CorpsAfrica Exchange Volunteers are busy in their communities learning a new language, implementing projects, making friends, cooking, eating, doing laundry, and much more! Mostafa is a Moroccan Volunteer serving with CorpsAfrica in Malawi. To find out more about the daily life of CorpsAfrica Volunteers, watch his video blog below.
Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Twambilire Kalolokesya
I started hearing about gender equality when I was in primary school. I even joined clubs that encouraged girl’s education and gender equality. Since I was in primary school a long time ago, I assumed that nowadays most local communities understood gender equality as well. However, recently, we conducted Grassroot Soccer Camps at my site and Volunteer Caroline’s site. At these camps, I started having individual conversations with people to understand their mindsets on gender.
At the Grassroot Soccer Camps there was a topic where we had to discuss about gender. People expressing why they love being a male or female, and what they don’t like about their gender. This is where my eyes were opened. I realized that my assumptions that gender bias was no longer an issue in Malawi was wrong. Some of the issues that came up during discussions were men are still the bread winners in the communities while women stay at home, households still prioritize boys to get educated over girls, and that women loved the fact that men provide, and they just receive from them.
After the camps, I started talking to girls individually to learn more about what goes on in their communities. The individual conversations were important because I learned about what happens in different communities, since these girls come from different places. I learned that after writing form four exams, most girls are told by their parents to get married since they can no longer provide for them. I also learned that parents in local communities prefer paying school fees for their boys rather than for their girls. Another thing that I picked up was that girls at my site think they cannot get better grades than the boys in their class.
After hearing these issues from the camp and having personal conversations, I started understanding why people had acted a certain way in some past situations. So, in other words, it helped me understand my community even better. The good thing is that the girls and boys I have interacted with are willing to do something about the gender bias that still exists in their communities. We have started discussions about how they can bring that change.
Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Mr. James Matipwiri
From the dawn of my service in Dedza, it’s been an interesting and exhilarating journey so far. Working with community groups and learning the culture of the communities I serve has been the best part of exploration and discovery in my Volunteering experience.
THE EAST TO WEST VOLUNTEER SHIELD
Just a few kilometers from the Pre-Service Training (PST) venue is a site of my fellow Volunteer, Dingaan. The undulating mountains separate our mighty sites and create a weather boundary, leaving the down-lands of Dedza East hot and the uplands cold and chilly. A lot of friends who have experienced the chilly weather of Dedza are surprised to hear that the other side is completely the opposite. I like the awe portrayed by the unsuspecting individuals. I think it’s mostly because they do not really know that Dedza stretches down to the “lake of stars” (Lake Malawi). And if you are not aware, the lakeshore regions are associated with hot weather.
East of my site is Volunteer Shyreen's site. This is where most of our work is done and it’s where The Hunger Project Epicenter is geographically situated. We share a lot of similarities between our sites, ranging from weather, culture, and agricultural activities. There are also a few differences since her site is much closer to the lake, so obviously fishing is an additional activity there.
MY TIME IN KASUNGU
A few weeks ago, I was privileged to visit Volunteer Wezi's site in a remote village of Kasungu. While there, I met and worked with charming group of women. They call themselves Tindandizane ("let's help one another" in Chichewa). I was astonished with the unity and creativity of the group. They sang traditional songs as a sign of welcoming and entertaining alangizi (CorpsAfrica Volunteers) upon our arrival.
The group reminded me of my service at my site back in Dedza. I loved working with them on their project and trainings. Who doesn't like trees? My answer is probably no one! The women want to turn a bare land into a forest. Yes, reforestation and reforestation! Bringing back the forest and fruit trees around our environment.
In one of the sessions we had, I took some time teaching them about nutrition. The group had limited knowledge about the six food groups. The lessons about moringa reminded me of the achievements of a nutrition animators group at my site. I showed them pictures and videos about how their friends back in Dedza are doing and how they can learn from them in the future.
Since I still have months left before the conclusion of my service, I strongly feel that there is so much work to do and much impact to witness. My community is eager to see what the CorpsAfrica Volunteer will help them change and achieve next. I can't wait to be there for them.
Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Shyreen Kossam
Child marriages are not a new phenomenon in Malawi and neither is the issue of HIV/AIDS. Kachindamoto has one of the greatest and highest rates of child marriages, with one or two girls marrying by the age of 18. Young people are always at risk of getting HIV/AIDS due to early sexual activity. In Malawi, urban young people are more likely than rural young people to have knowledge of HIV prevention. Condom use also remains a challenge for most young people. Cultural beliefs are an issue and are putting young people at risk of getting HIV; most traditional beliefs restrict women and youth from discussing issues related to HIV and sex. There is no need to keep issues of sex and HIV away from our children in the name of culture when our people are dying. The main aim of GRS in my community was for youth to be educated of the dangers of the disease.
