Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Mr. Richard Ezra
On 23rd September, 2023 around 5 pm I arrived in Chikwawa. The journey took over 5 hours from Lilongwe to my site. As I was traveling something in my head kept coming, asking myself where I was going to start. This question was worth it considering my whole life I have been living in the Town of Lilongwe. That means going to Chikwawa rural I would find different things. No electricity, no hospitals, no friends, no schools, no relatives, poor networks, new language, new beliefs, new social norms. Despite my happiness in starting a new path in my career, I was worried about how I would adapt to the new environment where everything was going to be new.
On the day of my arrival, I was humbly welcomed by the group village head and my host father. The smiles on their faces were what gave me confidence. Like someone who needs water to quench their thirst, the smile on their faces answered a lot of questions I was asking myself. Chikwawa district is one of the districts with Sena people who speak the Sena language. With this in mind, I was challenged. I was like how will I start learning a new language at this old age? To my surprise, on arrival, I was greeted in Chichewa. From the group village head’s house, we went to my host family’s house. Upon arrival to the host family, I was welcomed with more smiles. Now, my brain started digesting the information quickly about the site at the same time, removing worries my brain was expected to endure while on my site. Honestly, seeing them speak the language I speak was the first thing that reduced the level of stress.
The first night I didn’t sleep very well thinking about what my first day would be like. To say honestly I was timid to expose myself to the community. In my mind, all I could think of was what people would say when they saw me for the first time in the community. Around noon on that day, I received a message from the group village Head about a community meeting. The aim of the meeting was for me to introduce myself to the community. It was mind-blowing. My heart pounded strangely as if I was being chased by a hungry lion and I was running for my life. My stress hormone spiced up this feeling. I was like how will I stand in front of an audience? Still, I challenged myself. I managed to stand up and speak to them in a very clear manner.
After a week I found myself getting used to my site. My existence in the community was not news anymore. I have been attending community meetings. After community meetings, the community members seemed to be very happy with me, they could come to me with a smile on their faces to greet me. The community members’ hospitality is what strengthened my self-efficacy. Now I can say that the fear I had was just a waste of time. If I had known, I would have thought of how hospitable this community could have welcomed me. Now it’s been two months since I have been in this community doing community integration. I can say my site is respectful, loyal, loving, and hospitable to visitors.