Help for Malawi Tactix star's goal

JODY O'CALLAGHAN
Last updated 05:00 07/06/2014

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Star Tactix goalshooter Mwai Kumwenda grins from ear to ear when she thinks about returning home to Malawi to hand out donations to her poverty-stricken villagers.

The 24-year-old, whose sporting fame extends from her African country as far as her recent bases in Australia and then New Zealand, is grateful for tonnes of goods donated by Cantabrians. But they are now all wrapped up with no way of getting there if she cannot raise $10,000 in freight costs.

Kumwenda learned to play netball in barefeet, and with a makeshift hoop and ball crafted by melting down plastic and paper in her small village, Mtwalo.

"It didn't bounce, we just passed it to each other," she said.

Malawians often sleep on the floor, have few toys, no shoes, and each small school desk becomes a seat for about three children. Students write on their laps.

"Kids don't go much to school. Parents might be selling tomatoes in the markets and they will do that with them.

"Life is easier here. It's tough [in Malawi]."

In February, Kumwenda begged her Christchurch host "mum" Karen Hansen not to throw out her children's old things because those in her African country needed them.

Word got around and Hansen's double-bay garage was soon full from floor to ceiling with electronics, beds, boxes of clothes, school resources, bedding, sports equipment, toys, and bikes donated by friends, family, and the Tactix community.

The side of the house is also surrounded by about 60 school desks and chairs from Canterbury schools.

Mainfreight has donated its services to ship the donations from Christchurch to Malawi's closest sea port, in Mozambique.

But Kumwenda and Hansen had to start turning goods away in March once the garage was full and they realised they could not afford to move the goods across the border to Malawi.

"It's just so disappointing," Hansen said.

Her husband and sporty children, missing the access to their gym gear at the back of the garage, gave a June 1 deadline to have the goods taken away. But they would have to wait, and if the shipment fell through, she would be stuck with the items indefinitely.

Kumwenda's mother, Costa, had been told about the impending donations - over a phone which she walks a four-hour round trip to get to once a month.

When asked which item was most important to her, Kumwenda instantly scrambled to show The Press a simple, wooden single bed frame that she hoped to give her mother.

It would get her off the floor and be a good addition to the three-bedroom home she was building for her and the extended family to replace their hut.

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She felt pressure to see the goods get there and in time for her to personally deliver them after she represents the Malawian netball team at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland in July and August.

"I think they will be happy. I'm so excited to give some people this stuff in Malawi," she said.

Tactix manager Leanne Harris said the team set up a bank account for anyone willing to donate.

"She's a lovely girl and everyone appreciates where she's come from and we just want to help her out."

A Mainfreight spokeswoman said the company was putting up the $14,000 for shipping but Malawi's inland location and security issues meant a further $10,000 was needed for transport across land.

"We're definitely keen to support this great cause they have put together."

- The Press

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