Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Mr. Frazer Kum’bweza Banda
It all started in Mulanje at Likhubula C.C.A.P house, just hours before completing the Pre-Service Training (PST). It was an overwhelming moment when I saw my face projected on a wall accompanied by “Karonga” as my site. Believe me, I was in disbelief. Never did I imagine CorpsAfrica could allocate me to the northern region of Malawi. I was telling my fellow trainees that I could be allocated to any northern district and it happened. Thoughts hit me following the allocation, I felt alone because this meant that the friendship bonds that I made with fellow trainees during the PST were challenged. It was me alone going into a new community where the culture, food, and language were different from back home. Mind you, I had never been in the northern part of Malawi before, this was the first time I was going to see far north (Karonga) (and eventually become a far northerner). I was deployed in Karonga on the 28th of September. I was warmly welcomed by my host family, and this was the beginning of my journey as a CorpsAfrica Volunteer serving in Karonga.
Being in a community where most of the things (language, culture, food, etc.) are different from what you know or have back home is very challenging. I have had a hard time interacting with Tumbuka speakers because I had no prior knowledge of the Tumbuka language. This pushed me to learn some language basics like greetings so that I would not feel entirely out of place when with the community members. In days, I was able to speak some broken Tumbuka with the help of my host brother who knows some Chichewa and was teaching me most of the things. I started blending in, making some friends (Barber Man being the first friend I made because I was mostly at the barbershop charging my gadgets), eating their food, and learning some of the things that define them.
I grew interested in knowing more and being known to many. I wanted the community, not just the friends I made but every population, to know me and the reason why I am in their community living with them as one of them. As part of my integration, I started teaching at the community Primary School so that I could connect with the learners, the staff, and all the associations, clubs, and organizations existing within the school. This exposed me to a lot of community members as well as the leaders and other figures, I became friends with them personally and professionally. I also interact with preschool kids at the Community-Based Child Care (CBCC) whenever I am free from other duties. In addition, I also attend women’s financial clubs to share with them some ideas on how they can improve their income-generating activities. Having welcomed and interacted with different groups of people in my site to this far, I now have a sense of belonging and I can proudly say CorpsAfrica made me a northerner.