Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Tusayiwe Sikwese
It’s been a month and a bit since I came to my site in the scorching sun of Maluwa village, Phalombe. Yes scorching sun, the kind that heats the bare dusty road and burns your feet. Burns your feet. The kind that has my host mother, Miss Kanjo, and me dripping with sweat and drinking gallons of water every day to keep cool. But I didn’t let that get in the way of knowing my community and it didn’t hold the community back from keeping me busy.
Anyway, first things first. On the 2nd of March 2016, (that was a few days after I had settled in my homestay) I went to meet the Chief of Maluwa village. Very nice man, and full of energy too. He scheduled a day for my first community meeting. When the day of the meeting came, the skies were heavily grey and I was hoping that it would rain. Why? Phalombe is extremely hot! And I would have loved for it to rain so it would cool down for a bit… AND I WAS NERVOUS. I had never done this before, well I had been at community meetings before but I never had to say why I was there and whatnot. The most I had to do was greet the community and that’s it. A walk in the park! But this, this was very different. It was just me.
Unfortunately or fortunately, (depending on how you see it,) the skies had cleared and were a lovely blue. So I started with the bwalo (the community’s meeting space). I took a long way there because that was the only way I knew ( I got lost by the way). But the good news is I got there, somehow! When I got to the wall, there were less than 10 people. Uh-Oh. I was worried. But the chief was there and he had told me that people had gathered earlier on but had left because of the grey skies. He assured me that people would come and that we would start as soon as a few more people arrived. And people came in large numbers, the meeting happened and was a success. I was overwhelmed with happiness and felt welcomed. I learned of the challenges the community was facing and the many committees that exist in the community, most of which scheduled meetings with me for later that week and the following week. Busy, busy, busy.
My favorite part of this day was at the end of the meeting when we were all walking back to our houses. A woman approached me and we got talking. She told me about the business that she and her fellow women, in a village called Mwanga, were doing. She asked if I could teach them anything I knew about doing small businesses. I was very very very happy. For me, it showed that the community had indeed welcomed me, and was ready to work, and that meant I was going to immerse myself without much trouble.
A week later I went to visit the women’s business group in Mwanga (a neighboring village within my site). I was so psyched! I couldn’t wait to learn all about their wine business, how they make it, and how it fares in their community. I found it cool how they make their wine using bananas, water, lemons, yeast, and sugar, without any machines. How cool is that?!! Now I’m looking forward to seeing how they make it! Minus the hot road that burnt the bottom of my left foot. I bet you’re wondering how that happened. Long story short, the straps of my sandal cut and I had to walk some distance before I found a kabaza (bicycle taxi) to take me back to my host’s house.
I honestly didn’t think the ground itself would be that hot until I walked barefoot. So I thought to myself, how do those people that walk barefoot every day feel? Sad moment.
Okay so that aside, I have been doing a whole load of other things. I’ve been helping out with a Nursery school building project that has been funded by Village X (CorpsAfrica’s partner organization at present). The project should be done by the second week of April. I’ve also been volunteering at Chisugulu Community Day Secondary School (it’s very close to my hosts house she’s the school’s headmistress) with my first task as an invigilator. I’ve always wanted to do that, so that was exciting.
The community has so much to offer and I have learned so much from them in such a short time. I’m looking forward to learning a lot more from them throughout my service and of course, sharing my knowledge with them when they ask. It’s a give-and-take process!!
I really could go on and on but I must stop here for now. I can’t wait to share with you why and how these business-oriented women branched away from small typical village businesses (selling vegetables, fritters, and the like) to their current business. And to share pictures of the Nursery School when it’s complete… And all the things that make each day very different from the other, in Tusa’s new world :-).