It is Thursday afternoon and Vincent, the coordinator of the DREAM center in Balaka, Malawi, answers the umpteenth phone call.
‘Hello…yes, yes it is right here in Balaka…ok, come whenever you like, you’re welcome’.
The national newscast have recently broadcasted the inauguration of the new molecular biology laboratory and phone calls begin to arrive, coming from incredulous people finding it hard to believe that what they had just seen in TV was in fact referring to Balaka.
‘Yes, the Minister came, and also the Deputy Minister of Energy, all here in Balaka, yes also those from Total Malawi…they are the sponsors of the solar panels…’ this time the phone call was for one of the doctors of the center.
The day before, April 15th, the Minister of Health Hon. Jean Kalilani cut the ribbon, officially inaugurating the activities of the renewed and expanded DREAM laboratory in Balaka.
‘Think about it, they could have built it in Zomba or in Mangochi or Liwonde…instead they have built this wonderful laboratory right here in Balaka’ said the Member of Parliament Patricia Shanil Dzimbiri, the representative for Balaka West, perhaps a little amazed by what she had seen awhile earlier during the guided visit of the laboratory. Computerized reception, hematology, biochemistry, CD4, the 2 rooms for the molecular biology where the viral load is determined, automatic machines of any sort…and everything is solar powered…are we on a space station or in Balaka?
The members of DREAM’s staff and all of those that have participated in the construction and preparation works of the new structure were all clearly very happy, almost moved by the results achieved.
With less than 30.000 citizens, Balaka is the administrative center of a district where actually for the most part live 300.000 rural people. Seat of an ancient and rooted mission of the Monfortani fathers, it has hosted for almost 10 years the DREAM center of the Community of Sant’Egidio.
With a high rate of patients, afflicted by AIDS, comparing to the national average, it has witnessed the launch of many different DREAM outreach centers, subordinate DREAM centers for the cure of AIDS. In Namandanje, Kapire, Masuku, Phalula, and Nyanyala DREAM’s staff treats the sick and makes use of the laboratory in Balaka for blood analysis.
‘Yes, yes everything is solar powered…more than 200…’ it is always Vincent who is on the phone, revealing the number of solar panels installed thanks to funding from Total. The same day, Michel Malatino, MD of Total Malawi, has officially inaugurated the solar energy system that fuels both the laboratory and the DREAM center. The inverters are from Aros-Solar, the project is IME’s, a little bit of advanced Italian technology in the heart of Malawi.
‘Thank you, thank you for this job opportunity…it is unique, unique…’ the local electricians seem the happiest, who have assembled and put to work the machinery, 30kw of solar panels, 4 energy sources (sun, batteries, net, and diesel generator) automatically selected based on availability and costs. ‘Zikomo kwambiri, God bless you’. Thank you for everything, God bless you.