Helping: Hamilton or Malawi, CMH Nurse & Husband at Colgate Heed the Call
(previously published in the Mid-York Weekly)

Gertrude Sindima loves her work as a registered nurse in Community Memorial Hospital’s Women’s Center (“Helping mothers, and families, through labor is very rewarding.”) and yet her heart is back home in Malawi, a struggling East African nation. With her husband Harvey Sindima, a professor of philosophy at Colgate University and interim pastor for the Cayuga-Sycracuse Area Presbytery, Gertrude works with a special focus -- to help her countrymen, especially the children.

Since coming to this country in 1968 to further their educations, the Sindimas have given unstintingly to better the lives of hundreds and hundreds of Malawians and now their dream of creating a school is rising out of the ground. The first building of the Sindima Memorial Institute of Arts and Technology has been constructed and the foundation laid for a mammoth building that will house the administration and the department of health sciences. The school rising from the dust around the small area of N’Deka is named in honor of Harvey’s late parents, who had the original vision of providing assistance for those in need through the establishment of the Blantyre North Relief Project) The Sindimas have built upon their dream, and the Relief Project , one brick at a time, literally, as the needs have increased drastically. In addition to providing a regular flow of financial assistance, the couple travel to Malawi at least once a year and many of those visits have included brick making.

The hands on approach, and the Sindimas’ relentless determination, led to a groundbreaking in August of 2005 attended by top Malawian government officials and several of the orphans the Sindimas support. Plans call for several more buildings to be constructed, eventually accommodating 2,500 students. The first classes will be for high school students but Gertrude and Harvey dream of expanding the curriculum beyond the secondary level to college and want to see a university and even a medical school open. “The goal is to train people to be self- reliant,” says Gertrude. There will be courses in the humanities, sciences, fine arts and textile technology but also instruction for bakers and in furniture making. Included on the school grounds is one hundred acre irrigated plot that is bearing three or four crop harvests a year, a tremendous blessing in drought ravaged Malawi.

Lack of food is only one of the problems facing Malawians. The country has been inundated with refugees from worse off neighboring countries and the AIDS epidemic is decimating the population, creating a ghastly number of orphans. The Sindimas support nearly a thousand children, sending funds to buy corn, blankets and pay school fees. The couple, who have four children of their own, has sacrificed in the pursuit of their dream. Harvey sold his car and Gertrude has postponed taking classes toward her master’s degree to feed people in dire need. When their work here is done, they plan to return to their homeland, to teach, to nurse, to write, to lend a hand, to realize their dream. “We were able to go to school and have good jobs,” explains Gertrude, “so we have been capable of helping. We want to build the school so the children can achieve something. We want to help the nation.”

In the meantime, The Sindimas maintain an exhausting schedule, Harvey with Colgate and his church, Gertrude, known as Trudy to her colleagues, at the hospital, where she works through the night. “I am happy to be here,” says Gertrude, who was trained as a nurse midwife in Mawali then earned her certification to be an RN in New York and eventually her bachelor of science in nursing from Syracuse University. “Community Memorial is a small hospital but it does many things for the community and draws people from all over.” Of course, Gertrude Sindima knows what it means to care for children. “If all goes well, by the year 2008, we’ll have classes begin. The children of Malawi, if given an opportunity, they take education seriously.” Gertrude and Harvey Sindima take providing that opportunity just as seriously. It is their dream, their hearts’ desire. (Story shared by Community Memorial Hospital, Hamilton, New York)