggestions on what needs to be done to make Aspire a success.   Last but not least, please spread the word to others who may be interested in Aspire to Inspire and its mission.

In closing, let me mention two other important points.  First, as Ambassador of Malawi to the United States, I am encouraged to see Malawians in the diaspora here in the US begin to respond positively to the calls of Her Excellency Dr. Joyce Banda, our President, to participate in the social and economic development of our country.  The foundation of Aspire is an excellent example of how Malawians in the diaspora can assist in ensuring that vulnerable members of the Malawian society are not left behind on our journey to prosperity.  Her Excellency the President and her administration are committed to facilitating the participation by the Malawian diaspora in the development agenda of our country.

Second, I would like to take this opportunity to once again express my gratitude, as I did at Mrs Kamkwalala’s memorial church service last Sunday for the support Malawians gave Mrs Kamkwalala during her long illness and her funeral.  This is what Malawian culture demands and is about.  Thank you for promoting and adhering to it here in the US.

May God bless you and Malawi.  Thank you very much for your attention.