Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Couple, daughter want to help African country

An elderly woman, third from left, talks with a local nurse at her home of mud bricks and thatched roof that was not expected to make it through the rainy season in Malawi. The Oldanies went to Africa to help.

Photo courtesy of Betty Oldanie

An elderly woman, third from left, talks with a local nurse at her home of mud bricks and thatched roof that was not expected to make it through the rainy season in Malawi. The Oldanies went to Africa to help.

The scorpion that bit Betty Oldanie in her bedroom during her stay on a Malawi preserve was a startling reminder that she wasn't in Seminole anymore. But while differences abound between life in the developing country and home in America, she discovered that some habits transcend geographic and cultural boundaries.

Days after her return home, she recalled the elderly woman who rushed to tidy the front of her tiny, mud-brick house as she saw Oldanie and a visiting nurse approach. Later she disappeared indoors to primp when she discovered she would be photographed.

The woman's actions caused Oldanie to smile knowingly, but the next stop across a dirt field brought home the reason for her visit to Malawi, one of the world's least-developed countries. The next house was that of the chief — head of 21 villages — and his wife, an AIDS patient. Oldanie said Betty Pwetekanib, the nurse she was accompanying, had convinced the chief to be tested, but he never revealed the results. Malawi's high mortality from AIDS has meant other problems for the country's people.

Oldanie, her husband, Chuck, and daughter Laura recently returned from a private, fact-finding visit to Malawi. They want to improve housing, preschool education and end-of-life and medical care in the southern African country.

"Each one had our own special area of interest and it just seemed to work out,'' said Betty Oldanie, vice president of planning for the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast and a registered nurse.

Chuck Oldanie, a real estate agent and 15-year Habitat for Humanity volunteer, spent two weeks in the country, where he met with Rotary clubs and discussed establishing a partnership with U.S. Rotarians to build houses for the poor. He hopes the program can begin in late 2009 or 2010.

Daughter Laura, an Eckerd College graduate who is program director for the nonprofit Committee for Economic Development, in Washington, D.C., and a Peace Corps veteran, is interested in preschool education. She spoke of its importance during a meeting at a large sugar company. Officials from Save the Children also arranged for her to meet with leaders from 21 villages to discuss the subject.

The Oldanies' visit was inspired by friends, the former youth minister at Christ Presbyterian Church in Largo, the Rev. Stephen Heinzel-Nelson, and his wife, Liz, who moved to Malawi with their children for a temporary ministry. Betty Oldanie and her daughter were in Malawi for eight days and were often reminded how difficult life is for the average Malawian.

"Yet our friend Liz helped me to see they have riches we seem to have lost along life's way,'' she said.

"Their families are strong and devoted to one another. Their pace of life is slower, which allows them to laugh and sing and dance, which they did freely. The stresses of the developed world are not felt there. The worries they have are of life and death.''

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at or (727) 892-2283.

Couple, daughter want to help African country 12/16/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 12:22pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Car bomb kills 13, injures 24 in Baghdad; Islamic State claims responsibility


    BAGHDAD — A car bomb exploded outside a popular ice cream shop in central Baghdad just after midnight today, killing 13 people and wounding 24, hospital and police officials said.

  2. Leaping shark floors angler in Australia


    In The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway's protagonist battles for three days to pull in his prized catch. For Terry Selwood, it came a little more suddenly.

    A 9-foot shark lies on the deck of a fishing boat at Evans Head, Australia on Sunday. Fisherman Terry Selwood said he was left with a badly bruised and bleeding right arm where the shark struck him with a fin as it landed on him on the deck. [Lance Fountain via AP]
  3. Rays rally twice to beat Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ARLINGTON, Texas — Starting Erasmo Ramirez on Monday after he closed out Sunday's marathon win turned out, despite the Rays' best intentions and rigid insistence, to be a bad idea as he gave up four runs without getting through three innings.

    Erasmo Ramirez, starting a day after closing a 15-inning marathon, struggles against the Rangers and comes out after throwing 43 pitches in 21/3 innings.
  4. Britain investigating missed signals over Manchester bomber


    LONDON — Britain's domestic intelligence agency, MI5, is investigating its response to warnings from the public about the threat posed by Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who killed 22 people and wounded dozens more in an attack at a crowded Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, last week.

    People gather Monday at St. Ann’s Square in Manchester, England, to view tributes to victims of the suicide bombing that killed 22 on May 22 as a concert by Ariana Grande was concluding.
  5. Trump condemns killing of pair who tried to stop racist rant


    The mayor of Portland, Ore., on Monday urged U.S. officials and organizers to cancel a "Trump Free Speech Rally" and other similar events, saying they are inappropriate and could be dangerous after two men were stabbed to death on a train as they tried to help a pair of young women targeted by an anti-Muslim tirade.

    Coco Douglas, 8, leaves a handmade sign and rocks she painted at a memorial in Portland, Ore., on Saturday for two bystanders who were stabbed to death Friday while trying to stop a man who was yelling anti-Muslim slurs and acting aggressively toward two young women. From left are Coco's brother, Desmond Douglas; her father, Christopher Douglas; and her stepmother, Angel Sauls. [Associated Press]