Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Natasha Lughano Chagunda
As I packed my bags for the site in Ligowe, Neno district, I had all of these preconceived thoughts and feelings about where I was going. Most of these thoughts were driven by emotions I had no control over such as fear and anxiety. Normal for anyone to step out of their well-defined comfort zone to go and live and work in an unfamiliar community. A couple of these feelings with the famous notion that says “CorpsAfrica is not for the faint-hearted”, I headed for my site only with the knowledge of why I was going: To be a catalyst of change and to facilitate small scale but high-impact community-led development. I was determined.
Did I have all of the necessary tools to aid me in this role during my service? Yes. Did I know exactly where I was going? No. Would I be able to adapt to a new place I would call home for the next 12 months? These were some of the unanswered questions going through my mind. I remember asking myself, “Am I the faint-hearted”? There was only one way to find out.
The first month was very hectic as I was becoming familiar with my community through one-on-one chats with individuals, community welcoming meetings, and participation in various community events such as funerals, weddings, and developmental meetings to help me integrate and synthesize well to build psychological safety. Over time, my stay has become much steadier. It is nothing like the sob story I thought it would be before experiencing my community life.
After 12 weeks at my site, I can confidently say that I have become very accustomed to my community. I love the place because of its weather, topography, and various institutional structures. The people and more especially the culture. Looking back, it is clear that most of the feelings I had before my deployment gave me a biased perception of what my stay in the community would be like even before experiencing it. It is paramount to always leave room for how new experiences will pan out. Let go of trying to control the things we cannot control. Nonetheless, I can say that the time spent in my community has been remarkable thus far.
I have been privileged enough to work with and through a local community development organization that is well-established in the community. They have provided me with a platform to easily reach out to various community social organizations such as CBOs, Community Day Secondary School, the Local Health Facility where I now volunteer, as well as small groups within the community that I can hold group thinks with to learn about some of the problems that are present and prevalent in my community.
Life as a CorpsAfrica Volunteer has taught me one thing for sure; the fastest way to get anything done is to not go over or around but to always go through. I had doubts and fears about my stay, but it has already been 12 weeks, and just like a child learning to ride a bike, I can finally say that I have set off for my adventure.