Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Mr. Chiukepo Mwenechanya
For a start, I should admit I had a lot on my mind to share, but I could not miss the story of my first days of service with CorpsAfrica. After an intensive one-month training, I started my service as a CorpsAfrica Volunteer in Mzimba, Malawi on the 8th of February 2020. I am not even a month old here but I have already fallen in love with this place. I cannot deny it, before I came to my site, I was filled with fears and worries about what to expect. New place, new people, what if they will be mean to me or what if they won’t accept me? These were some of the many questions which almost stopped my heartbeat before I came to my site. Only if I knew how humble and warm-hearted my community is, I would not have troubled myself with such worries.
As strange as I looked in my first days, it felt like home. My community’s native language is Tumbuka, my birth language and the culture is a bit similar to that of my home village. My community follows patrilineal system of marriage where men are considered superiors and heads of households. The people are predominately farmers with maize as their main food crop witnessed by the presence of vast fields of maize, which seems to stretch like forever. They also grow cassava, beans, groundnuts, Irish potato, onions and currently the community is investing a lot of time and resources in pine and cassia production for business. Most economic activities take place at the nearest trading centre where you can find almost all grocery items and foodstuffs. This similarity to my culture has made my integration so easy and smooth to the point where community members even try to relate me to some of the Mwenechanya’s who lived in the community in the past.
My site has also a landscape of spectacular beauty that always makes me feel like I am in an evergreen natural park, offering me a natural relaxation spot with a calm and comfortable atmosphere. On its northside, the area is surrounded by a range of evergreen mountains and one of the largest forest reserves in Malawi called Perekezi, which also extends to the east side. I love every minute I spend in the forest as it always gives me space to think and plan for my activities. While in the forest, you can smell the wonderful aroma of flowers, and hear the bird’s beautiful songs that can relax you and almost put you to sleep.
The area also gives me a touch of community feel. I have spent almost all my youthful time in Malawi’s commercial city of Blantyre and I don’t even know all my neighbors but with the little time I have spent in here, I feel like I know everyone. Community members are always warm and welcoming; opening their homes to me. I should also admit that I have never been a fan of having food at peoples’ or strangers’ houses but according to the culture and norm here, a visitor is never allowed to leave on an empty stomach, which I think is great and I love every moment of it.