The Grassroot Soccer program is one of the ways to stop the spread of HIV and really made a great impact in my community. The journey of stopping the spread started on the 3rd of April and finished on the 7th of April. The camp covered two primary schools, Mtakataka and CCAP, with 25 students in each school. Unfortunately, only 43 students managed to finish all 7 sessions and graduated the program. The camp was very successful with the help of my two fellow Volunteers Mustapha and James, and two teachers from both primary schools who were interested with the idea and were willing to continue with it. During the camp we made it possible to build good relationships with the youth in a safe space that they were comfortable to participate in. The camp and GRS made us realize the power of soccer to stop the spread of HIV.
Life can be so amazing to see how much impact can be done with so little. Grassroot Soccer made me realize that I have the power to change someone's future and I'm making a difference every day.
Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Mr. Chris Kaudzu
With the hype from the Grassroots Soccer (GRS) Camp I held in my community, the youth got together to form a community youth club. The club is something they have wanted to have for a long time. Some of the youth used to walk long distances to other youth clubs, but they now have one within their community. I see great things coming from this club. Some of the things they have planned to do are dramas, sports, and open-air events. They plan to go to other communities and share what they have learnt through GRS.
The GRS Camp has brought a lot of change to my community. Since the camp, the chief has said the program has had a great impact on the youth. They have learnt new things that have challenged them to live positive and productive lives. Some of the knowledge gained is being shared with friends and family through informal interactions.
The reactions from the youth after GRS have been amazing. One youth said, "I learnt new things about how to make positive life choices and stay safe. I was empowered to make lifestyle changes.”
A member of the community, Selevas, said, “The issues tackled at the camp are things happening in my community and this camp challenged the youth to live different lives than before."
"This weekend we hope to meet and learn more from our coaches and friends too." said Twaibu.
And finally, a student told me, “We meet to have fun and explore the possibilities we have as youth to change this community. We are in the zone to transform our community.”
Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Mr. Chancy Simba
“Young people need models, not critics.” - John Wooden.
In early April, my site-mates and I decided to collaborate and implement two huge, fun Grassroot Soccer (GRS) camps with intentions of educating and helping the youth in Mzimba learn more about HIV, how they can prevent themselves from being infected, and how they can stop the spread in their community. The camps were a success and it was great. Not only were the camps success, but I also made a lot of friends after these camps. Every day I meet a lot of people, whether be it participants, relatives, or parents of participants, who appreciate what their children brought back from the camps. It is amazing to hear that and encourages me a lot in my work as a Volunteer.
I do not know how it happened, but after the camp I became close with many of the participants, and yes I got myself friends or should I say brothers and sisters. These brothers I made are phenomenal and honestly speaking I enjoy their company and I feel safe with them around. They are always checking in on me, they visit me daily to teach me more Tumbuka language, and they take me places where I have never imagined during weekends, which is fun. They also want me to be their football team manager.
Well, there is a reason they want me as their team manager. With all the generosity these boys are showing me I thought to myself, “How do I give back to these guys?” I came up with an idea; a mentorship group! I figured these young men look at me as their role model and they want to know more about how they can be where I am now and maybe have an opportunity to serve with CorpsAfrica one day.
During the second week of April, I called eight of the young men over to my house and told them the idea I had of starting the mentorship group with them. I got positive responses and they were excited. Thinking back to how we conducted our mentorship groups in college, I used a few parts of how it was done, and I changed a couple of other things. There are eight boys and I meet two each day separately for 15 to 30 minutes to talk about anything which is on their mind. This can be something which is troubling them or even something making them excited during that week. And then we all meet once every fortnight on Fridays. It was tough at first when I was meeting them individually as most would not open up, but after couple of meetings it was a success. These boys are awesome, and I believe they will do big things and be a success to their community. They are the kind of boys who have chosen to be different than the rest of the community by focusing on their education, well-being, and starting little small businesses to support themselves.
Of all my projects I am doing with this community I believe the mentorship group will impact these young men, their families, friends, and the community the most. I am honored and humbled to be trusted by them and their parents, and also be a part of their lives.
Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Wezi Kayira
When one becomes a Volunteer, the first thing that comes to peoples’ mind is “Wow! You must have it bad.” What they don’t know is that it’s just a matter of perception. I mean, it all comes down to how we wish to interpret things.
I won’t lie, it’s definitely not a walk in the park. But at the same time it’s the best teacher. Six months into my service and I am so proud of myself. One of the things that has helped me cope with my current situation, allowed me to enjoy my service, and wake up very positive each morning, is being flexible enough to adapt to any given situation, as well as working around things. Being able to work around things isn’t easy either though; you fail, get frustrated, try again and then finally you get something.
One of the things I am still learning is gardening. In my community it’s close to impossible to find herbs, and fruits are hard to come by even if they are in season. Talk of vegetables, now those are very rare. I love vegetables and herbs so I had two options, create my own garden or get used to the scarcity of things. I chose the former.
This garden started with mint and ginger on one side, and tomatoes, vegetables, and onions on the other side. I thought my efforts of watering would suffice, but no. On the bright side, my vegetables are growing well even though the tomatoes and onions had a different fate. I never got to even transplant the onions before they died. The tomatoes survived transplantation until someone advised me to apply fertilizer and all but three survived. I was heartbroken. I reflected on this, and now I’ve planted the tomatoes in plastic bottles for easy monitoring, watering and correct fertilizer application next time.
