Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Deborah Kamanga
I have been at my site as a CorpsAfrica Volunteer in Mbewa village for 32 days and I must say it’s been quite a roller coaster journey. Briefly, I have been up to several work-related activities. My typical day for the first two weeks usually started with me visiting the Friends of Mulanje Orphans Center, which operates as a nursery school in the morning. The center is strategically placed at a location which is about a 5-minute walk from my house. God bless whoever foresaw how much of a blessing that would be to me! The kids were very welcoming and every morning they saw me they began chanting;” Alendo! Alendo”(Visitor, Visitor), so I had the job of having to reintroduce myself to them as “Auntie Deborah” for a whole week before they could finally grasp my name and change their morning chanting to;” Auntie Deborah, Auntie Deborah”.
At the beginning of the first week, the Village Development Committee visited me to welcome me and introduce themselves. We had a little chat and they asked me to schedule a day for my first community meeting. Gosh! How I dreaded facing the crowd, having been diagnosed with chronic stage fright, but oh well, duty calls. So I set the date for the following Tuesday. I found myself at the proposed meeting site 30 minutes early to articulate my speech and deal with my nervousness, but alas! 2 hours elapsed before anybody showed up. One of the VDC (village development committee) members showed up only to tell me that the meeting had been rescheduled for the following week, and here I was thinking, “Why didn’t anybody tell me?” I swallowed the bitter-sweet pill of relief and disappointment with a smile and kept my cool. Another hour elapsed before some other VDC members showed up and they took me for a 2-hour walk around part of the village which I never anticipated to happen on this day. Luckily enough, I had a bottle of water which I kept gulping throughout the journey which brought me back home with sore legs.
The third week, history repeated itself and the community meeting never took place as the Group Village Head had other commitments. I was getting frustrated at this point and I went back home feeling depressed and thinking I had failed. The next few days though were relieving as I met with a Volunteer woman from the National Initiative For Civic Education who was also waiting for the same community meeting. We talked about our work and we both explained to each other how our organizations will be working in the village. What excited me was the initiative of starting a community library where she asked me to collaborate with her in sourcing books and other reading materials as well as identifying a suitable site together with the VDC for the community library and resource center.
It’s day number 32 and I am yet to have my first community meeting, but, the community library initiative is almost ready to kick-start and I feel very proud to have been part of such a great cause.
So here are my most important lessons from the 32 days on site which I hope to use throughout the remaining 333 days in sight:
•I have learned that you just have to go try something if there is even a remote possibility of something great happening for your work as well as beneficial to the community. You have to learn to convince yourself that the possibility is greater than the inevitability of doing nothing.
•I have learned that failure doesn’t have to be this life-shattering, I’m-never-going-to-do-this-again experience but is an opportunity to gain valuable learning experience and it gives one a chance to see that learning WHAT NOT TO DO is just as valuable as knowing WHAT TO DO.
• Last but not least, the CorpsAfrica journey is a process, but when you can embrace the process of success and failure, you get another step closer to YES!