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Writing to Inspire – A Story of Malawi

We wrote The Leopard Tree in 2007 to inspire people to look for ways to help people who face great challenges. We have had almost 30,000 downloads of the book through Amazon’s Select Program using occasional FREE days as a promotional tool. Although these free days generate no immediate revenue, we always hope those who take advantage of the free download will invite their friends to buy a book at the reasonable price of $2.99 for the e-book or $9.99 for a hard copy. Since the book was published, we have donated more than the book sales have produced to a program of the Museums of Malawi that inspires us.

malawiThe program began when museum educators Aaron Maluwa and Michael Gondwe developed the concept of taking it directly to rural villages to help people understand the need to address HIV/AIDS and malaria. The program uses the songs, dances and stories of their people to deliver life-saving messages. They call it the “Theater of Change,” an apt name for this passionate program. We visited the village of Chikwawa in 2009 with Aaron and Mike and watched villagers line up to be tested for HIV after hearing their inspirational messages. Our small donations over the years have helped cover the costs of gas, medical supplies, and other expenses involved in taking this program to rural Malawi. More importantly, the effects of the small amount of money we are able to provide has begun to multiply as awareness of this program has grown and others have been able to expand assistance.

Aaron listening to stories of challenge from a woman who spoke up about their needs.

Aaron listening to stories of challenge from a woman who spoke up about their needs.

If you ever wonder whether a small donation of time or money can make a difference, we can guarantee that it does, especially when it inspires others to do whatever they can. Although Mike has now retired from the museum, he is setting up a nonprofit organization to continue his work, while Aaron manages and expands the programming through Museums of Malawi. The dedication of these gentlemen in helping others is unwavering and we will continue to find ways to support them and encourage others to do the same.

On our 2009 trip, we took along a SkyHydrant we purchased through the SkyJuice program in Australia. This simple piece of equipment helps remote communities establish a clean drinking water supply by using reverse osmosis filtration with a Siemens system. We hope it will become a prototype project that can be duplicated in other communities with additional support. Aaron just sent us a report of the installation in which he says:



Aaron Maluwa (center) with the plumbers who installed the SkyHydrant.

Aaron Maluwa (center) with the plumbers who installed the SkyHydrant.

It was during the course of the continued assistance by National Association of Interpretation (NAI) under the leadership of Professor Tim Merriman and Lisa Brochu that after their visit to Malawi three years ago that they saw people drinking from wells, rivers, borehole among other that they felt so bad with many people drinking unsafe water leading to the spread of many diseases such as diorrhoea, dysentery cholera among others that the two asked if they could help my family/village with Water Hydrant/Filter so that my community may have safe drinking water.


Tim and Lisa bought the machine in Australia at a cost of $2300 plus shipping. They also paid for duty clearing here in Malawi. I processed the clearing and the machine was taken home for installation.


Being the first of its kind, the Plumbers from Blantyre Water Board were to install it in my village which is about 500 km away from Blantyre where I work.


Though the installation work was simple, about 7 plumbers did not think they could install it hence it took a long time to install it.


It was in September this year that two plumbers who have just graduated from the University agreed to do it and they did it very well. It took them two days to install it.


Women from local villages in Malawi gather to fill their buckets with safe drinking water for their families.

Women from local villages in Malawi gather to fill their buckets with safe drinking water for their families.

The installation of the life saving machine which is easy to operate and care has changed people’s lives. They drink safe and clean water now from the three taps installed. Pumping is easy and putting chlorine is easy too. People are very happy with the donation and they owe it to the wonderful people in the name of Tim and Lisa.


I would like to personally thank both Tim and Lisa for your support, which has made a huge difference. The Hydrant is serving not only people in my village but many villages too.  There is no single borehole or tap in the communities around my village. Many people have been drinking from the wells since they were born. The Hydrant is unique and attracts more people to come and fetch water, something that makes me very happy.