All this has given me a sense of responsibility. I wake up knowing I have to take care of something. I no longer worry about vegetables because I now just walk to my garden and help myself. Did I mention I also have chickens? And finally learnt how to bake? Yes, I am taking this opportunity to do and learn most things I wouldn’t have dared to attempt back home. So, who knew failure could be the perfect teacher, and scarcity could be the greatest inspiration to push one to do something? I am one happy lady who now gets to eat her vegetables and drink her lemon, mint tea whenever.
This is what I call happiness.
Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Caroline Luka
It’s the middle of my CorpsAfrica service already! How time flies. Six months ago I made a decision to serve as a CorpsAfrica Volunteer and frankly I do not regret a thing. Nobody thought I would make it this far and neither did I. It hasn’t been all roses and rainbows at site. Living in the community has its perks yes, but it comes with its own handicaps. Transforming your life is not easy when you are used to the city life. One might ask how I’ve managed to get this far. Three words: Good Support System.
My support system is the people that have been there from the beginning, keeping me in check. They are the people that have let me vent, laugh, cry, and jump with joy without passing judgement or getting tired of my endless need for them. My biggest supporters are my family. Without their encouraging words I would have never gotten this far. They know how important this is for me and they have my back through thick and thin. Do they get worried? All the time! But really at the end of the day they know that this is what I want to do, and they support my decision. They are there whenever I need moral support or if I want to just go home and relax for a bit before proceeding with my work.
The first few months was hard. I was not sure I knew what I was doing or even if I was doing the right thing. Was I really living up to the community’s expectations? Was I making an impact on their lives? Did they want me here? I had all these doubts and no confidence in myself. I felt useless at a point. It was not pretty. Guess who was there to lift me back up? The CorpsAfrica staff. The staff members are patient enough to not put pressure on you to get things done right away. They helped me realize my potential and were there to guide me through any potholes that I faced. Their words of encouragement, plus their success stories, really got me motivated. I can boldly say that my confidence level is higher now and I do not doubt my community anymore. I love working with the people there.
What is a support system without friends? Friends that you can call in the middle of the night when you’re failing to sleep or when you feel like you can’t go on anymore. These are my go to people when I just need a laugh, words of encouragement, or to hear what they are also going through. We realize that most of the things we are going through as Volunteers are quite similar, which makes it easier to find solutions. We may be miles away, but with a simple text, they are there for me.
All these people help me keep sane in one way or another.
Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Exchange Volunteer from Senegal Mr. Alpha Ba
Looking through the window, I saw human beings; I saw a lady passing with a bucket full of water on her head going to bathe, wash plates, clean the house, or even to drink. Who knows?
Looking through the window, I saw children playing between them in all innocence. Some may have been born in the refugee camp, some not. They completely ignore the reasons why they are in Dzaleka. They do not even care as long as they live in peace.
Looking through the window, I saw children who will become teenagers. Some will have the chance to be admitted to school, others, even most, will always stay in this space, maybe not to play again, but unfortunately to "wander". Either they do not have the means to pay the registration fees for school, or there are no places available for them to learn because of the plethoric number of students.
Looking through the window, I sat in a building that serves as a classroom that was built by a volunteer from an NGO working in this area. Two classes and one office being used as a preschool with the number of students approaching 40. A staff, consisting of all refugees and volunteers, providing education despite the meager means they have. It's because they already understood Nelson's words that are quoted, "education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world". Despite their precarious situations, they already know that if they sacrifice for the education of these children, their future will improve and one day they will bring a positive change to their community.
Looking through the window, I call on all those who read this text to take a minute and put themselves in the shoes of a refugee to empathize. Afterwards, I call for your help. I call for your support for these refugees from Dzaleka to find hope, to give them the chance to go to school, to live as a normal child, as a normal teenager, as a normal adult. "Being a refugee is not inability."
Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Khwima Nyirenda
There is an African proverb that says, "If you want to go fast, walk alone. If you want to go far, walk together." As a CorpsAfrica Volunteer to be resourceful is key to a successful service. Since my last blog, I have worked on a few exciting projects, but none of them would have been nearly as fun and successful without collaborations.
In early April , Chancy, Hope and I implemented two Grassroot Soccer (GRS) camps in Mzimba. The GRS camps were implemented with the purpose of teaching youth between the ages of 10 to 19 years old about HIV/AIDS prevention with the ultimate goal of stopping the spread of HIV. The camps were very successful; 128 children and young adults graduated and are certified to stop the spread in their communities. This wouldn’t have been as easy and fun if we didn’t work as a team and collaborate with Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) Kelvin Jensen who is amazing at GRS!
A few days ago Fiona Rowles, a Mzimba PCV, and I also started a Go Girls club at the primary school here in Mzimba. We have 16 girls in the age range of 11-19 years currently in the club. We are teaching about female empowerment, HIV/AIDS prevention, and sexual and reproductive health rights. We also implemented a GRS camp for Malaria at the same school and around the community!
With these collaborations (and many more in the near future) volunteering in my community has become so much easier than before. Besides making real impacts in my community, I also have learned new and better ways to serve my community from my partners.
Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Mr. Silvester Kunkeyani
We are all endowed with great abilities, and if we put our right mind to something, surely, we can achieve a whole lot—all by ourselves. We are creative and thus can come up with brilliant ideas on ways to use our gifts, talents, skills, and abilities to produce something impressive.
However, if one is to achieve remarkable, mind-blowing results, there is a great need to collaborate with others. Working together multiplies results exponentially. There’s no comparison; what you can achieve in a good team is far greater than what you can achieve on your own. With exactly five months into my continued journey as a CorpsAfrica Volunteer, serving in Nkhatabay district, on the southern shore of the beautiful Lake Malawi, I would tell you without teamwork I wouldn’t have survived thus far. Life is about connections; it’s about relationships. And this still stands in the context of work and producing massive results. Since my deployment to my site last November 2017, I have built very strong, unshakable relationships. Famously referred to as Ada Kunkeyani (a sign of respect for an elder) my name has become a household name for many. This has made it easier for me to approach people in my area; to ask for their support and advice on the various projects we have done and those we are still pursuing.
When I came to my community I made sure that I engaged only those people that clearly understood and shared the same vision, goal and objectives of my coming; that being to meaningfully change and impact people so they become the custodians of their own lives and their communities by facilitating different sustainable development projects. Also, I made sure each team member clearly understood their roles and responsibilities. Furthermore, I made sure they were clear about the team’s standards of excellence as well as the team’s procedures. This has made it easier for me to carry out various campaigns and projects, like Gender Based Violence Campaigns, Grassroot Soccer Camps, Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) projects, and others just to mention a few.
Commitment is indispensable to achieving great results. Team members must commit to the team’s vision and objectives as well as to one another. They must commit to helping the team reach its target with excellence. I want to give thanks to the committed Senior Group Village Headman of my area, and my working counterparts, for tirelessly working with me to develop and change people’s lives in my area. Without the commitment of these people I wouldn't have survived thus far. You want to experience greater results, stop thinking you can make it on your own. You must seek ways to collaborate with others.
Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Ireen Kanjala
Plastic is threatening our planet’s survival, from poisoning our water sources and land, to disrupting human health. Environmentally, plastics have proven to be a growing problem. This is because they are made from petroleum or natural gases, which are non-renewable resources extracted and processed using energy-intensive techniques that destroy fragile ecosystems. The manufacturing of plastics, as well as the disposal/destruction of plastic, pollutes the air, land, and water leaving the earth vulnerable.
World Earth Day is dedicated to providing the information and inspiration needed to fundamentally change human altitudes and behaviour about the earth and its ecosystems. It also provides an opportunity to raise public awareness around the world on the challenges regarding the well-being of the planet and all the life it supports. Earth day recognizes that it is our responsibility to achieve a balance among the economic, social, and environmental needs of present and future generations - as called for in the 1992 Rio Declaration. This year for World Earth Day the theme was “Ending Plastic Pollution”.
Today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders; they deserve a healthy environment in which to study, learn, and grow. Taking part in ending plastic pollution is a step closer to ensuring a clean and safe environment for all. The community members and the youth in my community are slowly adopting different efficient ways of reducing plastic pollution, such as:
3. Separating plastic and organic waste when disposing.
4. Reusing plastic bottles for decorative purposes and other innovative household utensils.
As a way to continue our fight against plastic pollution, we are following three simple steps adopted from Earth day Network, an organization that leads Earth Day Worldwide:
Learning and being involved in celebrating World Earth Day has been interesting especially when sharing ideas on how we can reduce plastic pollution in our community. Over 50 youth in my community have pledged to join the fight to end plastic pollution. Hopefully there will be more pledges as the fight continues. Happy belated World Earth Day!
Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Shyreen Kossam
My community is a rural growth point which is located in Dedza District. Similar to many other districts across the country of Malawi there is a high level of poverty, early marriages, teenage pregnancies and rate of illiteracy mostly among female counterparts due to an increased school dropout rate. The community’s environment is also limiting and a constraint to the development of a girl child.
I have learned that the main cause of many issues affecting the girl child are deeply rooted in the fact that the level of poverty in my community is very high. Many households are headed by a single parent, who in most cases are women, who have been left by their husbands to immigrate in search of green pastures. As a result, the women are left to take care of the household and in turn push their responsibilities to the girl child. There is also a lot of polygamy and extended families which results in the husband not to be responsible for their families.
Teenage pregnancy is also a big problem in my area, preventing girls from obtaining good education, enjoying optimal health, bonding with others of their own age, maturing, and choosing life partners capable of taking care of them. This results in school dropout among girls with untold consequences of their future lives. In the future this will be the cause of poor parenting divorce, and population growth in their families, as well as in the community. This behavior is more of a cycle in the community.
However, these challenges are being solved through the "go back to school" campaign. Measures have been put in place to develop a girl child through youth groups and different organizations like the Hunger Project and CorpsAfrica, that help to sensitize girls on issues concerning reproductive health, entrepreneurship, family planning, and career talks both in schools and the community at large.
Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Caroline Luka
One of the most challenging and annoying things about school is the examinations. When the examination dates have been set and the time table is out, that is when the fever starts. Oh boy!! You think of the times when you were distracted in class or the times you failed a math problem but neglected making a correction. It is the time when teachers become the puppeteers with the students as their puppets. They can make the students dance to rhythm of the music even if they do not want to.
I believe the fears primary and secondary school students face during examinations are the same fears that kindergarten children face. Even though they are very young and still getting acquainted to the life of a student, exams are still exams regardless of age or stage of school kids are in.
We started preparing the nursery school kids in my community a week before their end of term examinations. Each and every day we recited all the things we had been learning the entire term. Starting with the alphabet, colours, parts of the body, all the way up to identifying objects. It was really amazing listening to them fully participate during the revision exercise. Little did they know that behind all this fun interaction was a more serious action that would determine the smartest student. The examination day arrived and, like any other test it wasn’t pretty. We finished the exams and then graded them according to their performance on all the categories.
Finally, the closing day came and the excitement these kids had was beyond my expectation. No more early mornings. Every time was now play time. I could tell they could not wait to go home. We organised a small ceremony to motivate the outstanding kids through giving them gifts for their hard work and great performance. Parents and guardians were there, as well as the entire nursery school committee. It was something that the community had never done before and was received with heart-warming hearts. This was a way to encourage not only the children, but also the parents, to continue sending their kids to school every day.
During the ceremony, the children recited some of the rhymes they do in school to show their parents. Two students were asked to say something that they learned in English at the school. My nursery school kids are brilliant and they did not disappoint at all. The top three all received presents and I am proud to say that all these three children were girls. Amazing right? They say when you educate a girl you educate a village, and I am happy to be educating three villages at once. Giving these children the gifts was to encourage them to love school and act as an example to the other kids, so that they may perform even better next term.
Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Mr. Chancy Simba
Imagine going to place you have never visited or stayed before, speaking a language you have never spoken (not even a greeting), or meeting people you have never met. That was me when I moved to my community as a CorpsAfrica Volunteer, and it didn’t take me long to realize that this was the place I’d be spending my time for about 11 months. “How would you go about it?” Usually CorpsAfrica Volunteers happen to have host families when posted at sites, but this was different with me and my partner Hope. Having no host family was both awesome and frustrating. I had never spoken the language my community does and the only person I knew who spoke the same language as me was almost 5km away.
So how did I go about it? Simple! I made friends and learned the language! And in the process of this I found two important people who made things happen for me and my work.
Meet Mrs. Tembo, my host mother who makes things happen for me and my partner Hope. Mrs. Tembo is hardworking women who runs a small-scale business to support herself and her family. She is a very good listener and a woman who continues to help me to learn the language. Being around this woman is fun and interesting, because she has a lot of scary and awesome stories I love to hear about. Since she is my host mother, although I never lived with her, we chat every day which helps me to know a lot about my community. She also helped me a lot in our preparation of the Grassroot Soccer Camp with cooking and buying of food materials. If it was not for this woman, I can’t even imagine how hard it would be going about my everyday life. I found a mother in this woman and will always appreciate her and be thankful.
Kevin Jensen Jere aka “Ada Jere”, a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mzimba, is another tremendous person who make things happen for me and my work as a Volunteer. Kevin is fluent in Chitumbuka (the local language of our community) and much better than me that it’s made him famous and well accepted by our community here. This is the only PCV I have met in Malawi who is so confident to speak Chitumbuka as much as his first language. He does not only speak Chitumbuka, but he writes and reads much better than the owners of the language. Kevin challenges me every day when I see him and how hardworking he is. The effort and the time he puts on projects and the work he is working on includingother projects we work on together is great. Kevin is a very humble and interesting person who works closely with the community every day and make things happen for a better Malawi and future. It is a blessing to have him here as a working partner and a brother. “Tamuonga chomene chifukwa cha munyane uyu” (I’m thankful for this friend of mine).
Written by CorpsAfrica ca/Malawi Volunteer Mr. Chris Kaudzu
In my previous blog, I spoke about effective ways of interacting with the youth. The three ways I used are (a) get to know them, (b) let them speak out, and (c) let them lead. These are just some of the ways I discovered to be effective. In this month’s blog, I will be sharing with you how one of those ways has benefited many. I will share with you a story about a young man who is making a difference, after an interaction we had a few weeks ago.
One of my passions is to see the youth lead in community development. A few weeks ago, I met a young man by the name of Ziyambeni. He is only in Form 2 at a Secondary School, and yet he is already working on changing our community. During one of our talks, he asked me about the things I do in the community, and why I am here. Having explained my role as a CorpsAfrica Volunteer, it got him thinking and led to a project he is now currently working on.
Having seen the illiteracy level of his community, Ziyambeni decided to start a school program where he is teaching students from different classes. This project was a result of one of our talks as he asked on how he could help better our community. I have seen people of different age groups attend his classes. During the morning hours, he is teaching kids from primary school and in the afternoon, he is having adult literacy classes. He is the hot topic among his friends and the community.
