Mission for Malawi: grain farmer fills shipping container with donations for African country's poor


ABC Regional News (Australia)

After witnessing widespread poverty in Malawi on a trip to the Central African country last year, grain farmers Gary and Kerry Butcher returned to Australia determined to do something to help.

Shortly after they got back to their farm in Pithara in the wheatbelt region of Western Australia, the couple founded the Malawi Donations Project.

Now as part of that project they have filled their first shipping container with educational supplies and medical equipment donated from across WA.

Malawi is one of the world's poorest countries. It is largely agricultural and although it is peaceful it lacks sufficient medical equipment, school supplies and clothing.

"We're into grain farming, maize is the main crop (in Malawi) and January to February is known as the hungry season because obviously if you haven't stored enough or grown enough you run out,'' Mr Butcher said.

Fundraising for $10,000

The Butchers bought a shipping container and have been tirelessly collecting donations from across WA of items destined for the rubbish tip.

While the items might be considered out-dated here, they can make a big difference in Malawi.

Mr Butcher said the container included hospital beds, wheelchairs, walking frames, crutches, blankets and clothing.

The Butchers are fundraising to raise $10,000 to transport the container to Malawi.

Mr Butcher said he would use his family's connections in Malawi to make sure that the goods were distributed properly.

"I think everyone should travel and realise that your lot in life is not as bad as someone else's, and these people are very happy with what they've got," he said.

"But you can imagine the kids when they get a book that they can take home, it may turn a child into someone who makes a difference in their home country."

Making the most out of a dry season

With this year's growing season being one of the worst Mr Butcher has seen, he has been able to spend more time on the Malawi Donations Project.

"It keeps you focussed on something that you can achieve,'' he said.

"We needed to keep ourselves busy, and that wasn't the reason we did this, but it's turned out to be a perfect match for the season."

The Butchers are hosting a fundraising dance on September 23 at Pithara.

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