Today I'll share about the chat I had with an elderly man at the big trading center in my community. I had gone to buy a few things because it was market day and we just ended up talking about everything. As all conversations go with new people here, he asked where I stay and what I do. I explained that I am a Volunteer who is facilitating change, and then we went into a discussion about that. He asked how we choose the projects we implement as Volunteers and I clarified that the community decides what projects to do because they need to own the project themselves.
He expressed how disappointed he is with his community. That they have potential to develop, but nobody wants to do anything about it. He also said that individually people are living comfortable lives, but communities still aren't developing as a whole.
He gave an example of a man who bought two cars to be used as taxis and bought another two the following year but couldn't mobilize the community to fix the big road which stems from the M1. I told him that from my experience it is usually easier to mobilize a small group - giving him the example of one village rather than several villages - and that maybe he should start small.
As we were talking, the topic of politics was also brought up. As we are approaching our election year next year, parties and individuals are intensifying their campaigns. He blamed himself and his people for persuading the rural communities to vote for his party through giving out maize, fertilizer, etc. He also gave his thoughts on the aspirants, but at the end of the day we couldn't say how we could stop this problem or have people refuse to be bribed into voting for politicians.
I have noticed how this way of campaigning cripples development programs first hand because this behavior feeds the dependency syndrome. But how should we change such mindsets that are deeply rooted in people?
As I was closer to going back home, he asked if anyone could apply to be a Volunteer with CorpsAfrica and I told him that CorpsAfrica is looking for Malawians who have experience, education, integrity, and a passion to create change. He was happy that this program was very close to his community and hopes it inspires young people to volunteer and facilitate change in the future. I was so happy to have met a stranger who was passionate about developing his community and nation. He opened my eyes to the potential that the people have and reminded me of why I chose to volunteer ten months ago.