* Blantyre couple joins COVID-19 private citizens intervention with a difference
* First meals served at Queens on Friday
* The smiles I have seen during deliveries have absolutely been a key driver of this initiative
* Kenani and Wa Pulimuheya are taking the lead of raising funds towards procurement of essential medical supplies for all hospitals
By Duncan Mlanjira
While the main focus on helping in the fight against the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic is on pooling together funds to procure essential medical supplies for all hospital treatment units for the pandemic, a Blantyre couple Della and Aj Kulemeka joinprivate citizens intervention with a difference.
They are calling on wellwishers, individuals and companies to donate towards their initiative, dubbed ‘Feed the Frontline Healthcare Workers Fund’ — saying these professionals “are working tirelessly everyday fighting COVID-19”.
Together we can,” says the appeal that has been posted on social media, Facebook. “Our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers — you name them — are being looked after by frontline healthcare workers.
“They rarely eat. Let us say ‘THANK YOU’ [in a special way] by providing a meal per day. This is not a call for one day, we will appreciate any kind of amount as it will go a long way.”
They have already provided the first meals on Friday at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital and Della said: “The smiles I have seen during deliveries have absolutely been a key driver of this initiative.”
“We are so happy to see more individual initiatives popping up that are doing their part in lending a hand to the frontline workers. Together we can fight COVID-19.”
The couple is asking the public willing to assist to contact them — Della on the numbers: 0991 289 123/0885 289 123 (email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
And through Aj Andrew on: 0999 204 459/0881 847 503 (email: email@example.com). They are located in New Naperi, Naperi Road, next to Joy Radio in Blantyre.
Aj says the inspiration behind this initiative came about when he and his wife Della went with a relation to get them tested for COVID-19 at Queens and while there “had a chat with a few of the health personnel and we could see how overwhelmed they were”.
“They do not even have time to take a break and go for a meal until their shift finishes. That’s when we came up with the idea that we should instead bring the meals to them for free.”
He said from their interaction with the healthcare workers, they discovered that there is no special meals that the system provides for them and are supposed to eat the same food that is prepared for the patients.
“Some of the doctors actually said they rely on the chiwaya chips (open chips vendors) outside Queens for them to get a quick bite so they can swiftly return to their work stations. In short they fend for themselves.”
The couple are business-oriented people and run Workforce Recruitment Services — a recruitment and outsourcing agency as well as providing office and industrial cleaning services, among other businesses.
“We have identified a few local caterers operating as small and medium entrepreneurs (SMEs), who are preparing the meals for us. This is also a way of empowering them and helping them to grow their businesses and we urge other caterers to come forward and work with us.”
The two injected K1 million to kick start the project and thus they have decided to attract other wellwishers through Facebook social media to bring awareness of the initiative.
“Our Facebook page, ‘Feed the Frontline Health Workers Fund’ is bringing positive results and we would also like to urge the mainstream media to come and support us by featuring the initiative on the radio, newspapers etc.
“We have started this initiative with Queens for now but we may expand it to other health facilities that are handling COVID-19 patients in Blantyre and beyond.
“We have already been in touch with volunteers as well in Zomba and Lilongwe who want to provide meals there through our initiative.”
“A single meal is costing about K1,000 so people should not think we are only looking for huge amounts. Any amount is welcome and we are acknowledging every tambala received and we will account for all funds received.
They pledge to publish a comprehensive report accounting for all donations made and received.
Writing on his Facebook wall, journalist Peter Makossah described Della and Aj Kulemeka as citizens with a lot of goodwill and positivity towards COVID-19 — joining two formidable private citizens, Stanley Onjezani Kenani and Dr. Thandie Wa Pulimuheya in taking the lead of raising funds towards procurement of essential medical supplies for all hospitals in the country.
He said: “The ‘Good Malawians’ are doing everything humanly possible to help in this ravaging fight against the global pandemic while ‘the government’ is still sleeping on its laurels.