Let the youth lead, is a way that I have seen make a positive impact on the youth who really want to make a difference in their communities. Ziyambeni is an example of such individuals who are enthusiastic about change. Later this week, I will be helping out with some of his lessons for the classes he is teaching, as he has asked me to assist him. I am excited to be part of this project as I see him lead and help others in their studies. This project, by Ziyambeni, is of benefit to many.
This is a young man who is giving back to his community. He is giving back his time, energy and sharing the knowledge he has in order to see change in Malawi. Change and development don’t have to come from outside the community, solutions to challenges are within, it’s all just about self-discovery.
Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Mildred Chirwa
When I reached my site, I was surprised to see that the majority of the people do not speak Chichewa, the most common Malawian language. It’s not that I wasn’t told this initially, but I thought to myself that there is no way a Malawian cannot speak or understand Chichewa. However, since this deemed true, it meant that I needed to put more effort into learning the Chitumbuka language (the common language of Northern Malawi).
I found out quite quickly that it was easy to understand Chitumbuka having a Chitonga background myself, and that these languages share many words and expressions. However, with that being the case, responding in grammatically correct Chitumbuka was still a challenge. Needless to say, many people would laugh every time I attempted to converse in Chitumbuka. I asked a collegue why they laughed at me and she told me my Chitumbuka sounds funny. Some correct words, but still sounds funny.
For the first time in my life, I experienced language as a barrier to communication. People talk fluent Chitumbuka in meetings and expected me to reply in the same spirit and with the same speed. For some reason, I thought about the CorpsAfrica/Malawi Exchange Volunteers. I now understood why they would get frustrated by us Malawian Volunteers during our pre-service training whenever we conversed in Chichewa in our sessions. But unlike them, I was even more frustrated since I could understand everything that people said, but I failed to give back my intended response. I asked my friend, an Exchange Volunteer how he dealt with the language challenge. He told me that the first thing is not to get frustrated, but to listen, learn new words, and speak, speak and speak. This turned out to be the best advice I got around this issue. From then on, I spoke more and people laughed more and some even corrected my accent and grammar. When people laughed, I laughed too and they taught me more Chitumbuka words.
After three months, I could speak Chitumbuka well and I could get comments on how my Chitumbuka has greatly improved. I miss speaking Chitonga (the language spoken in Nkhata Bay District), which is faster, and most words are cut short throughout conversations. While on the other hand, all the words must be fully said in Chitumbuka, no short cuts. In spite of that, I love this language. It is a unique and rich language and it turned out to be the fourth language I can speak fluently. This being the second largest language spoken in Malawi after Chichewa, it is a valuable asset to have for easy communication with people from northern Malawi.
I am still improving my skills in speaking the Chitumbuka language and it’s always a good feeling discussing with the community members in a language they understand best. My journey on learning a new language continues.
Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Twambilire Kalolokesya
As I have previously mentioned in my last blog, my site is an orphanage somewhere in Mchinji. This orphanage keeps children from a day old to those around twenty years. Apart from settlement land, the orphanage has farmlands where they produce different crops in order to minimize the cost of buying all the foodstuffs for the children and other farm products that children would not easily have access to if they had not planted. In this blog I will give details about the crops and fruits grown by the orphanage.
Firstly, the orphanage grows maize for the children to eat nsima (a Malawian food made from maize flour). The maize crops are grown twice a year both during the rainy season and the dry season. During the dry period treadle pumps are used to irrigate the maize crops. Apart from maize flour for nsima the children also eat fresh maize which is cooked for them or roasted.
Secondly, the orphanage grows crops that they can serve as relish with the nsima for the kids. These crops include beans and different types of vegetables, for example leafy greens. These crops are also grown twice every year, both rain fed and irrigated. For the beans they get their seedlings from the previous year’s produce.
The orphanage also grows fruits and crops that usually schools do not have the luxury of buying. This is so the kids have access to different kinds of fruits and foods at minimum cost. At one of the farms they have bananas and sugarcanes because the area holds water for a long period and there is a source of water all year round. They also have fruits like guavas, oranges, tangerines and recently grown macadamia nuts for the kids to enjoy.
Another type of farming done by the orphanage is aquaculture. This is also done to feed the children at the orphanage so that they get some animal protein. Close to the campus they have eight fish ponds most of them 200 square meters. Last month we harvested 55 kilograms of fish from seven of these ponds. We also got fingerlings that have been restocked in the eight ponds and an additional five dams at another farm owned by the orphanage.
These are some of the things the orphanage grows in order to ensure good nutrition for the children.
Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Ruth Chamangwana
Visits to the hospital, market, recreational sites, and fellow Volunteer communities always subject Volunteers to various modes of transport. These modes of transport often determine whether one will enjoy his/her ride or loathe it. Travelling to and from my community will sometimes leave you in awe. Most times the trips I make to and from my community have me yearning for my bed, even if it's mid-day. Let me take you through the 4 most common modes of transport out of my community that will have you thrilled and exhausted at the same time.
Damper (bicycle taxis). These are popularly known as a “kabaza” or “damper” in some parts of Malawi. I have fallen in love with this mode of transport so much that I take these taxis when I am making long trips in my community, and when I go for shopping in town. A slight feeling of exhaustion has me signaling a damper person to come and pick me up, so I no longer have to walk. And let me tell you, my damper riding skills are phenomenal.
