Reposted from ultimate kryptonite
About 3 weeks ago I got a “thrilling” email from Andrew (a CorpsAfrica program coordinator for Malawi). I had been looking forward to the piece of information contained in the email for days. The much awaited email was about the In-Service Training(IST) for the group one of CorpsAfrica Malawi Volunteers. I couldn’t wait for the 12th of April, 2016 to arrive as I was looking forward to seeing my CorpsAfrica family again. Assiatu, Soukaina and I embarked on the journey to the venue for the IST together and we got to Grace Bandawe conference center (the venue) around 4 in the evening. I was so excited to finally meet everyone again and I was so eager to hear about all their experiences and how they were coping at their various sites. I must admit that a part of me was a bit scared of hearing about how everyone was making “giant steps” and highly immersed in their communities, as opposed to how I was somewhat still in the process of getting familiarized in my community. I had a feeling I was going to be the only with very little to talk about. That night we had some chats about our communities and everyone had a lot to talk about.
The formal training started at about 8:30 in the morning of the following day and the number one item on the agenda was”Introduce us to your community” and each person took turns at giving a brief description of their community and their experience. The first person to present was Tusa and most of her experience sounded familiar to me and I was there thinking,"Oh, at least there is someone who can relate to what I was going to say.” The next person was Assiatu and her experience was even more familiar and I thought, "probably because we are site mates so we are prone to have similar experiences." However, I was really surprised to find out that almost everyone who presented had experiences that I could easily relate to and they were facing similar challenges to the ones I was facing. Big sigh!! I was so relieved to hear from them all. You know that Liverpool feeling of, "You will never walk alone?"...lol. (a lyric from Liverpool Football Club’s theme song). Another element of surprise at the IST was the session where everyone was told to write on post-it notes on how integrated into their communities they felt on a scale of one to five, and over half of the people were within the same range- the same as my level of integration. These opening sessions gave me some sort of motivation. The following day was mostly about the M&E tools and project management which were equally enlightening as well as exciting. The part I loved the most was the project brain-storming exercise because I was looking forward to hear from everyone and possibly gain some insight on what projects they could possibly implement and I did just that.
Being back home, I have been going to the local primary school hoping to introduce myself to the headteacher but unfortunately haven’t gotten the chance to meet him. So I decided to continue going to the Friends of Mulanje Orphans (FOMO) community nursery school. On the first day, the kids saw me coming back and they all rushed to hug me and that feeling just gave me goose bumps. That moment I realized that there are many ways to see the world but few offer the incredible feeling of knowing that your input could make a positive difference in the lives of vulnerable children and their communities. So now every time I look at one of the M&E tools that we use, the guiding questions tool in particular, I make note of this question, "Who do you want to help the most?” These children and even more of them who don’t attend the nursery school, come as an easy answer. Not that I haven’t tried of thinking about other responses to the question, but these children come to my mind in a heart beat.
To crown it all, today I read an article titled, "TOMORROW'S SKILLED WORKFORCE REQUIRES INVESTING IN YOUNG CHILDREN TODAY: THE IMPORTANCE OF EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT” by Tamar Manuelyan Atinc and Emily Gustafsson Wright. It started with a statement that caught my attention, “The case for investing in children from the start is compelling. But it is not always well understood by the public, nor is it a priority for policymakers.” You can read it on;http://www.brookings.edu/experts/atinct. Certainly, the importance of investing in our children can not be overemphasized and I am glad that CorpsAfrica has given me a chance to make such a remarkable investment.