“Good call. Thank you to Stan and Thandie for all you are selflessly doing for our country. A big thank you to all companies, organisations, groups, individuals and the people of Malawi for your ‘big hearts’ and resilience.
“But, here and now, I would like to state that in this fight, we are focusing on one side of the problem and forgetting the other. I could be wrong, but I have observed that we are only focusing more on the sick or the patients’ welfare, which is fine, as we all need everyone to be fine.
“However, we are forgetting or neglecting the very people who are in the very thick of things — the healthcare workers — the doctors, the nurses, the cleaners and all the support staff.
“They, too, need help. These people are risking a lot to help others. These people have their on problems — for they too are human, and just like every one else, they are going through hell.”
Makossah goes on to say that a “lot of people go to the hospital with a stinking attitude and always look down at healthcare workers — especially in public hospitals and later start complaining that nurses and medical staff are rude”.
“They are not, you are. Remember, behaviour breeds behaviour? Leave your bigman or big madam mentality at home or your office when you go to the hospital.
“I plead with everyone to give these heroes some respect and show them that we appreciate their efforts. Let them know that we know that they really work hard although their working conditions and environment is not so conducive.”
Above all else, Makossah pleads with the public that the fight against the pandemic can be won if “we can all help and play a part by observing all COVID-19 preventive protocols”.
“However, today, I would like to register my appreciation and hearty gratitude to the Blantyre-based young couple, Andrew and Della Kulemeka and their team for taking an initiative to provide food to the frontline healthcare workers.
“Della and her husband Andrew started this initiative after experiencing it first hand when they visited Queens Elizabeth Central Hospital with a family member.
“A special mention must go to Deputy Minister of Lands Abida Mia, who has been supporting this initiative with food stuffs. We salute you honourable minister. May Allah give you more.
“Fellow Malawians, let us all hold hands in supporting this fight by making our contributions but let us always keep our healthcare workers in prayers so God can protect them as they fight for us to fight our fights.
“Our doctors, nurses, all medical professionals, cleaners, guards and all support staff in our hospitals, clinics, surgeries and even those looking after the sick at home and isolation centres, we really thank you.
“As for Andrew and Della Kulemeka, let us soldier on and may God bless you more. Salute.”
In her comment, lawyer Reena Purshotam applauded Della, describing her as “an angel. I’ll never forget how you contributed money for my aunt’s radiotherapy when you didn’t know either me or her. May God bless you always.”
A lot more people offered their solidarity and added that this has given them a new dimension altogether in the fight against the pandemic — but totally not thinking of appreciating the frontline healthcare workers in this manner.
Emilia Kasakula said: “Wow! This is kindness indescribable. May God bless you and your family abundantly” while Trinitas Tinashe added: “words fail me. It never crossed my mind. Thank you, we will definitely reach out.”
Dorothy Tembo Nhlema disclosed that there is also a group of seven Bunda College of Agriculture women Alumni, who are supplying assorted meals to Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) once a week.
“It’s not enough and everytime we go, there are more needs like water, fruits etc,” she said. “The frontliners are overwhelmed and sacrifice even time to look for food. They come out tired and wasted.
“The situation at KCH is bad, the emergency ward is now an isolation too. We are still trying to look for more resources.”
She sent out her kind thoughts to Rachel Mkandawire, Monipher Musasa, Grace Chikowi, Noella Kamwendo, Esther Prima Phiri, Ethel Chikoti — “God bless you, ladies”.
Elsie Elishaba said: “I have goosebumps all over my body. Andrew and Della Kulemeka, your pockets will never run out of supply. You have cast your nets into deep waters. You shall reap bountiful.”
While journalist Mbauwo Sibongire Chavula said she is “loving the spirit Malawians are showing” in their selfless contributions in the fight against the deadly disease that has claimed over 470 deaths since the pandemic broke out last April.
Reverend Innocent Chikopa of the CCAP Church said: “Bless them good people, Aj and Della Kulemeka” while Mutsuki Chifundo Paligolo added: “Angels are right here on earth — ooooooh may God bless them.”