2) Vehicle Shared-Taxis. These are a form of public transport that use the ordinary cars that are found in all parts of the country. However, it seems normal is boring for my community, and we always have to spice it a bit. Let me tell you how. A normal 5-seater vehicle seats 9 people in one trip (4 in front and 5 at the back). This is so the driver can make as much money as possible. Word of advice- sit in the back if you want to enjoy the ride!
3) Minibus. Another popular mode of transportation found everywhere in the country. My community decided not to tamper with the boarding schematics of the minibus and the rides are usually smooth just like everywhere else.
4) Illalla. This is the largest ship that sails through Lake Malawi from districts such as Likoma Island, Nkhatabay, Salima, to Mangochi. The ship ferries goods and people to all these places and I am yet to board it. The lake is also home to smaller boats that use petrol or diesel engines and some canoes that ferry people across the lake. Boat engines are so thrilling but sailing on the Illalla will be absolutely amazing.
One common trait that the operators of all these modes of transportation have, is that they are so polite and kind to their customers. I have learnt to reciprocate this courtesy, because in life, everyone has a purpose to serve. These people take our lives into their hands and they ensure that we travel safely. So, the least that we can do is smile and have a meaningful and funny conversation with them.
Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Mr. James Matipwiri
It was a beautiful Tuesday morning when hundreds of people from my community had gathered at the Hunger Project Epicentre. The hot, dry day got my sweat glands restlessly draining my fluids into puddles of sweat like I just got out of a swimming pool. Skilled men and women came to showcase their expertise in preparing and cooking nutritious food. I had never before witnessed an event of that kind. Despite the discouraging weather conditions, the men and women leading the activities organized the necessary commodities, tools, and human capital to carry on with their goal.
A number of activities were organized, and these ranged from tree planting, moringa powder processing demonstration, and performances. I was not finding peace because of the stimulating nature of the activities and I wanted to capture everything that was going on.
Why food demonstrations? It is self-evident if you are Malawian living in Malawi that a considerable percentage of the children here are malnourished. There are several causes of malnutrition, but the most obvious and common cause is an unbalanced diet. The purpose of food demonstrations is to sensitize the community about the importance of eating the six food groups and how the food groups can easily be obtained from locally available food.
I watched and interviewed women and men responsible for nutrition in the community (nutrition animators) as they prepared different kinds of food; ranging from sweet potato, cassava, rice, scones, cakes, meat and porridge. The amazing part was that the food was not just prepared the conventional way, but in an ingenious way that it retained the best flavor and nutritional value.
The central part of the event was to educate people on how they could use the benefits of the abundantly and locally available moringa in their daily diet. Researchers say that moringa contains much of the nutrients our bodies need from all of the six food groups. It is from this view that if we incorporate moringa in our diet the right way then we are taking all the six food groups at once! And the good thing is that moringa can be consumed in different forms; some consume the leaves and pods with salad, while others prefer using the powder made from specially dried leaves.
Men and women presented the whole process about how their food was prepared and most importantly explaining how nutritious it was compared to what they normally consume. The demonstrations take place every four months or so just to remind the community how to take care of their nutrition.
It is clear that not all food can be prepared with moringa. This is why the nutrition animators continue to research techniques they can employ to moringa-ize these different foods. Once that is achieved it will become a new concept in the next demonstrations.
Over the Easter Holiday, CorpsAfrica Volunteers Mostafa, Shyreen, and James came together to host a Youth Empowerment Camp - bringing the Grassroot Soccer program to the youth in Shyreen's community. For four days, 50 youth were educated on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, avoiding risky behaviors, and how to support friends and family living with HIV- all while playing soccer related games! Watch Mostafa's most recent Vlog to see just how much fun the participants had at camp!
On March 24th, CorpsAfrica/Malawi Exchange Volunteer Mouhiddine Hamma created a Vlog, featuring a youth club he works with in his community. Development Aid People to People (D.A.P.P) Youth Club has meetings on a regular basis, and this week’s meeting was full of singing! Mouhiddine catches on film, a visiting group of children from Dzaleka Refugee Camp singing songs with messages about staying in school, and the importance of education. Enjoy!
Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Wezi Kazira
Have you ever thought that someone out there is looking at you right now, envying your life, wishing and praying they were you? I’ve had my list of secret role models and am thankful for their existence. Some I have managed to thank for helping me become what I am. The others, well, I will continue to say a little prayer for you. Dwelling on this thought I decided that every chance I get, I’ll use it to influence others to influence myself. Everybody wins.
My community is full of ambitious girls, hardworking girls, girls who go to school, but fail to dream because all they know is the invisible wall that surrounds them. It saddens me to see their hopes and dreams die, and instead resort to farming because it’s their comfort zone. Of course there is nothing wrong with farming, but I think it is wrong if it lacks vision and acts as an escape plan. Thank God for my squeaky voice, which I continually use to advise girls in my community to dream big.
