Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Mr. Redson Nyondo
I am in the middle of my service. Reflecting back, I see there are some areas that have made me excel and also, areas I needed to improve. Unfortunately, I cannot reverse time but I can advise the next cohorts.
1) Have a ‘people first’ attitude: Before your deployment, make sure you have a “people first” attitude. You will possibly learn more about this during the Pre-Service Training (PST) but basically, it means to let community members be the “bosses.” They should be the key decision-makers; let them have the steering wheel. In communities, there are people who are capable of leading development, with the required leadership skills and sometimes the technical know-how. You are not going to the community to bring change to people who are clueless and blank. You are going there to support them as they bring change by themselves. As said by Cormac Russell in one of his TED talks entitled, “From what’s wrong to what’s strong,” quoting a Harvard academician; “when we (the outsiders) try to bring change to the communities, they experience it as violence but when they (the communities) bring change by themselves, they experience it as liberation.”
2) No micro-management Remember, in your community, you are the Manager of yourself. There is no office to report to by 7:30, no one to tell you that you are late and generally, no one to micro-manage you. This arrangement is for your own good so you can become a responsible community worker. Therefore, learn to be responsible because with all the freedom, if you cannot be responsible you will most certainly fail. When you call for a meeting, make sure you are punctual, giving the community members the impression that you mean business when it comes to time. I can assure you, when community members see the value that those meetings will bring in their lives, you will see them being punctual. Don’t forget to take notes, make schedules, prioritize and communicate.
3) Change is not easy, but it is worthy it: There are several changes that take place upon you being deployed. You will need to adjust your living style as you meet new faces, get into a different weather and possibly start to eat and drink different kinds of food and water. Amidst all this, be sure to try to learn their language, at least the greetings and other commonly used terminologies. This goes a long way in your community integration. As you adjust, have the end in mind because what matters after everything is the smile you will leave on the faces of the community members after your service. Have fun!!!