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Loyal VOA Listener in Malawi Receives Long-Awaited Prize

US ambassador rewards winner of US Constitution essay contest

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Washington, D.C., March 11, 2009 – It took him a year to get it, but Benjamin Chinkhunda, a farmer from Malawi, was happy to wait for the prize he won from the Voice of America (VOA): it was delivered to him in his village by the U.S. ambassador.

Ambassador Peter Bodde traveled last month to Nkhomphola, a remote village along the Malawi-Zambia border, to present Chinkhunda, 48, with a shortwave radio and a book about American presidents, prizes for winning an essay contest that asked the question: "Why are the American people so proud of their nation's Constitution?"

"The fact is that all (American) achievements were made because of the conducive climate created by the Constitution," Chinkhunda wrote. "Established in 1787, the Constitution, which replaced the discredited Articles of Confederation, enabled the then-leaders of American to save their country from … disaster."

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The farmer, who spends long periods away from home tending the fields, said he lamented that Malawi did not have leaders such as James Madison and James Wilson.

Bodde praised Chinkhunda, saying, "I believe he has more knowledge about the American Constitution than many Americans."

Many villagers, including Chinkhunda’s parents and siblings, the village chief, and local school children and their headmaster attended the awards ceremony, which received wide press coverage in Malawi.

Chinkhunda said he will enjoy using his radio to listen to his favorite programs. "During my leisure time, I listen to VOA. Music Time in Africa, African Beat, Our World are some of my favorite programs, including World News.

Music Time in Africa sponsored the contest that ended in 2007. Chinkhunda's essay was one of 20 award winners – the only one in Malawi - among over 3,000 entries.

VOA launched Music Time in Africa in 1965 with host Leo Sarkisian. The show features traditional and contemporary music from the continent and is broadcast every Saturday and Sunday to listeners across Africa.

The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. Government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts approximately 1,500 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 134 million people. Programs are produced in 45 languages.

For more information, call VOA Public Relations at (202) 203-4959, or e-mail