Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Claudia Njoloma
“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world”. – Harriet Tubman
After the swearing-in ceremony, I was so scared of the journey. I knew the dream had now come to reality. For some moment I felt like giving up, being the first time that I was going to stay away from home for such a long period. After getting a little encouragement from a previous volunteer, I said to myself, if Sharon (not her real name) survived, then why not me? And for the fact that I had a site mate, I was going to share a site with Amy, an exchange volunteer from Senegal. Truly this was the biggest motivation and I said to myself, let’s go do this!
Deployment day arrived. This was the first time I was going to see and stay in the central region of Malawi in the Dowa District. A few minutes later we got to our site, the community had our house arranged, it was one of the teachers’ houses in a primary school. When we arrived at the school, we found the head teacher, the group village head, and the deputy head teacher waiting for us. They all welcomed us. We went inside to see the house that they had arranged for us, I felt like crying upon seeing the house. It was in a very bad condition, the doors, the floor, the kitchen, bathroom and toilet were not conducive. Had to say no, it was not safe for us to stay there. Yankho Banda (not his real name), the one who escorted us, talked to the Group Village Head and said that the house needed to be fixed before we moved in, and they agreed. The deputy head teacher Agnes Chitowe (not her real name) offered to host us for the first two weeks as our house was being fixed. We at least smiled upon hearing that since the head teacher’s house was the only beautiful house there.
The village head told two girls Amaka and Uche (not their real names) to be moving us around the community. Exploring the community was the funniest thing. People used to think that we were teachers. And the primary school learners used to call us ma dent meaning ‘students’. They thought we were in the village for some teaching practices/practicals. The community was convinced that we were teachers since for the very first days we got there, we stayed with the deputy head teacher at the primary school.
After we had our first community meeting, people understood why we were in the community, and they welcomed us, we were told to feel at home since we were now part of them. Days later we moved to another house within the community. Not so perfect but at least the house has electricity. Being in the community has greatly impacted us because we are now close to most of the members and they treat us as part of them, so welcoming people. Life as a CorpsAfrica Volunteer for the first 3 months has been so amazing, people have been bringing foodstuffs for us like beans, vegetables, flour for making nsima (a local staple food), Irish potatoes, and even some of our students bring us onions. Life as a CorpsAfrica Volunteer also made me become a primary school teacher which is improving my public speaking skills. And I am so glad to be part of this journey…