Some of you may be familiar with my title as “Mama Dana” from previous blogs or conversations, but for those who do not, I want to explain a little more about what that means to me. It is not just a title, but more a term of endearment.
When my family, the Blanchards, started the 100X Development Foundation (then 100X Missions) so many years ago, I was simply a supportive family member of this new dream and goal to start an orphanage in Malawi, Africa. I knew there was a need and I was excited that my family was able to develop a “program” that was undoubtedly going to save the lives of orphans. However, it was not until after my husband passed away that I really developed more than just a “supportive” role, but more of a desire to travel to Mtendere Village and see what my family was doing on the grounds in Malawi.
In February 2005, on my first trip to Mtendere Village, I fell in love. Not so much with the country (although it is beautiful), but with the people that I met and the 16 wide-eyed orphans who were now under the care of 100X. These 16 children were there, because they too, had suffered unimaginable loss and had no one to care for them. I quickly realized that the number of orphans in the country was far greater than just 16 and that it was essential for us, for me, to do something.
The solution was simple: I wanted to work alongside my family—fulltime—at 100X and I had to move to Malawi! After many family conversations, and much prayer, me and my 8-year-old daughter Alley packed up and moved to Mtendere Village.
We lived there for over a year and spent our time managing, developing, constructing, and expanding Mtendere Village. I trained the Mtendere Staff the best way I knew how and prayed that it was the right way. I worked tirelessly to try to prepare the administration to be independent so that they could manage effectively when the time came for me to move back to the US. We went from having a village of 16 orphans, a staff of 5, and 1 housemother to a village, rather a home of 140 orphans, a staff of 32, and 16 housemothers.
And although this was now my job and the management and administrative perspective was hard work, it was the moments with the orphans, my kids, that meant the most to me. It was during these moments and times that I no longer was just a woman on “the job” but a mother to those who no longer had parents. So, although I am mom to only one, I am “Mama Dana” to almost 200 people in a country that most are not even familiar with.
Alley and I no longer live in Malawi, but I do spend every summer there and whenever I have the chance, I go home—to my other children, to the place that stole my heart and instilled a passion in me nearly 8 years ago. I have many more stories and moments to be shared, but for now, hopefully this will give you a glimpse of why the name “Mama Dana” is a such a sweet sound to my ears.
You can help 100X continue to expand and save the lives of orphans in Malawi by donating here.
–Dana Blanchard, Director of Operations for Malawi