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August 30, 2007


To the University community:

In our second year as an undergraduate organization at the University of Pittsburgh, Student Leaders in International Medicine (SLIM) continues to educate the campus about social issues and diseases that plague underserved populations domestically and abroad. But we need your help.

We have attracted a great deal of attention to our most focused undertaking, Project Malawi. On our inaugural trip to Malawi, we spent four weeks this summer in Lilongwe, the capital city, to explore the reasons behind the country’s staggeringly bad health statistics. We also managed to achieve a close look at the roles of community-based organizations (CBOs) in combating the effects of HIV/AIDS in rural communities. Due to such limited funding, many of these CBOs work against each other in counterproductive competition.

CBOs are critically important to approaching HIV/AIDS in rural Malawi for several reasons. Their directors speak Chichewa, which is spoken by few people outside of Malawi. They also are familiar with the cultural barriers between the West and rural Malawian communities, meaning that they necessarily serve as gatekeepers between such communities and international NGOs. Lastly, most CBOs are founded and operated in catchment areas in which the founders and directors were raised; thus, they are intimately familiar with the social problems facing their respective catchment areas. For these reasons, the inter-CBO competition for limited resources is the primary problem facing Malawi with regards to social problems.

In response to this counterproductive competition, SLIM mobilized five of the CBOs into a network that the five respective directors named Mpaluti. The agreement was that SLIM would raise funds for specific projects that would benefit one or more of the CBOs if they agreed to meet on a monthly basis to exchange ideas and brainstorm methods to improve their three primary functions: HIV education, home-based AIDS care and care for orphans and vulnerable children. Each CBO of Mpaluti sent four proposals home with SLIM. The majority of the proposed projects are income-generating activities, while others range from AV equipment to orphanage structures.

SLIM is seeking support from Pitt faculty and staff for our endeavors in Malawi. SLIM is raising funds both for Mpaluti proposals and for expenses required for Mpaluti to meet monthly in Lilongwe. The second Project Malawi trip will take place in May 2008.

For more information on how you can help to sustain this unique project, please email Dana Townsend, Project Malawi coordinator, at

Thank you!

Nathan Riley

Academic Affairs Chairperson

Student Leaders in International Medicine


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