Tim and Lisa, you have your names written: Donated by Tim and Lisa of USA. Everyone Who comes reads it as my acknowledgement. THANK, (ZIKOMO) in my language.

You can find other worthy programs helping people in Africa at “What Can I Do To Help” on our book website,

Zikomo  (thanks) Aaron and Mike for being the good people of change in your communities.

–       Tim Merriman and Lisa Brochu


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A Girl of the Limberlost, Memories of My Mother

The Wonderful Wizard of OzMy mother’s maiden name was Rosa Carson. She was born on a very small farm in rural central Illinois in 1908. She loved school. She longed for as much education as possible. Her parents’ farm was six miles from Vandalia, where the high school was located in the early 1920s. She finished the one-room country grade school at age twelve. Then she drove a horse-drawn buggy down a rutted dirt road with her younger brother the six miles each morning and home each evening in all weather for four years of high school. She graduated second in the county at age sixteen, but was not sent to college. Her brothers were encouraged to go further, but as a girl, higher education was deemed unimportant, despite her many talents.

I was born just after her 37th birthday, the last of four children and fifteen years younger than my next older sister. Mom encouraged me to read early. I still remember when I was 12 years old sitting in our living room on Eighth Street with a huge copy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I remember the moment I finished the book. I didn’t want it to end. It was one of the first times I realized the power of a story to transport a person to another time and place.

When I was in college I read voraciously, often to the detriment of my grades. I enjoyed novels much more than textbooks. I would go back to my boyhood home for a weekend and ask mom if she had heard of the novel I was reading. Nine out of ten times she would say, “Yes, I’ve read that” or “I’m reading it now.” She belonged to several contemporary book clubs and stayed abreast of new literature being published. Did I mention she worked fifty hours a week in her florist business, took care of our home, and did the bookkeeping for my father’s business?

A Girl of the LimberlostAlong with reading, I grew up with a passion for nature and animals. I came by it honestly. My mother adopted every stray cat that dropped by and watched any TV show on animals that came along. Long after completing B.S. and M.A. degrees in biology I asked what propelled her interest in nature. A Girl of the Limberlost, a novel, she would say. Gene Stratton-Porter was an Indiana author who wrote a series of books about a young girl infatuated with the Limberlost, a virgin forest teeming with big trees and wildlife. I remembered the name but never bothered to read the books.

When my children’s plays were published in primary children’s readers, Mom shared her poetry and short stories with me. They were wonderful. I had no idea that she had aspirations of being a writer. She shared complaints and frustrations very sparingly. She looked always at the good side of people and the opportunities, choosing not to dwell on what did not happen as she wished.


Just a few months ago I searched Amazon for Girl of the Limberlost and found it easily. I started reading it and was once again transported to a place I wanted to stay. Reading the Limberlost book I understood her connection to the girl in the story. They shared a love for nature and the challenge of being denied a career and education she craved. My mother passed away more than twenty years ago. I regret now that I waited so long to read the book that meant so much to her because it helped me know her in a way I never had before.  I’ve realized many times that she was happy with her business and family life but she was also very pleased that I had chased a career she might have enjoyed.

The Leopard TreeWhen Lisa Brochu, my wife, and I published our first novel in 2007, The Leopard Tree, the main character we created was a strong, intelligent woman who traveled the world as a photojournalist. We both had talented, hardworking mothers who might have had more exciting professional careers but their priorities were to raise a family, volunteer at church, and inspire us. We gave the main character in The Leopard Tree a familiar name, my mother’s, Rosa Carson.

-Tim Merriman

P.S. This is the first blog of what will be a weekly series about reading and writing books. If you read avidly or aspire to write, we hope you find inspiration and enjoyment here. Lisa Brochu, my wife and best friend, and I share a passion for story telling and the craftsmanship of writing. We hope you tune in and comment when the spirit moves you.


Filed under FREE Ebooks, Readers, Uncategorized, Writers