Gaetano: All time friend of AYCT


To meet Gaetano, is to meet a friend: an old friend of the Mission of Balaka, Montfort Fathers, Andiamo and many more. Gaetano has been coming to Malawi since 1992. Since then, he comes to Malawi whenever he has the opportunity to share with us his time and his passion for the Cooperative and Malawi. It was a pleasure to have a chat with him and we did not lose the occasion to ask him some questions.

How many times have you been in Malawi and how many things we have done together?

If I am not wrong, this is my 21st year that I visit Malawi since 1992. In some years, I came twice so that we should count about 26 or 27 visits to Malawi. I remember the first year, 1992, I came to Balaka Parish to help in the building of St. Louis church. We finished that big work two years later in 1994. It was a great job as you can see now. The Church is big and beautiful.

St. Louis Montfort Catholic Church in Balaka

Since that time you continued to come, always with the same spirit and passion …

Yes, but I never came with personal projects. I tried to be always available for the projects that the local community was handling, especially in the projects of Andiamo Youth Cooperative Trust (AYCT). I also participated in the construction of the Montfort Media offices between 1998 and 2001.

Later I took part in the set up of the new Carpentry Section of AYCT between 2004 and 2006 together with my friend Eugenio. I also remember the first water tanks of Comfort Clinics, Masuku and other places. I have also involved in the construction of the Technical School workshops, the roof of the Khwisa and others.

But you always say you did nothing …

I have to say so, because Malawians did these things. I just supported them and eventually suggested them according to my experience. That’s why I become very angry when some people say AYCT is not able to do anything. As they did in the past, I am sure they still have the skills to do it again now. We can say that, us, volunteers, maybe have taught them something, but Malawians themselves learned from us and they have done many things.

What are the weaknesses of the Cooperative as of now, if there are any?

It is just a fear that those who learnt something wont use the skills, or wont be in the condition to use the skills they learned. In my opinion, we should have good leaders who are able to take care and direct the various sections of the Cooperative. They should support it not for personal business, but for the growth of the Cooperative and the community.

Obviously, those who are doing well and are dedicated to the cause, will also achieve personal goals and personal benefits. We should support those who are self motivated economically. The sections are growing but they need to find a way of  being self sustainable with the objective of supporting the goals of the Cooperative as a non profit making organization.

The other fear I have is that some of the donors bring useful projects but which are not always completely shared or understood by the local community. We should try to understand first the real needs of Malawi.

What experience has touched you most?
I remember a thousand of episodes that touched me. Out of many I remember about a girl who worked together with my wife years ago in a project of the cooperative.
One day, Kulapa came to us saying “She is dying”. We ran to her hut and brought her to a hospital in Balaka where she was tested and cured. Now she is a grandmother. She has a family and her daughter has also a beutiful baby though she is still very young.

In the first years when I was on the roof of Mponda Church, Father Mario called me from the ground. He was together with a certain father and his three children who were very sick. When we reached the hospital the Sister told us she could not say if they could survive. With our little support and care two of them survived. The last episode I would like to tell is the one of Brenda. One morning of my second year in Malawi a mother came with her little daughter.

She told us she has been walking for two days to reach us at Balaka Parish. 
Anna Capelli, who also volunteered many years in Malawi, called me to help her. The child’s name was Brenda and she had a big bandage from the feet to the knee. I helped Anna in removing the bandages to see what was the problem.

When we were removing the bandages, we realised that one of Brenda’s toes came out with the bangages! In the process, the skin of another finger also peeled off. Alarmed, we brought her to the hospital where they took off two mote toes to avoid the infection spreading to the whole leg. To our amazement, the following year, Brenda and her mum came to us with a chicken to thank us for the assistance rendered to them.

What about the Malawian people?

I did not understand Malawians fully as I think we have different cultures. We should always try to give ourselves questions on how to behave, how to see and how to act in a nation where we are visitors. We should put ourselves in comparision trying to understand each other.

Finding common grounds on which we can work together and grow together. Sometimes I felt some people loved me for what I gave them but not for what I am. We can afford many things. I mean that is clear that we show to have more opportunities and we are seen as lucky people.

After so many years, what has satisfied you?

I always say we never give so much as we receive. The satisfaction is seeing a friend of my wife been cured and the recovery of the two children of that poor man. This was very big for me and has no price.

Volunteering in Malawi, why and how?

We should always think how to cooperate. We should escape from our views trying to put ourselves in a position of understanding the Malawian culture. Words … I’ve tried to do so but is not easy, still I am trying.

My wishes are that we should be united first as volunteers. It is not easy. Volunteer house and other places host a number of volunteers with different minds. The challenge is to try to live together in a community not inspiring to show how much we value but how we can support it.

What about chichewa?

I‘ve tried to learn it but I was always very busy in the projects. So I gave up. But I assure you that I manage to understand Malawians when is important, and Malawians do understand me. Fortunately, nowadays, some of the people from Balaka are able to speak very good Italian. They are better than us … and it is an excuse for us for not to learn Chichewa.

The Monfort fathers in Balaka and all these years of volunteering: where have we reached?

Where Montforts or other Christian Institutions go, they create a green oasis that is enlarging and involving the surrounding communities.

We should support this big job by being present here in Malawi, always with the view of leaving the responsibilities to the local people whenever it will be possible. The goal is that one day they will walk alone.

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