I will say again and again that the person who said a girl or woman is defined by her sexual function must have bumped his/her head real hard. Two girls from my community, Mary and Fastani proved my point when they out-passed all the boys in our community by finishing their secondary school exams with amazing points. I was smitten by their hard work and ambition that I just had to ask them to be my friends. I literary called them and proposed friendship.
Our discussions were mostly about them; what they aspire to be, some of the challenges they face, and how they managed to still finish secondary school with good grades despite all of those challenges. I remember Fastani telling me she was motivated to work extra hard when she saw her friend’s parents who came to visit them during visitor’s day. Imagine, those parents might never know Fastani, they probably never talked to her, but their accomplishments helped her write a chapter of her success story. On the other hand, Mary said her sister made it to college and she really wanted to do the same.
Soon after meeting these girls, I invited them for a career guidance talk with me since they were about to send out their college application forms. Mary responded to the invite and we assessed her secondary school exam points versus potential programs she could easily be admitted into. We also considered the competition these days, what she is naturally good at, and potential job markets.
Since our guidance talk, I am happy to say that Mary has been selected to Chancellor College, one of the universities in Malawi, to study Arts Humanities. My excitement for her is beyond measures. Hearing her say “I have been selected to study one of the programs you advised me to apply for” just melted my heart. I mean don’t they say “educate a girl child and you’ve educated a nation.” She is the only person to be selected in my community. Hopefully the numbers will increase next year, and I pray Fastani remains positive and re-applies next year. But for now, I am really glad I asked Mary to be my friend and invited her to come to my place for a little chat when I did.
Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Mr. Silvester Kunkeyani
The Malawian child is a symbol of hope for the glory and future of this nation. The Malawian child dreams of becoming a doctor, pilot, president, or other prominent profession, as we see them on TV or read about them in the papers or magazines. He/She dreams of a country free of ravaging hunger, corruption, and a better enabling environment that will make him/her realize those positive burning desires.
But, how can the dreams of a Malawian child become a reality when he/she cannot boast of an enabling environment? How can we convince the Malawian child that he/she has a dazzling future when he/she is surrounded by rich criminals, who amass wealth through dubious means? Are we deceiving ourselves, or destroying the fate of our future leaders?
Our education system in Malawi has always had the deficiency of possibilities coupled by limited opportunities. How do we encourage high school/secondary graduates to enter into university by putting in place a good policy to loan them money when only a few of those selected enjoy the benefits of such policies, leaving thousands of others helpless? The best thing we can do as a developing country in Africa is not change people, but review the failed and bogus policies that we have put in place. The youth and children of Malawi are the resources that need to be explored. This is the time for the human resources of Malawi to be given notice. Sometimes- precisely at the moments when our formal education and capitalist upbringing directs us towards selfish decisions- we should use our hearts to direct us towards actions that transcend commonness, and choose to use our talents and blessings to end the suffering of our fellow people. This is Malawi, home to the youngest population in the world.
Since the end of colonization, never have we had such tangible potential. And never have we been as ready as we are today; to lead as individuals, making conscious decisions every day to empower our children, who are the only hope for this continent.
Malawi could have been a better place, but because of the selfishness of some individuals we are now seen as 'backbenchers' when it comes to development rating. Why? Is it that Malawi does not have the resources to make it progress? No, in my opinion, it’s not. Instead, it seems we are not picturing the dreams of the prospective future leaders and future generation. Malawi must start preparing for the best leadership, yes! We will get there and we will keep our dreams alive. We will always remember we are proud of our homeland. The dreams of a Malawian child live on forever.
Written by CorpsAfrica/Senegal Volunteer Abdoulaye Bouna Ndiaye
Following a long road with stopovers and courtesy visits to the local authorities, there is nothing like a nice experience of crossing the Atlantic Ocean by canoe to reach my home site, my new house “Bettenty.” The uniqueness of this experience is that we have to wait for the high tide to cross the ocean. With the beautiful star in a beautiful canoe, accompanied by a gentle freshness of the sea winds, I felt at some point in the middle of nowhere looking on the horizon the wide of my island waiting for me.
An hour and a half later we arrived at the landing dock. Knowing neither the spoken language “Soce » nor anyone, I was wisely waiting for my new family. Immediately a youngster approached and seized my suitcase without saying anything! He had to guess that I am the volunteer they were waiting for, given my get-up and my attire (laughter). I followed him naturally, knowing that he is my new brother. A warm welcome was reserved for me in addition to a good fish porridge for dinner.
The next morning was a warm contact with my community that was eager to know me. After a brief introduction on my part, they showed me their interest in having the ideology of CorpsAfrica in their community: volunteering by Africans and for the benefit of Africa. I was invited to discover the community radio of Bettenty, which is a real social network and a means of marketing and communication for all the events in the community.
From the village chief who renamed me “Alkal Mane,” to the imam, to the notables, to all the authorities, I quickly joined with their joy of living and their humility. The fact I was speaking with some clumsiness and my particular accent with the local languagé “soce” made them laugh a lot. I think I could not expect more and honestly, I can say that I feel more at home than in the urban environment. What impressed me most is that this community leads a very healthy lifestyle, in piety and sharing.
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