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Memoir of a Volunteer

Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Mr. Chifundo Chibaka

I have stayed in my site for over 66 weeks now and a lot has happened. I came as a complete stranger and now as I prepare to leave, I feel like I am leaving home and people I have known all my life. I was fascinated by CorpsAfrica’s approach of placing development facilitators right in the community and I believed this to be the best way to kickstart my career in the development sector.

After arriving at my site, I spent the first few days pondering how I could connect with the locals, and build trust and a working relationship with them. I immediately decided to attach myself to the local football team and youth club. I developed an interest in working with the youth right at the start of my service. Looking back on this, I feel it was the best way of making my presence known and putting my foot on the ground. I worked on two projects with the youth and their commitment was beyond comprehension.

As part of my integration process, I took a teaching job at the local secondary school. I clicked instantly with my students because of my interest to build friendships with them as peers. During classes, I opted to be called by my first name and not “teacher” or “sir,” something that helped to make our interactions relaxed and welcoming. One thing I was saddened by was the dropping out of girls from school to get married for various reasons.

Once I was settled, I began looking for organised groups such as village savings and loans associations (VSLAs), mother’s groups, farmer clubs and youth clubs to work with during my service. I believe it was much easier to work with an already existing group to pursue an intervention of their choosing. My plans to work with VSLAs failed to materialise due to the unrealistic expectation that members had but later changed after noting progress made with the groups I worked with. I also failed to work with another group I was interested in because of uncooperative and unwillingness to be engaged. Later on I learned that our working relationship failed to take off because of my short stature, I was looked down on because of it.

I can confidently say my service was a success and everything I set out to do with the people in my community was achieved. I am grateful to be part of the development story of my community and for the lifetime friendships I have made.

I was privileged to work with a great team of fellow CorpsAfrica Volunteers who supported me left, right and center, and a great support system of CorpsAfrica staff whose support and constructive criticism made all interventions come into fruition.

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