A Reunion in Malawi
A group of alumni travel across the world to find their lost classmate, Mike Hill ’64.
By Christine Berardo ’64
“Dionysians”: The handwritten sign in Lilongwe airport on July 28, 2007, told us we’d arrived. Our group included a college professor, two teachers, a priest, a musicologist, an international education specialist, a psychologist, a screenwriter, a film director, a nonprofit director, and a public defender. Counting Mike Hill, there were seven Pomona ’64 classmates, one spouse each from ’65 and ’66, plus three non-Pomona spouses.
We hardly knew each other in college. We’d barely seen each other, if at all, since graduation. What brought us together was our “lost” classmate, Michael Hill.
Ward Heneveld last saw Mike in 1965, when Ward was teaching in Kenya and Mike was best man at his wedding to Cheryl Overin. Then Mike disappeared.
The Alumni Office listed him missing. A classmate spotted him on a Peace Corps list and turned him in. Ward got him to post a letter on the listserv about his work in Malawi. Some in the class sent donations, and when Mike invited us to come have a look, those who could, did.
Mike hired a small bus and driver and took us into villages to see Orphan Support Africa’s work, stopping along the way at markets and internet cafes and ATMs. If the villagers had never seen so much white skin and white hair, they welcomed us warmly with singing and dancing and gave thanks for Pomona College. For a week, we shared stories of our lives, hiked on Zomba plateau, drank Malawi beer under baobob trees, cruised past hippos and crocs on the Shire River, and watched the sun set over the shores of Lake Malawi.
The second week put us at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro on the edge of Kenya’s Amboseli Park in a camp run by former teaching colleagues of Ward and Cheryl Heneveld. Maasai tribesmen served as guides while giraffe, zebra, gazelle, wildebeest, warthog and large matriarchal elephant herds paraded by at close range through spectacular habitat.
In Malawi, we learned a song: Yendani bwino, Mulungu akuyang’anireni,
translated as “Have a nice journey. May the Almighty guide you all”,
The journey to find a lost classmate working “in trust for (hu)man kind” is over; we returned inspired to spread the word about Orphan Support Africa and the good work being done.
Read our main feature about Mike Hill's return to Malawi. More information
is also available at www.orphansupportafrica.org.